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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Is Perfectionism Slowing Your Writing Process? 7 Ways NaNoWriMo Can Help

by Anne R. Allen


We've all met those people who think their sojourn on earth is meant to be a fault-finding mission. They can spot lint on your jacket at fifty paces, provide a litany of your imperfections whenever there's a lull in the conversation, and be counted upon to tell you why your pumpkin pie will never be as good as Grandma's.

They usually have a work of art in their heads that is the greatest thing ever. But it will forever remain in their heads, because they never actually create it. Instead, they spend their days finding fault with other people's creations.

We have lots of words to describe these people: "perfectionist", "persnickety", "finicky"…and of course, "lonely." That's because not a lot of folks like these people. They especially don't like themselves. All this stuff they're doing to you, they do to themselves, only worse.

Unfortunately, most writers have some perfectionist in us.

I have a lot. Both my parents were perfectionists, and they raised me to be one too. Pair that with an inherited predisposition to anxiety, and you have a recipe for creative paralysis.

I wanted to be a writer from the time I could hold a crayon, but I never wrote seriously until I was nearly forty. Even then, the process was excruciating, because I'd write and rewrite every chapter for months.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) wasn't around when I was trying to write through the barriers of perfectionism I'd set up for myself, but I created my own crazy writing challenge by pitching a serialized novel to a local entertainment weekly. The San Francisco Chronicle had success serializing Armistead Maupin's iconic Tales of the City in the 1970s, and I was a huge fan. So I figured, why not do a similar thing in the 1990s?

I certainly was no Armistead Maupin, but The New Times editor, the visionary and much-missed late Steve Moss, decided to take a chance on my project. I was kind of blown away when he actually liked my pitch. I agreed to write a serial mystery novella set on the Central Coast, incorporating current events into the storyline, providing a 1000 word chapter every week for 30 weeks. It appeared on the back side of Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" column in the classified section.

No edits. No going back to fix anything. I had to write an episode a week—based on a very sketchy outline—and pray it would all come together.

It did, kind of, and I even got paid. Coming up for Air made as much money as a lot of first novels do these days.

But everybody who knew anything about writing told me I was insane. And I was. It was a reckless gamble. I don't know what made me do it, except maybe pure desperation.

I'd been dropped by an agent after my first novel had been on submission for nearly a year—and three readers at Bantam loved it—before it got killed in an editorial meeting.

I'd been so close. And I wanted to be a published novelist that much.

My crazy stunt didn't get me another agent and it sure didn't get my poor, almost-accepted-at-Bantam novel published. Somebody told me the rocket scientists at Vandenberg Air Force Base read me faithfully every week, but I'm not sure I got much of a readership in the general population.

Still, I count it as a success. It gave me confidence. I felt I could call myself a writer. Even though I made a lot of rookie mistakes and the story had some serious point-of-view issues.

But I had kicked my perfectionism in the butt.

Soon after that, I let my imagination soar and started writing the novel that would become The Lady of the Lakewood Diner. I was on my way to a career.

But I do not recommend that you do this at home, kids.

Enter NaNoWriMo.


I do recommend NaNoWriMo instead.

But first: only join the NaNo crowd if...

1) You have the time. Don't do it if your job or family or health will suffer. Make a schedule allowing for plenty of sleep, exercise, and eating healthy food.

2) You are not prone to depression. There's new data suggesting that people prone to depression can be plunged into an episode by long periods of cerebral activity. If you have a tendency to depression, be wary of any kind of writing marathon. (I battle depression and anxiety, so I'm speaking from experience here.)

3) You've talked out your plans with your family and friends. Your disappearance for a month can cause serious family rifts. Especially if you're counting on other people to feed you and take care of your needs. NaNo is fun and has benefits, but is not worth jeopardising your support system. And it's probably a really bad idea for parents of young children.

4) It suits your personality. If the whole idea of NaNo fills you with revulsion, dismiss all the pressure to join in. Some writers are sprinters and some are marathoners. Only you know how your muse works.

For people who aren't suited for it, but have some extra time, I suggest National Novel READING Month. The official NaNoREADMo is December 15-January 15, but there's no reason you can't do one for yourself in November. More on that below, and I'll be discussing it more in a future post.

What is NaNoWriMo?


For the uninitiated: NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month project. Started in 1999 by a San Franciscan named Chris Baty—and 21 of his verbally ambitious friends—it challenges you to write a complete novel in a month. That month is November.

Entering the contest—now run by Mr. Baty's non-profit outfit, the Office of Letters and Light—is free. Anybody who finishes 50,000 words by midnight November 30th is a winner. You can get a nifty badge for your blog or website, but mostly completion of your novel is its own reward.

To become eligible for the honor—and an official "Wrimo"—you register at www.nanowrimo.org so you can have your word count verified at the end of the month, and on November 1, start writing.

Crazy? Absolutely. But all fiction writing is crazy.

But…don't they write a lot of crapola?

Yup. And that's the point. (And at least your rotten rough draft won't be sitting there in the newsstands like mine.)

And it's all about creating that awful first draft. If you don't have one, you'll never have a fabulous final draft.

As Anne LaMott wrote in her classic book for writers, Bird by Bird, "The only way can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts."

NaNo forces you to get that dung onto the page.

Here are some benefits:

1) No time to agonize over your first chapter.


You've read endless carping on blogs like this one about how the first chapter has to hook the reader, introduce all the major themes and plot elements, begin with the world's most enticing sentence, end with an even more exciting sentence, etc. But when you're writing your first draft, none of that matters.

You're introducing yourself to your characters and their world. You can worry about your reader when you start editing next January.

2) No frittering away time on excessive research.


If you're one of those writers who has procrastinated for years, piling up reams of historical and biographical detail, this is your chance to actually write the book. (I plead guilty to this one. I've been doing research for over a year on my next Camilla book, where Plantagenet meets the ghost of Richard III near Sheffield. It's sure is easy to get lost down the research rabbit hole.)

Thing is, most of those details would bore our readers silly if we actually put them in the novel, anyway.

You're better off writing the book first and figuring out later whether your reader needs to know what they used for toilet paper in 14th century England or what kind of underpants Richard III wore.

3) No time to censor yourself.


You can't afford to agonize over whether your brother–in-law/former teacher/ex-girlfriend will recognize him/herself. Or if your mom will read between the lines and figure out you weren't really at that church teen retreat the time you and your buddies took off for Mardi Gras.

Besides, you'll be amazed how characters and situations inspired by real life take off on their own and create an alternate reality.

Ruth Harris will be writing on the subject of creating fiction from real life next week. A must-read post!

4) You won't be tempted to save your best ideas for later.


New writers are often terrified they'll run out of ideas. But it's amazing how many more will show up once you're in "the zone".

5) You'll give up trying to control the process.


If the story goes somewhere you didn't expect it to go, or you can't stick to your outline, you'll have to run with it. When your muse is talking, you can't take the chance of annoying her for even a couple of days.

6) You'll have a great excuse for skipping the family Thanksgiving


You can avoid all those relatives whose politics make you despair for the future of the human race. I have a secret suspicion this is why Chris Baty and friends invented it in the first place.

7) It's fun—and a great way to meet other writers all over the world.


Look in the NaNo website forums for online and in-person discussions and groups.

If you decide to jump into the craziness, here are the NaNo rules:


1) Register at www.nanowrimo.org before November 1.

2) Write a novel (in any language) 50,000+ words long between November 1 and November 30. "Novel" is loosely defined. They say "If you consider the book you're writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!"

3) Start from scratch. Previously written outlines and character sketches are OK—and highly recommended—but this can't be a work in progress. (Although if you have a WIP you want to give it a push, you can do your own version of NaNo without the badge competition.)

4) Be the sole author. Although you can use the occasional quotation.

5) Write more than one word. No repeating the same one 50,000 times.

6) Upload your novel for word-count validation to the site between November 25 and November 30.

Chances are pretty good you aren't going to write a polished, publishable novel in four weeks (although Charles Dickens is said to have written A Christmas Carol in six, four of which were in November, so there's some precedent).

So PLEASE don't start querying agents or consider self-publishing until you do a serious, in-depth revision. You'll just clog the pipeline and make the agents cranky—or feed into the myth of the self-publishing "tsunami of crap"—which isn't good for any of us.

And if/when you do query, it's not wise to reveal that the book began at NaNo—unfortunately, a lot of participants send off the unedited crapola. Also, most agents won't look at a novel of less than 70,000 words, so even the Dickenses among you will have further work to do.

My advice, based on what successful WriMos have told me, is to let the book sit in December and then on January 1st let your inner persnickety perfectionist out to play and start polishing that puppy.

Then, maybe your book will have the success of NaNo Novels Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, Wool, by Hugh Howey, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, The Darwin Elevator, by Jason M. Hough, Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, and 90 other successful novels that started at NaNo .


Perfectionism can be a gift when used in the right way, of course. Perfectionists make fabulous proofreaders and editors. Also surgeons, accountants, pilots, butlers and a host of other professions. A whole lot of people could use a little more perfectionism, as anybody who spends a lot of time online can testify.

But it can also be a debilitating disease, and I don't mean to make light of its unhealthy side. It's considered an anxiety disorder and is related to OCD.

So if your perfectionism is more serious than just a case of writing slow-down or overediting-itis, do get some help. You'll have more friends and a happier life if you can keep that inner persnickisaurus at bay. Here's a test from Psychology Today that can help you find out if you have perfectionism disorder.

But if you have mild perfectionism that's thwarting your muse the way mine did, NaNoWriMo might just be the cure you need. For more great tips on NaNo (including how to take care of your body) check out Monique McDonell's collection of tips on her blog.

NaNoREADMo


For those of you who aren't planning to spend November at the keyboard, wearing your fingers down to the knuckles, may I suggest an alternative? It may not help your perfectionism, but it is guaranteed to help your writing.

Conduct your own National Novel READING Month. Or join the folks at NaNoREADMo on Facebook who plan a National Reading Month in December. You can follow their Twitter hashtag #NaNoREADMo.

Two weeks ago I held a contest to see who recognized lines from the top 20 bestselling novels. Only one person entered. I chose books by mega-selling authors with very recognizable styles. But most people said they'd never heard of them. This does not bode well. Writers need to READ.

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut."...Stephen King


What about you, Scriveners? Are you going to take the NaNo challenge this year? Or would you rather try NaNoREADMo? Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Did you try it and find it wasn't for you?  Do you fight an inner perfectionist?


BOOK OF THE WEEK


Whether you're jumping on the NaNo bandwagon or not, new writers need a handbook for navigating the treacherous waters of today's fast-changing publishing business without being driven stark raving bonkers by all the conflicting information. 

Amazon #1 bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde and I have just the book to do it. 
It's HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE: A SELF-HELP GUIDE.

The ebook is now on an Amazon Countdown: only 99c on Amazon US (Also on sale at Amazon UK) for the next week. The sale price will disappear at Midnight on Halloween. Woooooo.




It's also on sale in paper at Amazon US, and Amazon UK. It's on sale right now for $10.75 and £8.75

Here's what a nice UK reviewer named David said about the book. We like his "just the good parts" style.

Wow.

I could end the review there... but I have a few more words.

This e-guide is both reader and writer friendly, and I could not put it down. This book was SO helpful.

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS


Writers’ Village International Short Fiction Contest $24 entry fee. Prizes of $1600, $800, $400 and $80. A further ten Highly Commended entrants will receive a free entry in the next round. Professional feedback provided for all entries! Any genre: up to 3000 words. Deadline December 31st.

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARDS: NO ENTRY FEE. These awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Three awards of $5000 each will be given annually in each of the following categories: birth through grade school (age 0-10), middle school (age 11-13) and teens (age 13-18). May be fiction, biography, or other form of nonfiction. Deadline December 1, 2014. 

MUSEUM OF WORDS MICRO FICTION CONTESTNO ENTRY FEE. The competition is for very short fiction pieces of up to a maximum of 100 words. The winner will receive a prize of $20,000, with three runners-up each receiving $2,000. This contest is open to writers from all countries and entries are accepted in four languages: English, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew. All stories entered must be original and unpublished. The last Museum of Words contest attracted 22,571 entries from writers in 119 countries. Deadline November 23, 2014.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS LITERARY FESTIVAL SHORT FICTION CONTEST $25 ENTRY FEE. Submit a short story, up to 7000 words. Grand Prize: $1,500, plus airfare (up to $500) and accommodations for the next Festival in New Orleans, VIP All-Access Festival pass for the next Festival ($500 value), plus publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine. Contest is open only to writers who have not yet published a book of fiction. Deadline November 16th.

GLIMMER TRAIN VERY SHORT FICTION AWARD $15 fee. Maximum length: 3,000 words. 1st place wins $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue. 2nd place wins $500 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). 3rd place wins $300 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). Deadline October 31.

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55 Comments:

Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I confess, I am a perfectionist, but only with myself. Although I used to work with a guy who was just like the one you described - he couldn't give a compliment to save his life.
I'm a lazy writer as well and need the kick of something like NaNo to force me to write.
Definitely clear it with the family first. You want their support, not annoyance.
NaNo does work. I wrote my second book during NaNo. (And my third during BuNo, which is in June.)

October 26, 2014 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

A whole month? Strictly for amateurs. ;-)

How about writing a novel in three days? English author Michael Moorcock shares the how-tos. http://www.ghostwoods.com/2010/05/how-to-write-a-book-in-three-days-1210/

And, by the by, George Simenon reported took a *whole week* to write his thrillers/mysteries turning them out at the rate of 60-80 pages a day. Slacker.

October 26, 2014 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger S B James said...

It is entirely possible to get your NaNoWriMo project done before Thanksgiving, especially if Thanksgiving is late like it was last year.
Agreed that you must let go of any notion that your NaNo project is going to be good to go right after November ends. My manuscript from last November took me months to polish up. I didn't publish it until mid May. Great post, and thank you.

October 26, 2014 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--Great to hear that some of your CassaStar series was born at NaNo! We can add that to the list of NaNo successes.

There are so many people like your office guy. Just think what a rotten childhood he must have had. I'm sure nobody gave him compliments, which is why he was incapable of giving them.

October 26, 2014 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--LOL. I have no idea how people do that. On the other hand, we have Kurt Vonnegut, who would often spend a whole week on one sentence. Creativity works in mysterious ways.

October 26, 2014 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

SB--You mean you don't always get to use NaNo as an excuse to miss Thanksgiving dinner with the relatives? :-) That's some pretty speedy editing. Good for you to get a NaNo book out by May!

October 26, 2014 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

No Thanksgiving problems here. I love the holidays. I'm waiting for someone at TPV to start a NaNo for January

October 26, 2014 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--January would make more sense, wouldn't it? November seems so full with all the holiday stuff. I think that's a great idea!

October 26, 2014 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger S B James said...

Haha! Thanks, I keep feeling like editing that rough draft takes eons.

October 26, 2014 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Patricia Stoltey said...

I've done NaNo once to completion (on a book that is still not revised/edited and submission ready) and once to 30,000 words. I have a wip I want to finish so I'm going to use the NaNo site and process to wrap it up in November even though I can't submit it for the official word count at the end. It really is a great way to get past that nit-picky desire to polish every word before moving on to the next.

October 26, 2014 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patricia--Congrats on "winning" NaNo--and almost getting there a second time. Good luck with getting your WIP finished off next month.

I have wondered how many NaNo books languish afterward. I can imagine that tackling the editing would take a lot of emotional distance and that may take some time. Good luck with both projects, in any case!

October 26, 2014 at 2:02 PM  
OpenID mmjustus said...

I've learned the hard way that NaNo is not for me. The one book I wrote that way took about three times longer than my other books in the long run because it required far more revision than any other manuscript I've written. I'd rather get the first draft down more slowly and get more of it right than rush it and make a mess. But I did like the camaraderie .

October 26, 2014 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

MM--Thanks for sharing your experience. That's the problem for me, too. When I try to force my brain to go to fast, it often goes off on a tangent or in the completely wrong direction. Then I have 100s of pages to delete, and that feels so tragic.

But NaNo is so full of fun, energetic people, it has to be fun at the time. Good for you for completing a NaNo novel, though. That's an achievement.

October 26, 2014 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I don't plan on doing NaNo (as per my policy even since I found out about it in 2008) mostly for reasons I won't reiterate here (don't want to let loose with a rant on someone else's blog). I am a perfectionist when it comes to starting a story. I can't tell you how many times I've attempted to start/re-start a story but failed when the story didn't really connect in the way that one novel, two novellas and a medium short story did.

But when they do, I have a tendency to simply write with very minimal editing to the bitter end.

Father Nature's Corner

October 26, 2014 at 2:49 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Hi, Anne, for some of the reasons you outlined in your post, I'm not Nano-ing this year but I did last year. I averaged about 1500+ words per day, some days more, and finished the very rough draft by the end of November. I put it away, as you also mentioned for December and after the craziness of the holidays, I went at the revision chapter by chapter. I sent the finished ms in to my publisher in February and it my gay paranormal romance, Too Long Among the Dead, came out in April. So, yes, it can be done. I'm sharing this article with my writer pals at JMS Books as I know many are planning to Nano next month. Thanks so much for the encouragement and this terrific--as usual--post. Paul

October 26, 2014 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G. B. I know NaNo really doesn't work for some people. And some just would rather not follow the crowd. It sure is fantastic when you get in that "zone" and the story just flows, isn't it?

October 26, 2014 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--I know you had great success with NaNo last year. I think it would be tough to replicate that. And besides, Bob probably really missed you. :-)

October 26, 2014 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Great post Anne, you helped me clarify something very important.
I always thought NaNo was a cool idea, but I never realized I'd have to skip Thanksgiving. That is completely out of the question- and if you're on the East Coast next month, you drop by and my lovely wife will serve you the greatest meal you've ever had.
And after that, she'll probably serve me divorce papers.
Point is, I'm not doing NaNo, the price is too high. Oh the humanity!
And the home schedule wouldn't budge anyway- I'm a dilettante for life on this writing thing. Oddly, there have been months when I write close to that pace while keeping up with the day-job and the honey-do list. And I don't want to jinx it, but I feel a stretch like that coming on...

October 26, 2014 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wm--The Thanksgiving thing always stopped me too. Until one year when I had four Thanksgiving dinners I was supposed to go to. I thought..."I need a really good excuse to go to none of them, because otherwise somebody's going to have hurt feelings."

Then I had a thought: What if that's what inspired NaNo? It's a universal excuse: "Sorry Grandma, Aunt Sophie, my in-laws, and my boss's wife: I can't go. I have to get this novel finished by the end of the month."

Sounds like you've got an at-home Thanksgiving that's a must-not-miss.

And yeah, day jobs have a way of getting in the way, too.

October 26, 2014 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

Ate my comment again ...

No NANO for me. I'm in the final third of my fantasy, and about 1/3 of the way on a non-fiction book for a historical anniversary next year. I've had a momentary snag where I need to insert a new scene in the novel and have to do research for it and what will play into the end. I hope to have it done in November and get started on a mystery novel next (the N/F one has a planned completion of about the end of February or the start of March). My goal for next year is 10 books.

One of the important things to remember is that even if you don't get to 50K on NANO, if you write, you'll have more words than you started with. That's a victory in itself. I might not be able to get 10 books because I work a fulltime job and time is obviously limited. But if I get five, it's still more inventory than I would have had if I didn't write. Just something to think about.

October 26, 2014 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Oh no!! But it takes the second comment without a whimper? We have to get to the bottom of this. Were you signed into Wordpress when you tried to post the first time?

Another major reason for not doing NaNo: You're in the middle of a book (or two) and don't want to start something new. That's where I am this year, too.

Wow. 10 books and a day job. That's ambition! I couldn't do that if my life depended on it. But I really admire people who can.

And yes, I plan to write a lot on my WIP in November. It won't be 50K words, but it will get me closer to my goal. That's what's important.

October 26, 2014 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger florence cronin said...

Anne, since I jumped the gun on this subject this week, you know I will not, now or ever to Na-No. Not to say that it isn't good for others ... it just would not be good for me. Love your suggestions and cautions and will check out the read-Mo in December :) Thanks for all the great info :)

October 26, 2014 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger Jan Christensen said...

I have thought about doing Na-No, but was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to get to 50,000 words in one month, especially with the holidays in there--wow. My current goal is 1,000 new words a day on a novel every day, and that pace seems to suit me. I'd have to try to more than double that for a while to figure out if I could keep up THAT pace. I admire those who take the challenge. I'm just a wimp. Not so much a perfectionist, but too cautious.

October 26, 2014 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

On the comments, I'm posting via Google, not WordPress, so Google was the problem.

I'm going for 50K books to build up an indie inventory. I can easily get 40K in a month by doing 1,000-1,500 words a day thereabouts.

October 26, 2014 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

Yup. Perfectionism = creative paralysis. Damn shame. I fight the good fight.

I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo but a friend of mine has for years so I’ve seen the process and been a cheerleader. I don’t think I could ever do it. I never had any interest in torturing myself that way. ;-) You make some good arguments for both sides of joining NaNoWriMo, though. I might just need to kick my perfectionism in the butt. We shall see.

P.S. If you are not Anne and are reading this comment and you don’t have How to be a Writer in the E-Age, pick it up. It’s a fantastic, helpful, entertaining read.

October 26, 2014 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--So sorry! Curse you Google!! I thought that's what they wanted: for everybody to have a Google ID. Here you followed the rules and they ate your comment anyway. Does anybody out there know why this happens?

October 26, 2014 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--I'm with you at this point. I think some people are sprinters and some aren't. Me: I aren't. :-) But READMo--that I might be able to do.

October 26, 2014 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jan--1000 words a day is a very good pace. I can write even 2000 words in one day, but not EVERY day. Too much other stuff going on. I don't know if it's a question of being a wimp, or being more of a "generalist" than an one-focus person.

October 26, 2014 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--For people like me and you, pushing the muse can be torture. For others, it's the ticket to success. So it's all about knowing our limits and understanding who we are. (And how much our families can put up with.)

Re your PS: <3 Mwaaaah!! Thanks a bunch.

October 26, 2014 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Claude Nougat said...

I knew about Simenon - not about Vonnegut, how interesting! Most of us don't do either, I'm sure (I know I don't). The idea of Nanowrimo is great - and your suggestion that it breaks down perfectionism is spot on - but...it's so American! How about doing 50,000 words at home for yourself?

October 27, 2014 at 4:56 AM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Wonderful post. Made me laugh out loud at myself. I've gotten lost in research and even managed a little in last years NaNo (don't tell anyone). I finished more than the 50K for my sequel The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress Hops the Atlantic (still editing from last year).

I'm signing up again and am a little nervous. Sometimes the sheer fun of first time drives you to win. I'm hoping it wasn't a fluke last year.

I've been dragging my feet because I cannot think of a title for one idea and I really want to write another ghost story compilation like the one I just released, Ghostoria. My sis and I brainstormed a cool continuation of the original twelve stories. (short story compilations are against the rules) :(

Thanks to your post. I'm going to go register again for this year, compilation or no and title or no!

~ Tam Francis ~
www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com

October 27, 2014 at 6:43 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

Great read, enlightening and entertaining!

I've never participated in NaNoWriMo partly because I'm more of a marathon-runner. I like to add constantly to my writing instead of all at once (probably due to my job). I loved the post and how it brings out a lot of the reality we writers want to avoid sometimes: it takes time, a lot of it, and the fact that someone likes it doesn't mean it'll get published.

Love your blog!

October 27, 2014 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--Maybe they need a NaStoryWriMo? Write ten short stories in the month or something like that. Stories are hot and we need to write more of them. I love the concept of Ghostoria. A sequel is a great idea. Congrats on last year's NaNo win and best of luck with this year's.

October 27, 2014 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bernardo--Thanks! I think maybe people like NaNo partly because it's the one time you can stop thinking about publishing and marketing and just concentrate on the story. But oh, yes, it takes time. If I'm doing the writing, it takes way more time than it does for other people. I'm a slow reader too. :-)

October 27, 2014 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Anne, this will be my 5th year participating in NaNo. I absolutely love it. I'm a slow writer by nature, so this is great motivation for me to tackle the first draft in one month. I've already plotted the book, and next comes creating note cards before I begin on Saturday. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice was, "Don't look back when you're writing the first draft." You're so right that NaNo is perfect for that. No time to fuss over every word. I just write notes to myself, like "sucks, change this" or "seriously? is that the best you can do?" and then move forward. And the funny thing? The first draft is definitely funky, but not as bad as I imagine it while writing. Best of luck to all the NaNo participants!

October 27, 2014 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--Congrats on your 5 years with NaNo! You're a pro with your note cards and outline. It sounds as if NaNo is just right for you. Best of luck with it this year!

October 27, 2014 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Claude--I know people who do their own unregistered version of NaNo--often to finish a WIP. If you're in the middle of writing a book, you usually don't want to start on another, and NaNo requires you to write the entire book in November. So do your own and you can still join in the fun and pick up NaNo hints and encouragement at #NaNoWriMo and blogs of other participants.

October 27, 2014 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

I have never considered NaNO. Always sounded like torture to me. But I am such a slow writer because I review every chapter, page, paragraph, sentence as I go. So... maybe I should try it just to see if I can break away from that compulsion. Thanks for all the info!

October 27, 2014 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

When I wrote teen romances I churned out a ms. every 6 weeks. Not sure I could do that now. Also, that was before social media ate my life. Sure would like the output, though.

October 27, 2014 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--I think for somebody with a day job, grandkids and a big extended family, it could be a nightmare. Of course it could be an excuse to hide away in your studio and let them fend for themselves for a month...

October 27, 2014 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen--I'm so sorry you had trouble commenting. I do NOT know what's up with Blogger. If it continues to be a hassle, I'll have to put the CAPTCHA back. 6 weeks for a book is pretty fierce. A teen romance probably is shorter than the average novel, but still, you had to move pretty fast. I agree it would be a lot harder to do now we have all this social media to handle.

October 27, 2014 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

I believe NaNo hurts more than it helps. We teach ourselves destructive writing habits with rushing. As an old English teacher, I saw what was produced when words are hurriedly thrown together.

Writing is a craft, done steadily, studiously, and carefully. If we expect people to pay good money for our words, it seems only fair that we make our words good ones.

Sure, we have a novel at the end of NaNo. But to edit a terribly written novel is a nightmare. To distill a page into a stunning paragraph takes time. Each paragraph you write may be the only one a browser will ever read, so it behooves us to make each paragraph like those stone bridges where each block supports the other.

If people need NaNo as a spur to keep writing, then they do not have the discipline to be a writer. Hemingway said writing was a lonely affair. He also said it was the hardest thing he ever did and that a day when he wrote 400 true words made him happier than most would think possible.

He also did the occasional 1200 word day but most were 500 word days.

My opinion is an unwelcome one by most. But I feel we cheapen the profession by slapping words together just as fast as we can.

Of course this is only my opinion. As always you have written a thought-provoking post. :-)

October 27, 2014 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

I am such a slow writer, and yes, I think a bit of perfectionism is the exact problem. I knew about writing a novel in a month, but I had not heard of NaNoReadMO!

October 27, 2014 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger Donna OShaughnessy said...

Wow. What an action packed blog post! I love NaNo and did it a couple years ago. That novel has been revised a couple times and the whole process sent me back to school at age 55! I am having a blast in the CW program at UIUC and really NaNo is the reason I got started "back" to what I always wanted to be...a writer! Love your blog, thanks so much.

October 27, 2014 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nina--After I posted the link, I noticed that the last time the FB NaNoREADMo page was updated was 2010, so it may be running out of steam. I hope not. We should all get behind it!

October 27, 2014 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Donna--What a great NaNo story! That's reason #8: It may send you back to college to study creative writing. How very cool. I'm so glad you like the blog. :-)

October 27, 2014 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Anne--
I see how NaNo might be useful as a kind of compositional stool softener, but what then? Are all these novels going to be self-published? Will all the writers now join the feeding frenzy for attention in social media?
Where's my Xanax?

October 30, 2014 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--LOL to the stool softener! You'll notice many of the commenters who have done NaNo say they haven't finished editing it a year later.

And I do include the caveat. "PLEASE don't start querying agents or consider self-publishing until you do a serious, in-depth revision. You'll just clog the pipeline and make the agents cranky—or feed into the myth of the self-publishing "tsunami of crap"—which isn't good for any of us. "

Not that they'll all listen to me. Sigh.

October 30, 2014 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Robyn Lee said...

I've not entered this year as I've got a lot of other writing stuff going on, but next year is a definite!

I've enjoyed and appreciated reading your tips on NaNoWriMo. Thank you.

November 1, 2014 at 11:56 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Robyn--Timing is an important element. There are lots of reasons why working writers can't write a novel in November. One of them is that you're already in the middle of a project--or many projects. But when the timing is right, it seems to work for a lot of people.

November 2, 2014 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Jeralyn Lash-Sands said...

I reached 37,000 words during NaNo last year. I ran out of time when family visited. My first try and without an outline, remembering what I had already written became quite a chore. If the timing is right next year, I'll try again but with an outline, for sure. Maybe I could do with a little NaNoREADMo.
There's more than a handful of published books written during NaNo, one of which is Water For Elephants.
King wrote “Writing is a lonely job." I'd add to that - lonely and depressing, at times. Makes me think of Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give, where she's writing (screenplay) and crying.
Great post.

November 7, 2014 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

37K words is still quite an accomplishment! Especially without an outline. But as I say above, if you have a tendency to depression, it's not a good idea, because intense cerebral activity uses the same part of the brain as is activated during a depressive episode.

As I said in the post, over 90 successful novels started during NaNo. I have a link to the list in the post above. It's in the section under #7. They include Like Water for Elephants, Wool, the Night Circus and many, many others.

Do try NaNoREADMo. I'm working on that myself.

November 7, 2014 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

I tried commenting on your most recent post but it won't post for some reason. I feel so rejected :) Of course I always attribute it to user failure, but since I had no trouble in the past, perhaps you could look into it at your end.

November 16, 2014 at 2:37 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen, I don't understand why you're having trouble commenting. Unfortunately the choices on my end are very limited: 1) put up the CAPTCHA 2) Allow anonymous comments and 10000s of spammers 3) take down the blog and start again from scratch at WordPress, which has its own commenting problems. Try to make sure you've signed into Google or Wordpress before you comment.

November 16, 2014 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Roland--I'm sorry I missed your comment here. I didn't mean to ignore it. I think this is a case of "one size never fits all." What is great fun for some writers is a nightmare for others. Some are tortoises and some are hares.

There is an absurd pressure on authors to turn out books at alarming speed, and that's not good for writers or readers. Personally, I'd rather write slowly and edit along the way, but other writers find that getting a huge pile of words on the page to sculpt later is the way their muses work best. Thanks for expressing a different point of view. It's diversity that keeps us creative.

November 16, 2014 at 10:16 AM  

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