Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Are We Doing Wrong?

I'm NaNo crazy right now, but I'd like to take a break from my dismal word count to give you a sort of pep talk. At the end of the month of October I met up with some fellow NaNo-ers for a plotting session. It was a fantastic group of writers from all sorts of different backgrounds. (The writing exercise was great and I think I'll do it from now on. You can find it here, at WWW.YorkWriters.com.)
As we went around the table introducing ourselves everyone got to say how many times they've done NaNoWriMo in the past, and how many times they've won.
For myself, I had a go of it in about 2009 (maybe) and then did Camp NaNoWriMo in July, and of course I'm doing it again now.
What struck me about this group of people was that we were all writing. We were all NaNo-ing, we were all winning, but out of the group of us only one had actually published a book. (Btw the one person was my sister!)
What did that tell me? It told me that we were all doing something very wrong! I went home and was just sick with the feeling that we must just all be making some grave mistake. How could so many NaNo people still be floundering in the unpublished category?
Let's look at the statistics. According to Wikipedia, in 1999, for the first Nano, there were 21 participants, yes, 21.  In 2010 there were over 200,000 participants with a combined total of 2.8 billion words. These numbers don't even take into account those writers that aren't signed up for NaNo, but are still trying for the word count.
There are, of course, some success stories:) Erin Morgenstern and her beautiful book, "The Night Circus", Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants", and there are over 100 traditionally published books that started out as NaNo books.
But if the vast majority of us are just pissing into the wind, so to speak, what are we doing wrong?
And the answer, which I realized late into the night (after three beers and no less than 100 gummy bears) is nothing at all. We're not doing anything wrong.
We're writing! And that's what a writer is supposed to do. Sure we may be guilty of not spending the right amount of time on it, we may still need to read that book on plotting, or join a critique group, but if we are signing up for NaNo and trying like Hell to hit that 50,000 word mark then we're doing exactly what we should be doing.
What's that saying?  Something about it taking one million words before you really find your voice as a writer. So that would be twenty completed NaNoWriMo's. I'd say with three under my belt I'm off to an okay start!
As long as we're writing, and learning, and trying, we are not doing anything wrong. We're doing just what we're supposed to do. We're writing.
Some will gain success faster than others, but unless we quit, we'll all get there eventually.
So keep on writing, keep on Nano-ing, and even if you're on your fourth, fifth or sixth NaNo, and still not published, don't give up.
And if you need even more proof that writer's write...A LOT. Check out Amanda Hocking's post, specifically the info on how many books she's written vs how many she's published.
Amanda Hocking.



  1. You're right on the money! Writers are successful when they're writing, simple as that. For writers aspiring to publish, just remember that once you reach the goal of publishing, there will be a new goal to aspire to, and a new one after that and so on. But the common denominator will always be writing, that never changes no matter what stage of your writing career you're in. Go NaNos!

  2. Very wise words. I think you have your next blog post:)

  3. What a scary thought that one has to write million words before one finds their voice. I have to admit that I hadn't heard of NaNo writing before. I have only recently started writing again after a twenty year hiatus and I am still trying to get into a writing routine. Once I have done this I may have a go at NaNo writing.

  4. Yes! A million words is a lot! Let's hope we're ahead of the curve;)
    I'll be sure and give you a heads up for the next NaNo! It really is motivating if you're the competitive type...which I am!

    1. My Competitive nature has been rather drained out of me over the last few years. The more I think about this NaNo writing thing the more I can see its potential. But, part of me wonders if I have a novel in me.

  5. You do! I think everyone does, it's just trudging through the writing that's tough. I do like NaNo, but truth be told, I've only got about 30,000 words so far and it looks like it's staying that way. At least until after Thanksgiving:)