Saturday, November 7, 2009

Can NaNoWriMo Novels be Any Good?

If you go to the ravenousromance.blogspot.com site, you'll find that we are supporting NaNoWriMo. We are encourging writers to write erotic romance novels during this month and send them to us.

We expect to be deluged. We expect most of what we see to need so much work we will be unable to do anything with it except tell you where you need a lot of work. But we also expect to find some writers who we can work with and who will grow into RR authors. That's what editors used to do many years ago.

So I was a little shocked when one of our writers told me that many editors and agents have flat out refused to read any NaNoWriMo books.

And I was equally shocked that a reader of the RR blog said it would take years to get a novel to the point where it could be submitted, so any NaNoWriMo novel sent in after only a month of editing would probably suck.

Writing is a learned skill. And the more you do it, the better you become at it.

I was a journalist before I became an agent and an editor. You learn to write, and then you learn to write quickly. You learn to edit yourself. I've been writing (and pubbing) for three decades (since I was 17) and it took me forever to write anything when I was a young adult, and now I can write good, well-crafted prose at a speed I never imagined.

NanNoWriMo is about learning and mastering style and craft and pacing of information. The first thing you learn about writing is that writers write. That's what NaNoWriMo is really about - getting that book out of your head and onto the page. A writer's group, a good editor and even your reader will tell you what works, how to make it better and where to improve. NaNoWriMo (and RR ) is not about the Great American novel. It's about finishing your first novel. My advice to first time authors has always been to write the novel you can finish. It will teach you how to write the next one.

So, yes, I think there are going to be some pretty good novels sent to us from this NaNoWriMo excercise, especially since now there's a real market and place for your 50,000 word novels.

22 comments:

Wendy said...

I completely agree with you! I'm writing my second full novel during NaNo and I'm not foolish enough to think it'll be publishable until I've edited it.

What I have noticed is that this one is going to require about a tenth of the editing the first one did. That one took me almost a year to get right, learning along the way. This one is going very well right off the bat, and I don't think I'm kidding myself.

The lessons I learned on my first novel have stuck in my mind because they were so hard learned. Every new thing I learned required going through the whole book to change something, you don't forget that.It's made an enormous difference to what I write now.

I think there's no reason why a NaNo novel can't be just as good as any other. I know several published authors who are writing their latest using NaNo and I'm quite sure those will be published.

Good on you for supporting NaNo!

Dominique said...

I think people assume that a NaNo book can't be as good as others because they aren't used to cranking a book out like that. But if you've got skills, the book could be good, even if it was written in November.

Sherri Cornelius said...

I've participated in NaNoWriMo twice and found it doesn't really work for me. But just because it doesn't work for me doesn't mean it wouldn't work for someone else. I have friends who thrive under the NaNo system, and one in particular who writes this way even at other times. His body of work landed him an agent, and he's well on his way to publishing those NaNo books.

But look at it this way: If others aren't willing to look at them, you get first choice.

Meredith Morgan said...

I tend to write my first draft quickly anyway. It isn't uncommon for me to get my first draft (which often amounts to a detailed outline with some dialog and narrative) down in only a few weeks.

The editing process can take months, or even longer.

I like NaNo, but I'm only now getting ready to start submitting the story I wrote last year.

Julia said...

I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo because I have a work in progress that uses all of my writing time. So I'm supposed to stop this to write a novel in a month? It really doesn't make sense to me. I don't know any writer who doesn't have "something" on the burner that should not be ignored because someone thinks NaNoWriMo is a great idea.

The other thing that doesn't make sense is that if a writer can write that much in November, why not every month?

Writers write. I accept that as a truism. But writers also finish, and that includes editing and polishing.

I think NaNoWriMo is a cute idea for hobbiests.

SarannaDeWylde said...

My first novel took me years and years to write. My second novel was the same. Neither one will ever see the light of day again. Just saying... *laughs*

My third novel I wrote in a month and a half. It's now in the top twenty for the Dorchester/Textnovel contest and it's longer than 50K. It's the best thing I've ever written.

Promptly after I completed that, I completed my true crime memoir as a corrections officer. Now, I'm working on another novel for NaNo and it's pretty shiny too.

Everyone's writing style and process is different. There are people who can produce quality product in a month. If you write 2000 to 3000 words per day, in a month you'll have a novel.

I've recently started something called Fast Drafting that author Shannon Delaney turned me on to and I swear by it. You turn off your internal editor and just write. 5K a day is possible. Sure, you need to edit the heck out of it, but wow... here's your novel.

Once you know you can hit that groove, that you can do that, it's liberating.

Thanks for posting on this!

Cheeky Wench said...

Thank you for the positive post. I have read so much negative points about the NaNo exercise, I get nauseous hearing how all the work is trash. I know mine will be a train wreck until I edit, but writers need some encouragement instead of tearing down.
There is good out there and I wish agents and editors would give out a little more credit.

Anonymous said...

I caught an agent's eye with my first NaNo novel, and writing it was a magical experience so different from writing in isolation. There's a pooled magic to all these people writing and striving and encouraging each other, all at the same time. The confidence it begets is phenomenal.

I liken it to the ball dropping on New Year's Eve -- sure, the ball drops anyway, but would it be the same done in isolation, with only one person standing there on the street?

I can't help but wonder bemusedly about the detractors. If you write anyway, and writers are supposed to write (anyway), and all writing is practice, why NOT do what you do (anyway), and combine it with NaNoWriMo?

It's like a big writing party! Fun fun fun! However, if it's not your thing, then it's not your thing. In that case, instead of belittling it, just leave it alone.

NaNo underlines the fact that there's nothing to edit or polish into a work of art without that first draft. It's just another way to empower writers to nail down the first draft in a celebratory, festive manner. It's strength in numbers -- literally.

Water For Elephants was a NaNo novel, by the way. And NaNoWriMo can also be adapted to the writers' needs, such as adding 50,000 words to a WIP.

Edits come afterwards, of course, whether you do NaNo or not. The only bad NaNo novel is an unedited NaNo novel, but that applies to almost every first draft in existence.

Honolulu Writer said...

I think it is a wonderful opportunity that you are offering and I hope it will be a chance to pick up new never-before-published authors for RR!

52 Faces said...

Boy am I glad I read this post. I'll have to now research whether an agent is pro NaNo or not before I query. Oy.

NaNoWriMo is the only thing to date that has gotten me to finish a complete novel and ever since then I've had the discipline to go the whole road.

I was also trained in journalism and the rate they make you crank things out makes NaNo look like a life sentence.

Dara said...

Even though some writers think it's for "amateurs" and "hobbyists", that couldn't be farther from the truth, at least in my opinion.

Yes, there are many participants that are hobbyists. But there are a good number that are in it to write a good, solid novel. I know I may not write with as much gusto throughout the rest of the year--something I am working on fixing--but I truly aim to make the piece I'm working on something that can be published.

Sure, it'll take some time to edit it and make it shine, but NaNo is a great time to get the ideas all down on the page AND enjoy the fellowship of hundreds of others who are striving for the same thing.

Thanks for posting this--it's nice to know that NaNo participants aren't always belittled :)

Anonymous said...

Minus this agency, why even tell an agent it's a NaNo novel? It's TMI -- I wouldn't.

It doesn't matter if you wrote your novel during NaNoWriMo or during summer break at your Uncle Barney's.

As long as it's your best work and well-polished, the birth details are irrelevant -- it's all about the writing and the story.

I'd save the specifics for interviews once you're rich and famous, winks.

Just my two cents.

jason evans said...

If for nothing else, I have to think that NaNoWriMo is good for making people seriously engage. Not only in the creation of a story, but in the discipline of sitting at the keyboard.

Glad I found your blog!

ryan field said...

Good post.

I hope you get a lot of great submissions.

P.A.Brown said...

I completely agree. Outside of NaNoWriMo I conceived of an idea for a story and sat down and wrote 72,000 words in 3 weeks. I polished it in another 2-3 months and it was published and has received some excellent reviews. Some people take years to write one book, others can write one in a few months. To make blanket statements like that are not right. Does this person think the ones who do write that fast are not good writers? I hope not.

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cyndi1021 said...

i have no desire whatsoever to write a novel....but i love reading them....who are the people who get to read all these stories and judge them?

vadahodges1211 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dana Fredsti said...

Excellent post, Lori, and while I don't participate in NaNo, I heartily endorse it! And I absolutely disagree that it's for hobbyists alone. I know a lot of writers, some of the already published, who participate. I like the New Year ball dropping analogy - there really is something to the camaraderie that keeps people forging ahead, along with a friendly competition re: word count. Some people compete with friends, others with themselves and past daily wc records. Not everyone will turn out a novel that's ready for publication, even after a lot of editing, but some will. Getting the first draft finished is sometimes the biggest hurdle for writers, especially ones starting out.

Jen Bluekissed said...

Had NaNoWriMo never have been in existence, I wouldn't have become a writer. Forcing myself to sit down with my computer and actually finish the first draft is an amazing experience.

This is my third time through the process, and I've helped to prop up the sales at Starbucks with all the writing sessions in November while drinking coffee.

My very first NaNoWriMo from 2006 is sitting in a box, never to again see the light of day. I actually giggle when I read bits and pieces of it because this journey to learn the craft has taken me far from the first experience of "cranking out" my novel.

I'm very pleased Ravenous Romance is actively pursuing NaNo works because so few other markets exist that a writer can keep in the back of his/her mind while focusing on the end goal of finishing the first draft.

Erikalzds said...

I caught an agent's eye with my first NaNo novel, and writing it was a magical experience so different from writing in isolation. There's a pooled magic to all these people writing and striving and encouraging each other, all at the same time. The confidence it begets is phenomenal. I liken it to the ball dropping on New Year's Eve -- sure, the ball drops anyway, but would it be the same done in isolation, with only one person standing there on the street? I can't help but wonder bemusedly about the detractors. If you write anyway, and writers are supposed to write (anyway), and all writing is practice, why NOT do what you do (anyway), and combine it with NaNoWriMo? It's like a big writing party! Fun fun fun! However, if it's not your thing, then it's not your thing. In that case, instead of belittling it, just leave it alone. NaNo underlines the fact that there's nothing to edit or polish into a work of art without that first draft. It's just another way to empower writers to nail down the first draft in a celebratory, festive manner. It's strength in numbers -- literally. Water For Elephants was a NaNo novel, by the way. And NaNoWriMo can also be adapted to the writers' needs, such as adding 50,000 words to a WIP. Edits come afterwards, of course, whether you do NaNo or not. The only bad NaNo novel is an unedited NaNo novel, but that applies to almost every first draft in existence.

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