East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

NaNoWriMoing away


nanowrimo-logoIt’s that time of the year again, well almost.
No, I am not talking about Halloween – that has been thematically influencing this blog for a while, now – but November, and with November, NaNoWriMo.
Will you take part in it?
Will you win it?
Just couldn’t care less?

In the past I have posted about my lack of interest for NaNoWriMo – I am too busy writing to pay the bills to go and do this sort of thing. And I admit I find the amateurs bragging about their success a little irritating.
The most interesting bit about NaNOWriMo to me is the chance – that I always miss – to buy a copy of Scrivener for Windows at a reduced price.
But this year I might.
No, not buy me Scrivener – I am penniless, for a change, and I’m doing fine with the free Linux version – but write a novel in one month.
Not formally, not with the counter and everything else – I will not win the NaNoWriMO, but there’s much more at stake.
Let’s say the experiment this year might have to do with the words Big Publisher, Mainstream Fiction, Chance of a Lifetime, Only a fool would miss it.
Stuff like that.
So OK, I will set a small amount of time to NaNoWriMoing a 60.000 words story.

And right as I am pondering these future plans, and asking myself whether I’ll make it or not, an Anonymous on a friend’s blog posts a comment about his latest novel…

It seems to me that to write a 60.000 words novel it takes a lot of study and research. It’s impossible to do something half decent in one month.

So, the first answer to the above – which was posted under the announcement of a new book written in one month –  is, of course, scr3w you.
But more in general, this is the sort of thinking that correlates the quality of the text with the time taken to complete it – which of course means that every single unfinished book is a masterpiece. It’s in the maths.

Anonymous mentions study and research – and he’s right.
Only, an awful lot of that is done before you put the first word on the first page. Sometimes it is part of the writing process – for instance, British writer Peter F. Hamilton usually spends six months researching and designing his universes before he starts one of his huge blockbusters. And no, he does not write them in one month, and they are not good because he takes longer – they are good because he’s a good writer.
In other cases it’s work done before, maybe for other reasons – like my obsessive reading about Shanghai and about the Silk Road.
And part of it is done on the fly – because research should never drag down the writing, or stop it.
And let’s add to this that the kind of story you are writing does control the amount of research you need to do. A hard science fiction novel probably requires more research than, say, a sword & sorcery tale. One of the reasons I’ve not tried my hand seriously at a western, for instance, is that I’m intimidated by the amount of research I should do – because apart from the movies, and a handful of novels, that’s a sector of history I never explored1.

As for the 60.000 words in a month not being half decent…
The problem is not the words, but amateurs and munchkins don’t understand it. One can try to explain it, but they don’t get it.
60.000 words in one month is 2000 words per day, every day. You could do it in 2/3 hours. Start before dinner, and be good by 10 PM, with a nice break for dinner. No big deal, even if you have “a real job”. It only takes discipline.
Clearly, if you want those to be 2000 good words, it also takes skill, or a good revision (but revision’s not part of NaNoWriMo… we don’t have a NaNoRevMo).
What’s complicated, really, about the 60.000 words in 30 days thing is that you are writing 60.000 words, not 30 chunks of 2000. It’s a single story, one long narrative twisting and turning along 60.000 words.
It’s keeping the plot tight and the action focused and coherent that’s the problem. Sure, you can straighten thebad bits in revision, but what good is writing anovel in 30 days if then you need five years to revise it.
Granted, a novel written in five years because the first draft was rubbish is obviously better than one written in 30 days, or so our Anonymous thinks. But I think we have all accepted at this point the fact that Anonymous is a dork, and a nasty one.
Coherence and plot solidity are the main issues.
Which is the reason why it is better to plan ahead – have an outline, at least a chapters breakdown. And a bunch of stuff you can refer to when you get stuck.
Preparation, that’s the trick.
Then, you can write a 150.000 words story in one month, if you like. It’s, after all, just 5000 words per day. It can be done. It can hurt you (physically, I mean), but it can be done.

So, with all due respect for the Anonymous, 60.000 words in a month is no big bead if you are a professional. I can accept that for hobbyists is different.
They are the ones that will win the NaNoWriMo.
Me, I’d just be happy to get a solid deal from a major publisher. And maybe a discount copy of Scrivener.
I’ll post sporadically about this adventure, starting next week.

  1. on the other hand, I did a lot of reading about the Bone Wars… I could write a western about dinosaur hunters… hmm (files idea for later). 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMoing away

  1. Well, Anonymous is a dork. End of the line. My answer to such morons is always the same: remember Isaac Asimov.


    • Anonymous certainly a dork, but he (usually these guys are male) is also is the sign my friend’s blog and/or books have become popular – this sort of characters usually show up when things start looking up.

      Liked by 1 person

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