Poison Pen?
The MO in NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo YOUR Way

Louisa's deskHey, Writerly Women -- and a good November to you. Among fiction writers - and maybe nonfiction too -- this month has become as much about NaNoWriMo as it has about turkeys and football and giving thanks. It only makes sense to spend this four weeks here on Doorways talking about what the 'write a bazillion words in 30 days' challenge can do -- and not do -- for writers. 

Odd as it may seem, let's start with an author who did so much for us as female writers beginning back in the Nineteenth Century - the brilliant Louisa May Alcott. 

She would have approved of NaNoWriMo, although for her it was more MayJuJulWriMo. Sitting at that widened curve in the woodwork where you see the vase of greens, (just to the left of the window) which her father fashioned for her as a desk, Louisa sat down for 14 hours a day from May until the middle of July and wrote the inimitable Little Women. Louisa-May-Alcott-145890283x1-56aa250a5f9b58b7d000fc52

Six. Weeks. 

Mind you, Louisa was living with her parents who were depending on her to write to support them. They basically said, "Go to your room and write!"  Also, she was writing an idealized version of her childhood so the story was in essence writing itself. So, yes, to sit down and get those words down in a rush was absolutely what Louisa needed to do. 

NaNoWriMo was for her.

But is it for everyone?

Is it for COLLEEN, who has spent months with me shaping characters and a wonderful outline? Should she then just throw down words she's going to have to go back and rewrite? 

Is it for DAWN, who is writing the last five chapters of the draft of her novel? Does it make sense for her to get channel fever and crank out those chapters?

And how about LILY, who's starting the first draft of the second book in her series? She tends to be a pantser going in, so why not, maybe?

I know that for me, the quintessential planner, NNWM would make me a crazier person than I already am (which is a very scary thought, right?) Writing at Walden POndI go to Walden Pond, absorb, make notes, come back and weave those into my outline, write the draft, revise the draft. So, uh, no, no 30 days of full out pouring it out. That does NOT mean it doesn't work for someone else.

What I see here is a great opportunity for each of us to --

    * define and fine-tune our process

   * set up our OWN challenges, deciding whether the ones presented to us suit our writing personalities

So what if in this month of November I present various possibilities and invite you to share yours? How does that sound?

If you want to comment, tell us if you're participating in NaNoWriMo and why or why not. No judgement. Just what works for you -- because as always, this is for you.




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Jennifer L Guyer

This is my second year doing NanoWriMo. I love it! By nature, I am a pantser and haven't done much outlining at all. Last year, I was a bit of a rebel and added 50k words to my already 50k word WIP. It was just what I needed to get through the muddled middle. Granted it still needs lots of revision, and that is partly to the fact that I'm a fairly new writer, learning how to write. I decided to do Nano again this year and I also decided to try to do a bit of outlining in October so I wouldn't be going into Nano completely blind. I only succeeded in outlining the first 35 scenes of my sequel, but I also feel like I got the bigger picture down and know where to aim for, once those 35 scenes are done (which should be this week?!) Some of the things I've learned about Nano are that it's not about winning, but rather celebrating being a writer and having fun doing it, word sprints can help push past writer's block, and it can be a good motivator to learn new things and accomplish your goals. It is a tool that can be useful for stretching different writing muscles than what you might use the rest of the year. Sorry for being long winded here but it has been very helpful for me to grow as a writer and a useful tool that is now in my writing toolbox. One last thing, it has also helped me to spend my time more efficiently, for example: making a meal plan for the whole month allows me to know exactly what to get at the store each week without spending a good hour writing a shopping list, instead I can spend that hour writing a novel.


I also am looking forward to this thread this month. I already decided to redefine NaNoWriMo for me. It’s more about writing every day on my project than to mindlessly machine gun words on a document (which I can do) in order to satisfy my OC-ish personality and make the 50,000- word goal. It will be a huge challenge and habit-changed for me. For others it is the word goal. That’s why NaNo can work in different ways for all of us.


Before the axe fell, I'd drag myself in the door from my evening commute and head right to the office while spousal unit got supper ready. An hour and a half later, my brains were back in order and I got fed (a nice reward to the work that also, I think, subconsciously placed some value on my writing time).

In this, the post-axe transition, I flow between all the hundreds of transition decisions and logistics, and large, gloriously uninterrupted writing sessions, where I comb and create. I have never been much of an outliner, beyond the barest sketch to keep the ship on some kind of course.

I am not sure what shape my process will take now that I don't have to wrap it around a day job. Some income may be required, but at this time, I'm letting the creative rise and take precedence.


I'm really looking forward to this topic! I've always felt the same way about NaNoWriMo, and I love your idea of taking this month to define and fine-tune our own process.

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