Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Pseudo-NaNoWriMo Project

I'm hoping to make this post quick. You see, I'm working on my own novel writing challenge this month. As JoAnn and Mary Ann have mentioned, November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Writers from all over the world attempt to complete a 50,000-word first draft during the month of November.

Back in 2008, I had an idea for an historical young adult novel that I wanted to write, but I kept getting bogged down by research. I decided it would make the perfect NaNoWriMo project. The daily word-count quota would force me to stick to the story instead of agonizing over what kind of glassware my character drank from. The only problem: November is a bad month for me, due to family commitments. So I brainstormed with members of my critique group and we decided the best month for a NaNoWriMo-type project was January. Here in the Midwest, January is a great month to hunker down indoors and write like crazy. And, since January is the season of resolutions, what better resolution than to write a new novel? Plus, January has one more day than November. When you're counting words, every day helps. :-)

So, in January, 2009, I banned together with a group of other SCBWI members to work on what we called our New Year/New Novel project, or NYNN (which rhymes with "win"). We called ourselves NYNNies, or writing "fools," and set up a Yahoo group to support each other in our endeavor. We shared tips from a variety of writing books, including No Plot! No Problem, written by NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty. As facilitator, I also periodically sent links to the NaNoWriMo pep talks from the previous November.

Thanks to the support of the NYNNies, I managed to write (a pretty horrible) first draft of my novel that January. I learned so much about my writing process and how to quiet the internal critic. But perhaps the most important thing I learned is that when I make writing a priority and keep "butt in chair," I can accomplish amazing things.

Unfortunately, when it came to revising the draft of my NYNN novel, I allowed myself to get bogged down in research all over again. I also struggled to find some sort of a plot in the mess that was my first draft. Yet I kept procrastinating. After months of work, I'd managed to eek out little over 30,000 words of a second draft. A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to end the procrastination. I came up with a plan for my own pseudo-NaNoWriMo project. I calculated that I need to add about 37,000 words to finish this draft, and I'd really like to finish it before Christmas. Looking at my calendar, I counted up 36 days (not counting holidays and weekends) that I could commit to working on the draft, beginning October 25. That comes out to about 1050 words/day to reach my target. Having lived through the mad crush of producing 1667 words per day for my original NYNN draft, I knew 1050 words/day was a feasible, though aggressive, goal.

I've been at my pseudo-NaNoWriMo project for a week and a half now. It's actually been harder than I expected to reach my 1050 words/day goal. I think that's due, in part, to still struggling with some plot issues.What's really helped me stick with it is the tremendous support I've received on Facebook. Since I started early and will continue this project through December 15, I didn't feel right signing up as an official NaNoWriMo participant, which means I can't take advantage of all the NaNoWriMo support. So instead, I've been posting my daily goals and accomplishments on my Facebook status. Knowing that my friends (and family!) will be checking on my progress has really helped me persevere, even on bad days. (If you'd like to be one of my Facebook friends, you can find me at, but if you send me a friend request, be sure to mention you read this blog. I don't "friend" just anyone. :-) )

If any of you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you're probably too busy writing to read this. And that's as it should be. But if you do have a moment, stop by and let us know how it's going for you.

And for those of you who think NaNoWriMo is a ridiculous idea, you're not alone. See this blog post by author Tayari Jones. 

Whether you are a NaNoWriMo writer or not, happy writing!


Megan K. Bickel said...

I like the idea of setting your own goals and having a support system to back them up. I think so many people have jumped on the NaNo bandwagon because of the support system. It is awesome that you can create your own!!

Barbara Krasner said...

I also write historical fiction. During a previous NaNo, I wrote 50,000 words of an adult novel. Then I followed it with a "pseudo" NaNo to write a YA novel. I flatlined about mid-month, but ended up with 25,000 words. If you need anyone from Jersey to join your NYYN, I'd be happy to gear up for January!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks, Megan. I didn't originally want to join Facebook because of the potential time drain, but now I'm so glad I did.
Barbara, I don't think I'll be doing NYNN this January. I'm hoping to be working on polishing the draft of my last NYNN project (assuming I finish by Dec. 15).

BJ Schneider said...

Carmela, your description of Jan. as the perfect month is right on! What I need is a BIG bottle of glue to help me stay seated and a crank to get my brain moving in only one direction. I think I'll try Jan. and see what happens. Good luck to you and Barbara Krasner.
Barbara Schneider

I'm Jet . . . said...

Not sure where to leave the Poetry Friday link, so I'll leave it here.

The Write Sisters are in this week with The Hay Rake by Kate Barnes.

Author Amok said...

I'm early with a Poetry Friday link too.

At Author Amok, I have a lesson in concrete poetry that includes a fun craft and model poems by Betsy Franco.

laurasalas said...

I'm in for Poetry Friday with my book cover of my next poetry picture book at

And 15 Words or Less poems are at

Thanks for hosting, JoAnn!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the early Poetry Friday links, ladies. I'll make sure JoAnn sees them. And Laura, congrats on the new poetry book!

Kimberly Steele said...

NaNoWriMo seems well-intentioned enough but I agree with Laura Miller of that it's a waste of time that might be better spent reading new works.
I have set a 1000 word a day goal until I finish my second novel, a violent vampire yarn called River's Heart. For someone like me, a pulp fiction author whose fans are mostly aspiring writers and people who dislike Twilight, I feel 1000 words daily is realistic. I would like other writers (of any style) to join me though, and if you have a similar goal I would love to hear from you! I Twitter every day once I've achieved my goal @queeniemusic. If you have a Twitter id, I'd like to make a group out of those trying 1000 words or more a day.

My goal has been very beneficial in improving my life. I've gained new faith that I most certainly will finish my next novel in a timely manner and I've become an inspiration to others. For me the words come easily--as the length of this post will likely attest--but the difficulty comes in making the time every day to do what I love to do. I feel like this doesn't have to apply solely to writing: if creativity makes you happy then you should make time everyday for it, even if you have to force the issue with an arbitrary daily/weekly/monthly goal. For me, creating on a regular basis is more effective than and preferable to taking anti-depressants. It's what keeps me going, along with my supportive and wonderful fanbase.

The 1000 word goal comes from Stephen King's nonfiction book On Writing; he's the one who made the original suggestion to fledgling authors.

Kimberly Steele

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Kimberly,
Thanks for sharing, and congrats on all your hard work. I'm afraid I don't do Twitter, so I can't follow your posts. I'm doing something similar on Facebook--posting my progress in my status, and it's been a helpful way to keep myself motivated.
I do think it interesting that you consider NaNoWriMo a waste of time when the word goal for that is about 1670/day, which is not that great a stretch from your goal.
All the best,