Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Another NaNo Upon Us

Here we are, once again on the cusp of November, which means it’s time to ask two questions:

-How the hell did October go by so fast? and
-Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

(On the odd chance someone is reading this who has no idea what NaNoWriMo is, follow the above link; or, here’s the nutshell: a national program in which participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the thirty days of November)

It seems every year I approach November with that same, doubt-filled post: To NaNo, or not to NaNo, that is the question. Some years, I’ve done it. Some, I haven’t. I succeeded on my first attempt (2010, though the folks at NaNo seem to have lost that record) and my last attempt (2014). I failed to break the 20K mark in 2011, and I don’t have any other records in my history, which is strange, because I know I’ve tried on at least one other occasion. Oh, well.

The first criteria for committing to NaNo is whether I have a project or not. This year, it turns out that I do, sort of. Now, in looking at the ‘rules’ for NaNo, it doesn’t exactly say you have to start at the beginning of your novel, and the folks at NaNo seem to be pretty flexible in their interpretation of the rules. My WiP is currently sitting at 57,292 words (hey, I’ve won! ). But it’s not done. Based on my past history, my first drafts typically end up around 105-110,000 words, and there’s no reason to believe this one will be any different. Hmmm.

The real question now becomes, “Can I add 50,000 words to this in the next thirty days?” It’s only 1,667 words per day, if I write every day. Hell, on Saturday morning, I squeezed out 1597 words in the space of about two-and-a-half hours–and then added another 509 in commercial breaks and in between periods of the Boston-Detroit hockey game (seriously, I’m sometimes amazed at how fast the words will come). I can hear Agent Carrie saying “Imagine what would happen if you were really working on this, four solid hours a day?” Indeed, that would be wonderful, but alas, life gets in the way, and those thirty days of November get chewed up mighty fast. Looking ahead at the calendar, thirty becomes twenty-eight, because we have to spend two days driving to pick up and drop off the Catbird for Thanksgiving break. And then there’s my organization’s annual dinner. So we’re already down to 27 days, or 1852 words.

And then, I also hear Agent Carrie whispering, “What about the RiP?” Yes, the RiP. The RiP needs some RiPping, so it can get back out in the world and be sold and make it so that I can work four hours a day plus on the WiP–and I can’t say for sure how much more work the RiP is actually going to take (not 50,000 new words, thankfully).

So, after all that, where do I stand? Well, I certainly like the idea of NaNo-ing the WiP to completion. On the other hand, the RiP is more important. So it looks like the more sensible goal is to sit out NaNo, aim to have the RiP back in Carrie’s hands by the end of November at the latest, and maybe turn December into DecNoWriMo.

What about you? Will you be back in the NaNo game?

Two other things before I go: Check out Agent Carrie’s blog later today, or tomorrow, as she is expecting to post her latest Query Critique Winner. If you’re like many writers who struggle with writing an effective query letter, Carrie’s insights can be very helpful.

Second, maybe it’s because Bob Dylan just won himself a Nobel Prize for Literature, or maybe it’s something in my mood, but I just can’t get the song “Visions of Johanna” out of my head. And, because this is me, I’m particularly partial to this version performed by the Grateful Dead way back in 1986. The lyrics are a little hard to make out at times, but I find it to be a rather powerful performance (and Garcia was unusually animated for this period of time). Have a great week!

13 Responses

  1. I won when I finished a book during NaNo. Maybe ending with a finished draft is greater motivation than ending with half of one? Whatever you decide, good luck!

  2. I am sitting out for November too Jeff–I hope the RiP gets well and truly RiPed and that you find time to work on your new manuscript in December. Good luck!

  3. Don't be sensible – go where the muse takes you! If you get the WIP done, you have to let it sit a while anyway, and there's plenty of time to work on the RIP in Dec. 🙂

  4. Oh, no, conflicting advice! What do I do? What do I do???

    I think I've already revised my NaNo pledge–I put it up on the board, and I'll work on the WiP when I have the notion, but the focus really does have to be on the RiP. Yes, Lexa, you're right, I'll have to do something else while the WiP stews-I'll cross that one when I get there!

  5. I had ZERO intention of signing up for NaNo this year, but I did. On the 30th or 31st. I'm working on a rewrite so that makes it easier as the ideas are there even if the words aren't. Well, some of the ideas are there, some are being tossed and others being tweaked. All in all, it's easier for me to dive into a blank page, but I'm going to give this a shot! 🙂

  6. "some of the ideas are there, some are being tossed and others are being tweaked"–sounds like it's going to be a fun ride, Jemi, good luck!

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