Talking About NaNoWriMo

October 19th, 2009

nanowrimoI shared what I thought was a very interesting post on NaNoWriMo this morning on Twitter, and have since gotten a few questions about it that I thought merited a more detailed response on the blog.

Chuck Wendig, the author of the post I shared, rates several different aspects of doing NaNoWriMo in terms of good and bad: the word count of 50K, the one month deadline, the writing, victory conditions, and quality control. And he makes some very great points — seriously, if you have not yet read his post, go there now. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Back? Ok, moving onto my thoughts. As an agent, I look at NaNoWriMo as a sort of “first draft month.” I know several of my clients have participated and finished versions of their books that I’ve gone on to sell. But that’s the key — they were just early versions of later, more polished books. I don’t expect — in fact, don’t WANT — a bunch of queries in December from people who wrote a novel in November and now think they’re ready for an agent. They’re not.

Look, a lot of people think they have a book in them. And a lot of people may. But until you sit down and write it, you’re not a writer. At most, you’re an idea factory. The practice of NaNoWriMo, for some, proves that they can get from Point A to Point Z (“Once Upon A Time” to “The End,” as it were.) For others, it proves that they can work with a deadline — another important skill to learn to be a successful writer.

But if you’re looking at NaNoWriMo thinking that when it’s over, you’ll have something to send to an agent — well, no. The mission of next month is to put a lot of words out there — fifty thousand of them, in fact. Are they all going to be the right words? Probably not. But that’s what December (and, most likely January, February, March, etc.) are for.

And if you’re NOT doing NaNoWriMo? That’s totally cool too.

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