If I knew where you lived, I'd be knocking on your door right now, recruiting you for NaNoWriMo.

While my desktop computer is currently off the fritz, I thought I'd better blog quick quick quick. Because for the past two weeks, our desktop has decided not to turn on. Sometimes.

But OF COURSE it turns on for the repair guys. Every time.

(Naughty beast.)

So that explains the decline in bloggage around here lately -- I have been at the mercy of a single power button. A single e-vil power button. But let's not give it any more attention than it deserves. Because you know what?


Can you tell I'm happy? Because I am, in the most genuine way possible.

Were it not for NaNoWriMo, I would not be the proud author of the big fat beautiful manuscript that I am today. (The one that Laini Taylor gave the best-est, nicest post about EVER last week. My toes are still wiggling with joy. THANK YOU, LAINI! When I am Rich and Famous, I will buy you a castle. Or, at least, let you borrow mine.)

Anyway, I freaking love NaNo. I love it so much I'd marry it if I could, and we'd have gorgeous, toner-scented children.

Partial list of other things this week I've said that I'd marry if I could:

Jason (Schwartzman)

Gael (Garcia Bernal)

Joe (Trader)

Last year was my first time participating in National Novel Writing Month. I'd been hearing about it for years, but I kept blowing it off. "Writing 50,000 words in thirty days? Puh-lease. You can't force creativity."

Well, you wanna know something?

You totally can. And usually you have to.

Because if it weren't for NaNoWriMo, I'd still be working on the same book I'd been working on for the previous three and a half years. Yeah. Years. And not only that, but I'd still be revising the same three chapters! My light bulb moment was when someone explained to me that NaNo isn't about creating a GOOD draft. Just a finished draft.

Me: "A finished draft? Well, heck. I could use one of those."

Because let's face it -- the first draft is the hardest. Practically impossible. That blank white page, that dead eye staring back at you. So why drag it out over months and months (or, in my case, years and years)? Get that sucker done in ONE month and move on!

So I signed up, I wrote my butt off, and I won.

(If you didn't already know, "winning" in NaNo terms means you FINISHED. It's not a contest. And believe me, finishing IS winning!)

Really. It was that simple. I worked -- hard -- and it got written.

You: "So was it a good book?"
Me: "Um . . . no."

It was pretty much the worst thing I'd ever written. The main character was cardboard, the plot was nonexistent, and the scenes were written in both the past and present tense. It also had a lot of these:


That's a direct quote, by the way. Not "Big explosion in the condom factory, fill in details later." But "something important."

But the amazing thing about NaNo was that it gave me a COMPLETE draft to work with. And sure it was this ugly, hole-filled snotty troll of a thing, but it had an ending! Which was more than any of my other books could brag about. And in between the cliches and the plot gaps, I saw . . . potential. Tiny, shimmering threads of hope.

And that's what I latched onto in my next draft. I took what what worked, figured out why it worked, and made it work better. That's revising in a nutshell.

(The key word there? Work. Which I did. Which I'm still doing.)

So this year I'm recruiting. Because I believe in this way of novel-writing. I know it's not the only way of doing it, but it helped me like nothing else had helped before. So for anyone out there sitting on a Great Idea (cough, Sara Z, cough), or for any writer stuck between projects, or any writer who is even remotely curious in the teeniest tiniest way -- here is my advice.

Try it.

Sign up. And write.

And if you want to win? Well, I'm glad you asked. Because I've got you covered there too:


(1) Turn off your Inner Editor. You know, this is the voice that tells you, "That sentence sucks. This idea sucks. YOU suck. Time to get a second job, suck-a-holic. I hear Applebee's is hiring." Send your Inner Editor to Legoland for the month. Tell her not to worry, because she'll have plenty of work to do when she gets back. (You'll want her on your side during revisions, after all.)

(2) Write everyday. Even if it is crappy. Which it will be. When you get stuck, insert "Something Important Happens Here" brackets and move on to whatever strange idea that pops into your brain next. Important stuff (and logic) is for second drafts.

(3) Do NOT read what you have already written. This is the quickest way of becoming discouraged and getting caught in the revision game. NO REVISING! KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

(4) Make NaNo friends. You can find them on the forums. Send them encouraging emails and, chances are, they'll send you encouraging emails back. These emails are crucial to survival. Only your NaNo buddies will understand the full insane-ness of writing a novel in thirty days.

(5) Expect it to be terrible. Keep your expectations low, and you will be much, much happier! Remember, the good stuff comes later.

Much later.

And remember: It's only one month of your life. How much did you write last month? Even if you don't win NaNo, it's almost guaranteed you'll write more this November than you did this October. And isn't that something to be proud of?

So if you're interested, come find me. I'm naturallysteph in NaNo land, and I'd love to be your writing buddy.

We can send each other messages like, "YOU ARE SO AWESOME!!! ONLY THIRTY THOUSAND MORE WORDS TO GO BEFORE WE POP THE CHAMPAGNE!!!!" And these too: "If anyone ever reads this novel, I will DIE. I will throw myself off a cliff and hope to be trampled by horned goats. Please assure me your novel blows as hard as mine."

OH . . . and one more thing. The word counters.

My god, the word counters! The graphs! The charting of progress, and comparing your progress to everyone else's! This is what NaNo is REALLY about.

You know, finishing before your friends.

Because -- fer serious, people -- if seeing someone else write 7k words in a single day doesn't tweak your competitive spirit, I don't know what will.


  1. Okay, so I am tempted. Your enthusiasm may be swaying me. Could I, though? Could I do it? Could I suppress my mental illness for long enough? It sounds so great. I shall be thinking. . .

    (And as for the castle-borrowing -- how 'bout you have on in Scotland and we'll have on in Italy and we'll have long Austen-y house parties with strolling and pantomimes and card games. Or -- if not Scotland, where would yours be? France?)

  2. YES!!! Of course you can! I had BETTER see you in NaNo land, girl.

    Ooo, yes. My castle is Scottish. And Austen house parties are definitely in order. As well as mystery solving and ghost hunting and midsummer night's revelry.

    You know. The usual castle games.

  3. I get all nostalgic thinking back to my NaNo novel. Yes, it started as a satirical fantasy and ended up a political satire. Yes, characters were introduced and then disappeared from existance (prolly beamed up by aliens), but I finished it.

    So obviously, I totally identify with what you're saying here. :)

  4. Carrie -- Ooo, the disappearing character trick! Yes, I know all about that! (And good riddance to them anyway, wherever they went. They weren't that hot to begin with.)

  5. I'm, like, this close to putting my hat in the ring. I started it one year and then I had to be all, "Oh, maybe I should actually pass my classes." But this year I have no school, so I've been very much considering it. Hmmmm....

  6. I know it's crazy for me to sign up, because I'm working full time and taking a class in the evening, but I just did it. I haven't been writing nearly as much as I'd like over the past three months, so I need a way to kickstart myself. Might as well try it!

  7. Try number two! How dare Blogger go down yesterday.

    So, Miss Steph, we are such Nano soulmates, except that you're a winner and I'm a loser (but a proud one).

    I double and triple all your praise of participating in Nano. And really, no one has anything to lose...all will get more writing done...probably more than they would have without doing Nano.

    So, I fer sure think it should be our joint mission to bring Laini to the Nano-side. Yes?

    I'm heading over to my Nano account right now to get you added to by buddy list. (lattewriter)

  8. Anonymous5:34 PM GMT-5

    Ya, Laini, come over to the Nano-side. We have cookies.
    I'm so excited for NaNoWriMo! Only 6 days of October left and then NaNo gets going! I'm freaking out 'cause I have no idea what I'm going to write about.

  9. I need one of these for knitters - "if seeing someone else make 4 pairs of socks in one week doesn't get your competitive juices flowing, I don't know what will." I could use a little competitive spirit right about now. [And if I had even the tiniest inkling of wanting to write a novel I'd totally enter - sounds like a blast. Instead I'll stick with you doing all of the work, and me having all of the fun reading it.]

  10. I started NaNoWriMo last year, and it was going really well.

    And then my baby got sick. And you know what, I was so excited about my story that I still almost made my quotas. She got well. I kept writing.

    And then I found lice in my daughter's hair. I didn't even know what it was because I'd never seen lice before. What a nightmare! Everyone had them but the baby. I spent the rest of the month seeing nits crawling through hair every time I closed my eyes.

    I still wrote more in the first couple of weeks than I did any other month last year. I've been looking forward to November all year!

  11. sumner -- I think I actually saw something like this for knitters once! I'll have to hunt that down...

    myrna -- Lice!! EEK!

  12. I am doing this for the first time this year. I work so much that I am kinda stressed that it won't get done.

  13. National, huh. Well. I can have The First Norwegian Giant Push To Get Somewhere instead. Let's say..15 000 words on the book I really am writing. That's much much more than I'd usually do.

  14. sparkle -- Ahh, but the beauty of NaNo is that you'll almost definitely get MORE written than last month, no? I'm sure you're going to do great!

    tone -- It says National, but other countries participate too. You should join!! :)

  15. Well your recruiting totally worked because it convinced me to sign up, and I'm incredibly excited about writing again.
    I think I managed to add you as a writing buddy (the site is being slow and weird so I'm not sure) -- I'm there as Lilie Green.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. I've come out of the shadows of lurkdom to say that your enthusiasm has inspired me and I'm signing up today! I'm nervous about meeting the goal because I'm working two jobs and have little time - eeek - but I've got to get this story out of my head and on paper and you've inspired me to know its not impossible. thxs!(really enjoy your blog btw!)

  17. bookhog -- YAY!! Thank you for the nice compliments & congratulations for signing up for NaNo! What's your username? GOOD LUCK!

  18. Ok, I signed up earlier today. Not sure what I should be doing after this....I am ALwaysJackpot if you want to say hello.
    Here goes my first completed novel :) I want to be a winner :)

  19. Anonymous7:14 AM GMT-5

    Hi, I wanted to sign up, but suddenly my ideas evaporated and left me. So for the last couple days, I write about 1-2 pages of whatever I feel like that at particular moment.
    I love the idea of Nano, but I feel it would be silly when I have no solid idea to draw on. Did you prepare? outline? anything prior to Nano starting?
    I'm a complete newbie to the whole writing thing. Like, I don't even know my voice. All I know is I love books, love reading, and I write stories in my head all the time...now I need to execute it.
    I've no backgrouond in writing education and I also have no idea how to start/outline/focus. I've never been pubished with short stories or freelance. I'd like to branch out into freelance or any writing opportunitites to expose my name and work my skills more, but I have no idea how to do that...who to approach, what sites, anything.
    I think about starting a blog - but wouldnt be able to make it a "writer" blog because I'm SO new to this and really really amateur; plus just saying my dreams out loud can be overwhelming and increase my anxiety and writers block. I REALLY admire you . Really!