NANOWRIMO, or National Novel Writing Month is a competition in which you are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel all in the month of November. It’s a great contest. You are on the honor system to record your daily word count, and at the end to upload your document for confirmation. Should you upload a 50,000 word document you WIN! Meaning you have the satisfaction of working your butt off for 30 straight days. It truly is on the honor system because you could type, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” repeatedly until you reach your goal, and no one would know, or care.
I’ve entered this competition four times. The first time was a bunch of years ago, before I wrote all that well, when I’d not yet published anything. Not surprisingly, the book was terrible, unpublishable. But I finished.
Years later, I wrote Restitution. A year later I went back, edited it, and it was published by Shadowridge Press. It’s actually a great and tight little thriller. Sometimes, NANOWRIMO works really well.
The summary is: Destiny intervenes for Tucker Millis, a delusional writer who needs a purpose in life and a plot for his new novel. When he discovers his new phone number once belonged to a man on the verge of turning himself in for a twenty-five year old murder, it’s a dream come true. Tucker uses the messages and calls intended for the murderer to manipulate lives and to craft his story. But he’s propelled back to reality when he can no longer escape the full horror and dire consequences of the world he’s created.
All in all, I’m very proud of this book.
The next year, I started another novel called, My Name is Marnie. I didn’t know where to begin so I made the brainstorming sheet (picture). The problem with NANO is that there’s no time to outline or edit. You write in a fury and don’t worry about plot holes or inconsistencies. About 10,000 words into it, I met my boyfriend and abandoned the project because I spent all my free time chatting on the phone with him. So the next year, I picked it back up. Sure, I had the whole year to go back and work on it, to outline to plan. But I didn’t.
I jumped in and finished the book at about 45,000 words. I didn’t reach the 50,000 but the book was done so I stopped. Here’s the thing. Because I rushed and had no outline, and because this is a mystery, I’ve spent a year rewriting and changing, and fixing this book. And just when I think it’s okay, I see something I missed, or rather someone in my critique group does.
I am in the process of printing it out one last time to reread it start to finish. I’ve run it through Grammarly, my editing software. My group has red penned it ad nauseum. My beta readers are looking at it. My publisher has read half and will I’m sure finish once I really, really complete it.
I write all this because I’ve discovered outlines are really important, especially in mysteries or thrillers. Some people can write without them, but it’s become clear that I can’t.
When F. Paul Wilson and I wrote The Proteus Cure we did not try to rush to write it in a month, and we had an outline. Before the outline we had a timeline, then a spreadsheet/Word table sort of thing. Then an outline that we rehashed long before we got to the fun part of writing the actual book.
The fun part is writing. NANOWRIMO is a blast but I think going forward, I won’t jump to the fun part without first writing the outline. Maybe next year, I’ll have OCTOUTWRIMO-October Outline Writing Month.
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