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Well, another November is cruising toward us, and that means it’s time for–you guessed it!–another episode of National Novel Writing Month, except that in my case it’s National Novel Finishing Month and actually what I aim to finish this year is a novella, so I guess that means it’s…look, let’s just go with it.

I don’t do any of the forums or insane word-tracking, I generally don’t start a new novel (that’s the LAST thing I need right now!) and I am anyway going out of town for a bit on the first week of November. But I love the energy and the dogged determination of NaNoWriMo, I love the acknowledgment that sitting down and writing is important stuff, and I’m all for it.

There are people every year who sneer and say “That’s not how REAL writers do it! They work on it every day all year and you people are just hobbyists who don’t count!”

To these people, I say “Eh, stick it in your ear.”

I, as it happens, am a real writer, according to the IRS, who is frankly the only authority that counts. You can call me a hack or not-a-novelist, as most of my income derives from books with a wordcount in the 15K range, and I will allow as how both or either of these things may be true. You can tell me that my prose lacks deathlessness or wit, and I will nod seriously and agree that it’s a problem. Nevertheless, I’m making my living writing and illustrating so I say it’s broccoli and I say to hell with it.

There are many writers who do indeed sit down and turn out their wordcount every single solitary day in workmanlike fashion, and I salute them.

Me, I go in jags. I had days this summer when that one novella was really cookin’ and I’d slam out nine thousand words on it. I have days when I do no writing at all. (I call those “weekends.”) In fact, I have whole weeks when nothing gets written. (Shock! Horror!) But three out of five days, in a normal week, sometimes more, sometimes less, I go to my nice little local cafe and pop open my laptop and type a minimum of a thousand words.

However—and this is the important bit in this rant—I do not type them all on the same project until it is done.

Generally I limit myself to one thing to work on a day, although sometimes I don’t even do that.

I am not saying that it’s not important to finish your projects. It is vitally important. If you never finish anything, it doesn’t get done and you have nothing to sell. But that said, you do not necessarily have to pick one and work it all the way through to the end, start to finish, unless that happens to be the only way that you ever get things done (You know better than I do whether or not you can be trusted to come back to a project or whether you are a chronic abandoner-for-shiny-new-idea.)

Now, I finish stuff. And I finish it by not writing sometimes and writing a whole lot at other times, and that works for me. It may not work for you, but if you believe that that the One True Way To Write is to sit down every single day and make a word count on one single project until it is done all the way through and nothing else is acceptable and you are a faker and a hobbyist for cramming it all into one month a year, I cordially invite you to pay the taxes on all those books that I did not write that way.

Now, I have at least a half-dozen unfinished things out there, loitering in the 15-to-30K range, and I can be pretty confident that better than half of them will someday be finished.* They will get finished because I slap five or ten thousand words on them a few times a year, and then one day there’s enough there that A) I convince my agent to convince someone to buy it (Bread Wizard) which means that I have to finish it in a timely and dogged fashion, or B) I am suddenly skidding down the cliff toward the climax and it’s time to finish off that sucker (Beauty & the Beast based Novella From This Summer, Hamster Princess Vol 1, etc.)

So my goal for NaNoWhateverTheHellMo this year is as follows:

- Finally Finish The Thing With The Goblins (currently at 35K)

- Put at least 10K on Armadillo Wizard (currently 18K. Huh. How is it only 18K? Weird.)

- Put 10K on one of the other projects

Possible interference: Bread Wizard edits are due fairly soon, and that could knock at least one the projects off the board. But Armadillo Wizard has a tentative home and I need to hammer it into shape. I expect it’ll turn out middling novella length. And the Goblin novella was last poked two years ago and is still a damn good story that deserves some love. (Still nearly impossible to sell, given weird format/audience/length, and my agent has definitely given it the ol’ college try, but at least it’ll be DONE.)

Hmm, I should really cook up a list of currently live projects and their word counts, just for my own reference. I tend to forget things are on my hard drive and how nearly done they are, and then I’m surprised…

Anyway! NaNoFiMo ahoy!


*Some are probably dead. Them’s the breaks. Some of them may seem to be dead for quite some time and will suddenly rise, zombie-like, from the grave. You never really know.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


"You can tell me that my prose lacks deathlessness..."

Is that ... a common complaint you receive?

Because I can't remember ever finishing a book and thinking, what this really needs is more deathlessness...

*grin* Well, I assume "deathlessness" is the quality held by deathless prose, so...err...something like that?

Yup, whatever works is the right way. :D Best of luck with NaNoFiMo!

Ha, and then if you do comics (*coff* and hope to sell them some day) you can go nuts and try and do fifty finished pages in a month. Or go completely off the rails and do 24 Hr Comic Book Day (which starts tomorrow) and do 24 pages in 24 hours. There's a lot of coffee involved. XD

You are the first person I encountered whose writing methods looked something like mine. Everything else I'd found before talked of sitting down like a robot every day to hack out a word quota or outlining everything to the minutest of details or only ever keeping one project going at a time. As none of those things work for me it gave me a vague sense I must be Doing It Wrong. Thanks to you (and a few other things I've stumbled across on the internet,) I finally got past it. I've had a much better time since and every new posts helps me feel like I'm not some kind of deluded hack but somebody whose methods are workable but a little different.

Do you, by chance, have links or anything of the sort about those "few other things"?

I hate NaNoWriMo, honestly - I don't write long stories. It always makes me feel guilty, when I can't do NaNoWriMo. So... thank you for this. I needed this.

You could join the rebels and write however many stories it takes to hit 50k. :)

I started doing NaNo because I'd plan things and end up with seven generations of the main character's family and none of the story. So for me NaNo was a case of "dammit, I am going to WRITE THE STORY" rather than just plan to write it, eventually, maybe, someday.

As far as it goes, that worked out great! Now I have six 50k word stories.... with no endings.

If I didn't already have an idea for this year I'd be rebelling and using NaNo for "dammit, I am going to FINISH THE STORY!" purposes.

Maybe next year.

I've done the single novel thing, but more often, I love NaNo as a way to Get Things Done (With Friends!) and I go the NaNoFiMo route.

Last year I sank a good 55k into multiple projects over the month of November (I kept track!). Sure, it didn't follow the NaNo "Rules" but I finished a few things, so called it a win ;) I really like the support that happens around the event.

I tend to go in fits and spurts of activity on a number of projects as well. Sometimes taking a break from a thing is very valuable! Sometimes it means they whither and die.

The community focus on "Getting This Thing Done!" in November I have found to be rather inspiring for my own productivity, in part because everyone* else is also doing it, but because it helps to eliminate my own ability to make excuses if I'm stuck on something. Can't do it? write [stuff] and move ahead. That doesn't work? make headway or finish another project.

*Not actually everyone else

Me, I'm still probably gonna use NNWM to try and knock out a script for the project that's been kicking around for more than a quarter of my life and is maybe finally done gestating. Although there's a little voice in the back of my head saying I should use it to take my (LATE) contribution to that anthology I'm doing from roughs to final pages. Either way it's gonna be about comics, not novels, if I do it.

I generally find that I can get a better comics/art groove when I'm working on one big project than when I have a lot of things vying for my time; I've been in the latter state this year and I spend a lot of time procrastinating instead. But I am not you, and what works for you may not work for me!

Good luck with THE FINISHING.

Ow, ow, okay Universe, I see what you are saying now, stop hitting me with synchronous things like this! First John Scalzi, now this... I think I know what I need to be doing instead of reading before bed in a vague attempt to make the creativity itch go away long enough for me to be tired. :D

I realize that was possibly nonsense up there. What I really mean to say is: thanks for writing this post. I needed to see it. :)

I don't believe anyone could accuse your prose of lacking wit, but I would not at all object if you threw Katschei in there somewhere...

I don't care if people think your work isn't "real writing" let's see them pump out the page count then. :P

Plus my eight year old is addicted to the Dragonsbreath books and was upset enough to complain at the help desk in Barnes and Nobles that they had book three and five, but not book four. Yes, she insisted on special ordering it. So. My girl thinks you rock and no one else's opinion matters. So there.

I can't skip back and forth between projects, not because I leave things unfinished (I'm a quilter, too, and I have the quilts on my bed to prove it [g]), but because my brain would get so confused...

OTOH, I am a firm believer in Rudyard Kipling and what he said about tribal lays, and obviously skipping about for you works really, really well.

I don't know how I'm going to adapt NaNo this year. I'm about 16,000 words into the current project, which will be finished by early next spring OR ELSE, so there's no way I'm starting something new in the middle of all this. But I can't just start reporting at (hopefully) 25,000 words...

I believe it was the author Daniel Keyes Moran who said "To heck with 'writers write,' real writers finish."

Thank you so much for validating the "skipping around between projects" thing. I woke in the middle of the night last night from a dream in which I was feeling a lot of pressure from the many, many (non-fiction) writing projects that had been on hold while I finished my dissertation, and after I was fully awake I made a list and found there were 22 of them. Eep! I will be much happier working on them (and finishing them!) if I stick with my intuitive approach of working on whatever's currently most appealing, and thanks to your post I will be much able to resist the rather soul-draining notion of just plugging away at the top one on the list until it's done, then turning to the next, etc.

I suppose it depends on how well you multi task. If it doesn't throw you to have several irons in the fire, why not work that way.
I've done Nano once. It was fun but as I work too, it ate into Home life rather. On the other hand by the end of the month the typing speed had improved.

My brain works on kangaroo logic, so working on different projects at the same time is more fun for me than concentrating on a single item until it is done. I found it difficult going towards the end of Nano because doing just the one was actually becoming a chore. My Muse was getting bored and other plot bunnies kept distracting it by shaking their little cotton tails at her.

Hey, if you have more written on Nov. 30th than you did on Nov. 1st, I figure you win.

At least, that's how I've always done it.

I did "do" NaNoWriMo once, though I didn't track it online. (These were in the days before the continents had their current shapes...) And I've spent several other Novembers trying to finish up (or at least extend) existing texts, so I'm definitely not one of the YOU MUST GIVE BIRTH ON NOV. 1ST AND RAISE IT TO ADULTHOOD BY DECEMBER! crew.

Of course, right now, I've got two manuscripts out, so maybe I should actually think about writing something new.

I know there are a lot of people who have objection to NaNoWriMo, and some of those objections are valid, but I'm a big supporter of the spirit of it (Write, dammit). I tend not to win and I'm doing another big thing at the same time (I was going to do it in October, but that doesn't seem to be happening). I may never follow the rules, but I write, dammit.

And that involves minimal planning and bouncing between projects. That's just how it is for me.