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  • [Reality Check] NaNoWriMo – The Great Butt Kicker
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[Reality Check] NaNoWriMo – The Great Butt Kicker
Written by
Zetta Brown
November 2013
Written by
Zetta Brown
November 2013

November is National Novel Writing Month, and I am doing NaNoWriMo this year. The first time I did it was back in 2008, the same year my erotic romance novel Messalina: Devourer of Men was published. The sense of accomplishment I felt after seeing one of my biggest dreams come true really inspired me.

That year, NaNoWriMo kicked my @ss.

I barely lasted the first ten days before both my enthusiasm and motivation fizzled. Although I was disappointed in myself for not winning, I told myself I wasn’t surprised. After all, it took me more than a decade to cobble together Messalina while life happened. Should I be surprised that I couldn’t write a novel in thirty days? Of course not!

But I was only fooling myself. I know women with a lot more going on in their lives than me and they seem to be able to crank out novel after novel while building their fan base and a name for themselves. So what was my problem? Lack of discipline.

There are extreme health fanatics who are all about discipline and, in my opinion, seem to get off on denial in the way they take pride in denying themselves the foods and drinks they love. That’s not me. I love food and drink and refuse to have an antagonistic attitude towards two things I need to live. The only problem I have is disciplining myself when it comes to moderation and only taking in only as much as I can handle.

Whether any of my stories or novels become bestsellers isn’t what drives me, it’s the fact that I’ve written them, published them, and was able to make them available to people who can appreciate my storytelling. I have too many story ideas floating in my head only to average a novel a decade. It’s ridiculous, life is too short, and I ain’t getting any younger. I need something like NaNoWriMo to kick my butt in gear.

So, a few weeks before NaNoWriMo began, I purchased No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, and I am so glad that I did.

My novice attempt at NaNoWriMo in 2008, though admirable, was doomed from the start. Why? Because I approached the exercise more like I had to have a 50k “novel” suitable enough for submission rather than simply a decent first draft that would scream for revision or to be put out of its misery.

My second mistake was listening to what Baty calls the “Inner Editor.” It’s hard for someone like me, who edits for a living, to turn off the one thing that I do for a living.
No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days give you permission to write crap. This is all meant to be a fun challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

You are to dive headlong into this month-long adventure with nothing but your imagination and your sugar/caffeine/alcohol/comfort food/junk food of choice to fuel you, and some tunes on your favorite listening device won’t hurt, either.

Many people prepare in advance by getting notes and perhaps a plot outline prepared, but many people don’t even have that much, and as Baty’s book suggests—no problem!

This book is useful whether or not you participate in NaNoWriMo. It’s useful all year round. It will help you ignore your hangups and just dive in, and at the same time it will show you that no matter how busy your life is you can find time to write. It doesn’t have to be perfect and profound, just get the words out.

NaNoWriMo will whip your writing muscles into shape so that you can continue writing long after the month of November. You will have developed the habit.

Those of y’all taking the challenge and haven’t read the book may find some of the tips quite motivating. I know I have. One tip suggests that in order to inspire you to “win” and get your 50k words written, you should write a substantial check to a charity or cause, and if you do not make the word count by the deadline, you mail the check.

Oh. Did I fail to mention that the charity or cause should be one that you are against, for whatever reason? This is definitely a time that if you should fail, it will hurt you more than it hurts them.

With that in mind, I have a check prepared to make a decent-sized contribution to the re-election campaign of a politician I loathe. In these tough economic times, money is tight, and there’s no way I’m going to give this person any of my money for any reason—especially on purpose!

But that’s just one of many motivational tips you may find useful, whether you participate in NaNoWriMo or not. Sometimes you gotta make it hurt. No pain, no gain.

Feel the burn.

Well, I’m gonna wrap this up. This blog post does not count toward the 2k/day minimum word count I’ve set for myself, and I do not intend to make a donation to that jerkwad politician.

If you are participating this year and want to be my writing buddy, look for “Bastet.” Come be my friend! :D

Or, if you prefer, check out my other blogs where I actually have some NEW CONTENT!
Yes, I know. I’m a crap blogger because I don’t do it frequently, but I am determined to survive NaNoWriMo and come out on the other side as a more disciplined writer and faithful blogger.

At my writing and editing blog Zetta’s Desk, my latest post is about realism in romance.

At Zetta’s House of Random Thoughts, I muse about how adults have totally ruined Halloween.

Happy Writing!


©2013. Zetta Brown is the author of several published short stories and the novel Messalina: Devourer of Men. If you like this post, then stop by Zetta’s Desk or Zetta’s House of Random Thoughts.

Got a [REALITY CHECK] about the publishing life to share? If you would like to be a guest on my blog, please friend me on She Writes with a message! :)

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  • Mark Hughes

    I suppose you can look at the exercise like a form of gambling--in this case you're gambling on the hope that some truly creative ideas arise, which they very well might, depending on how effectively the editor and his gang of thugs are muffled. We're all alive, so why not write?

  • Zetta Brown

    @Mark - I thought that I'd end up doing a stream of consciousness-type of novel too when I couldn't decide which WIP to work on. I'm still making up for lost time but I gotta admit that I now have a decent start and am now working my way into the "meat" of the story. :)  I'm expecting my manuscript to be crap when NaNo is over, but workable crap. LOL

  • Mark Hughes

    I'm one of those discipline types Zetta mentioned (getting an engineering degree either beats that into you or beats you into an insane asylum). The point is, my one foray at NaMoWriMo went fine. I don't recall now, but I think I hit the 50K around the 20th or so. But, was my manuscript crap?

    Absolutely and I've never looked back on it.

    Yes, the editor was silenced. Not only the editor, but the proofreader, spellchecker, grammar god, carpal tunnel princess, eye strain fairy, and story continuity demon were likewise bound, gagged, and buried. As a result, I look back on it now like a very extended stream of consciousness exercise. More than a typing exercise, I suppose, but less than the kind of words that tend to be carved in Missouri marble.

    That's not to say that the experience wasn't valuable. Okay, there was that carpal tunnel thing, granted, but for me, something broke through. I'd been strictly a short story writer until then, and it wasn't long after the 50K sprint event that I began my first novel, the leap I'd resisted for years. For that result alone, I'll be forever grateful.

    Umm, BTW, that novel was not a sprint. It took ten years.

    And every day was worth it.

  • Lacey Louwagie

    Wow, 1500 - 2k words a day even after November. That's impressive! I hope it helps you get many books written. :)

  • Zetta Brown

    Thanks, Lacey and Jeanne!

    Lacey - I plan to keep "NaNo-ing" after November and write 1500-2k words/day, otherwise, I'll never get my stories done. I'm tired of having WIPs that are nothing more than a bunch of notes while the stories and characters haunt me. So, yes, let's buddy up for 2014! :)

    Jeanne - Everyone says Week 2 is notorious, but I think part of it is a mind game. Lots of people say it's hard so you start to think it's hard when actually it's no harder than getting started in the first place, if you ask me. Taking time during December sounds like a plan, especially to escape the holiday madness...if that's possible. :-/

  • Jeanne Nicholas

    I've read about NaNo and thought about doing it and I truly think I would be VERY motivated initially.  Its that middle part called weeks two through four that would be my killjoy.  I love to write but think I am going about it wrong.  I post consecutive chapters of my story as I get them finished.  I string the fans along (not on purpose) as I write out my plot.  I think taking a month to do nothing but write the rough draft regardless of editing would probably speed things up quite a bit.  I purchased my kindle version of No Plot, No Problem.  I'll check it out.  Maybe my personal NaNo is in December.  I have two weeks off when school is out and that might be the time I need to try this madness out.  PS My motivation - increase all 14 nieces and nephews Xmas gift cards by an extra 10 bucks (that could really add up).

  • Lacey Louwagie

    Good luck with NaNoWriMo! I had completed four NaNo novels before I read "No Plot, No Problem," so I didn't need it to get me through the novel, but I really appreciated some if its revision tips. Writing the first draft is my least favorite part of writing -- I'd much rather get to the revision part (I also edit for a living!). So NaNoWriMo, while stressful, at least contains the stress of the first draft to one month for me, rather than letting me drag it out over months and years. Still, it takes me about two years to revise what I've written in one month, which is why I tend to only do NaNoWriMo every other year. I'm taking this year "off" but will be back on 2014! I'd love to friend you if you're up for it again in the future -- and with so many story ideas and so little time, I hope you will be!

  • Zetta Brown

    Thanks, Nancy, I appreciate it! I'm a little behind but I should be caught up by the end of today.

  • Nancy Madore

    Best of luck!!!

  • Zetta Brown

    @ Ann - I got it! Thanks! We are now buddies!

    @ Mary - Ewww...that IS pain. But you won anyway, so you're a tough chick. :)

    @ Liz - I'm watching yours too! I did extra on Sunday because I was going to be tied up on Mon/Tues, but I'm still on track and I'm going to get my words in today. :)

  • Liz Gelb-O\'Connor

    Go, Z! I'm watching your word count every day!

  • Mary L. Holden

    Pain! When I did NaNoWriMo in 2009 (first and only time) I also suffered through my first root canal! But, I got to the 50,000 word limit and called it a novel---even though I have four chapters that I still want to write. Good luck to you and thank you for taking time to write this!

  • Ann Hamilton

    Loved your piece, but can't talk now.  Must get back to NaNo.  (I added you as a buddy - I'm Red Mosquito.)  Good luck with your NaNo!