NaNoWriMo 2017

Participating in NaNoWriMo This Year? Caution!

3 Mar 2022 Fiction

The wildly popular phenomenon, National Novel Writing Month, starts November 1 every year, and you’re urged to write an entire 50,000-word novel by the end of the month.

Wouldn’t it be great to actually finish a novel in 30 days?

That very idea has inspired millions of writers from all over the world to embark on this journey.

Since it began in 1999, when a handful of aspirants tried it, around a half million entrants take part each year now. Only between 10 and 15% actually finish, and NaNoWriMo refers to them as novelists.

Sounds fabulous, right?

Need help writing your novel? Click here to download my ultimate 12-step guide.

What is NaNoWriMo?

The official challenge is to write the first draft of a new, 50,000-word novel in 30 days — an average of 1,667 words per day.

These days, you may continue a book you’ve already started as long as you count only new words written in November.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to shake you out of your writing comfort zone and show you what’s possible while providing resources, support, and accountability.

You’re encouraged to outline your novel in September and October. You create an account on the NaNoWriMo site and log your daily progress starting at 12:01 a.m. on November 1.

Once you hit 50,000 words, you upload your manuscript to the site for verification.

If you complete or “win” the challenge, you earn banners and certificates and can purchase t-shirts and other merchandise.

NaNoWriMo Benefits

Well, I can’t argue with the upsides:

The NaNoWriMo folks “believe stories matter.” So do I.

And in the last 18 years since this effort began, countless writers have raved to me that NaNoWriMo was the vehicle that finally motivated them to actually finish.

That’s no small thing. Over my four decades teaching writing, I’ve learned that the single most debilitating barrier to writers finishing writing their novels has been fear—fear that kills impetus.

I can’t count the number who have told me they can’t get started, let alone finish.

And as my film director son says about movies, simply producing one is a major accomplishment, let alone a good one. He compliments novice filmmakers for merely finishing.

The same is true about writing a novel.

So, yes, I’m all for anything that motivates a would-be novelist to start and (more importantly) to finish.

NaNoWriMo Downsides

However, I also have reservations.

Now, hear me, I’m not trying to talk you out of trying this. If it’s the trigger that results in your first finished novel, bravo!

But let’s take a closer look:

NaNoWriMo reports that over the years, 250 of its participants have seen their manuscripts sell to traditional publishing houses. That means the authors were paid to be published rather than paying to be printed.

Nothing to sneeze at. Until you do the math.

A rule of thumb in book publishing is that an unsolicited manuscript has about a 1 in 1,000 chance of landing a traditional book deal. While the figure may be unscientific, it’s not hyperbole.

That’s why I teach writing and publishing—so you can improve your odds.

What are the odds your NaNoWriMo 2020 manuscript will be traditionally published? Without knowing the total number of novels written since the effort began (this is its 17th year), it’s impossible to say.

But one thing I can say for certain: The odds are way worse than 1 in 1,000.

In fact, if every success story had happened last year alone—in other words, had all 250 published novels come from only the 431,626 NaNoWriMo manuscripts completed last year—your chances of ultimate success would be 1 in more than 1,725.

But those 250 traditionally published novels have come from all the NaNoWriMo manuscripts written since 1999. While not every year would have represented more than 400,000 writers, surely the total is in the millions.

My NaNoWriMo Caution?

Need help writing your novel? Click here to download my ultimate 12-step guide.

As a writing coach, my goal is to help get your work to where it’s marketable to traditional publishers. That’s the sole purpose of this blog and The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild. So, far be it from me to criticize a well-intentioned program like NaNoWriMo.

It appears to me their goal is not to see you finish a pristine manuscript ready for the marketplace. Their aim, and it’s a worthy one, is to encourage.

NaNoWriMo serves to prove to you that you can both start and finish a novel of at least 50,000 words. And that’s just what many writers need.

If you believe it would work for you, motivate you, get you to finally get going on your novel, I say go for it.

My caution is to not make more of the result than it deserves.

The benefit: You knock out a first draft.

The danger: You assume your work is done.

Bottom line: I applaud NaNoWriMo for what it’s meant to so many writers who need a deadline to finally finish novel manuscripts. I urge you to see the result as only that for now.

Should You Enter NaNoWriMo?

Yes, if it helps you:

  • Schedule non-negotiable writing time.
  • Keep that writing time sacred.
  • Establish your writing space.
  • Start a daily writing routine.
  • Overcome procrastination.
  • Feel more confident about sharing your work.
  • Push through the Marathon of the Middle.
  • Join a writing critique group.
  • Be accountable.

Whatever you decide, remember that this is only the first stage. Your novel may not even be finished (an average novel is closer to 64,000 words).

But beyond that, the work has just begun.

Finishing your fiction manuscript doesn’t make you a novelist. You’re still an aspiring novelist, and I’d LOVE to see you fulfill your dream.

I’ve harped on this before: If getting traditionally published were easy, anyone could do it.

The part of the process NaNoWriMo proves can be done quickly is getting your first draft down. Just realize that if you were building a house, what you would have after a month of frenzied work is the foundation and shell.

Your novel’s foundation has been dug and laid, and its studded shell is standing. Now it’s time to pour yourself into wiring, plumbing, drywalling, trimming, painting, and furnishing it.

That’ll take a lot longer than a month, and I ought to know. I’ve averaged an output of four books a year since 1974.

Some things can’t — and simply shouldn’t — be rushed.

If you’re gearing up for the next NaNoWriMo challenge, I wish you the best. Check back here the first week of December for what to do next. My hope is that your foundation and frame are ready for a LOT of finish work.

Need help writing your novel? Click here to download my ultimate 12-step guide.

203 thoughts on “Participating in NaNoWriMo This Year? Caution!

  1. Yes Jerry I will give this a sincere effort and make this happen. My wife and I are members of your guild and have learned so much after publishing our first novel. (Thank you for that.) I’ve been meaning to get a sequal done and now would be the perfect time. If your readers think writing one book is tough, try doing it with a partner. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding expeiences of my marriage.

  2. I did a full-length novel in nine days at the age of 15. (Call it the Nine Days Wonder Story.) It wasn’t publishable then, and may never become so, although I’ve contemplated easing a small fanatical core of fans into its world via a sequel I wrote when I was a bit older…That would be if the computer showed that my small fanatical core of fans was big enough to justify that much online time. LOL.

  3. I wrote 2 first draft novels in the last 2 Nanos. I signed up to do it next month, and after discussing whether to revise the first 2 I wrote or crank out another one, the consensus among my writer and non-writer friends is to revise the first 2 and don’t do Nano this year. One novel I wrote as memoir and am revising as a novel; the second I wrote as a thriller suspense novel. The first I have a “built-in” ready audience, and the second will be competing with the masses. I read an article that said many writers crank out first draft after first draft and never revise and finish. Your article solidified my decision to revise what I have and not do Nano, as fun as it is to free write the first draft. Thank you.

  4. I participated in NaNoWriMo last year and felt good that I was able to pull together all the resources I already had. In addition to that, it force me to examine an element of the story early on which makes for a together on Scrivener, and started building the framework. I’m not sure if I’ll be participating this year, but I will definitely begin the first draft. Will I finish in 30 days? Probably not. But, ideally, I would like to finish the first draft by December 31, 2016.

  5. Yes, I plan to join NaNoWriMo. But, I also have a few reservations about it. I just started writing. Most of my time are spent on studying and researching. I tried challenging myself to write faster, but I got so tired. I rested for 2 days then wrote again. Although, I am fully convinced that being a writer is what I want to do for the rest of my life, I am a bit worried that joining the nanowrimo might discourage me because I am still slow. I am praying nonstop for more guidance so my writing career will be able to provide me with enough means to live.

  6. I considered trying it this year. For a nano second. Pun intended. Between holidays, overnight guests, Christmas shopping, and a myriad of responsibilities, I thought why add unnecessarily to an already stressful period? I’d like to enjoy writing my novel, not turn out even a rough, rough draft and then declare that I’m published. But that’s just me and NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. Thanks for this post. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me for not jumping on that bandwagon.

  7. I’ve done NaNo in the past, and you’re right…it gives me a much-needed kick in the fiction-writing pants. But, as you point out in this blog, there is still much more work to be done–rewrite, revise, hone, polish . . . ad nauseam. I’m going to “participate” this year in my own way. I’m not signing up and committing to 50K words in one month. But because I need another good, swift kick to get the muse moving–I’ve been on a fiction writing hiatus for several months (personal reasons), I’m going to simply sit down and write every day–the way I do best, which is NOT writing anything that comes to mind because I’ve become a slave to “Word Count.” I’ve found in the past that during NaNo I get so focused on word count, I don’t get lost in the story and characters–and that’s the high I get from writing fiction. When it’s fun, exhilarating. It will be good to get back to writing. And I’m using NaNo to get things moving again (kind of like Ex Lax). I’m just not signing up and not setting a word count for the month. Thanks for all you do for writers. God bless you!

  8. Yes, Filmom, it does seem NaNoWriMo is best for people who have already done their research and are ready to only write. I’m one who researches as I go, and naturally that slows the writing process.

  9. Yes, there are limitations to our computers, aren’t there, Priscilla? :) That you are realistic about its quality says a lot about you and your potential. That’s half the battle. Too many writers are so attached to their first effort that they carry it with them to writers conferences for years, never working to make it better.

  10. I don’t plan to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. A few years back I attended one of their Night of Writing Dangerously events. It was a lot of fun, but I actually didn’t get much done. It did allow me to take writing more seriously. Some (many, most) days it’s a struggle to get 500 words down, let alone 50,000 in 30 days. My goal is to complete my 50,000 word first draft within the next 6 months. Boy, will that be a day to dance and shout for completing the first hurdle. Thanks for the encouragement, admonishment and lessons learned.

  11. Michele, I love that Ex Lax reference. I am participating in another way too. Maybe it’s the Na Na Na Na Na way of sticking out my tongue at all the hindrances; simply saying to every opposing factor, “Hey, I’m writing in spite of you.”

  12. I am new to the Guild and joined as I want to learn more on the how to write, for support, guidance and knowledge as am doing on-line course where such support is lacking (but one I want to complete). I am leaning towards joining as I have a deadline to complete the novel relating to my course by Dec. My outline has 12 chapters, and I have written 5.

    I only recently came across this term ‘NaNoWriMo’. I am a slow writer and research as I go along. Joining will force me to write faster, and stay focused on completing my writing and have time to edit. Is there a cost to joining?

    Am looking for guidance as a newie. Your thoughts? Please.

  13. I started my participation in NaNoWriMo in its 2nd year. There were just a couple hundred of us. I skipped the next year due to personal issues and have participated every year since, completing them. I have several rough drafts waiting for me to clean them up. That’s a downside. The upside? Five (5) of those have been published either through small publishers (2) or CreateSpace & Kindle aka self-published (3). I agree wholeheartedly with the concept ‘at the end of the month you have a rough draft’ and unfortunately, too many feel it is a finished product. I will be participating again this year although I keep promising myself I will not even entertain the idea. I’ve already got my outline, character sketches and other superfluous things ready to the upcoming bell to ring. BTW, I didn’t finish the 1st year – I attempted a novel cookbook – not a good idea. The following years I have successfully completed with over 51K words. I use 1700 words/day as my average to attain 51K by the end of the month. To those joining in the mayhem of NaNoWriMo – good luck.

  14. I will not be joining Na No Wri Mo. I am a children’s writer and I tried it one year without registering. I didn’t care for it. If I have to rush and meet deadlines, it takes the creativity out of my work. I am a pantzer, and I write fast. I have also been labeled the queen of cut. I edit mercilessly. To do a good job takes time. One month does not cut it. I am now in a screenwriting course. I think screenwriting is something I can really get into. I have just finished a humor course and learned a couple things. Any instruction serves the writer and helps him/ her be a better writer. That is my goal. To utilize the talents the good Lord lent, and to do in a a way that produces something of quality, regardless the genre. Thanks.

  15. I am attempting my first 50K sprint.. I have two novels in progress and a wondrous editor who likes both (I go back to A from B when the dreaded well is dry).. She suggests rather than a sabbatical, I leap lightyears into a genre never considered for these 30 days. She guarantees a fresher view, renewed discipline and a ravenous appetite to complete the originals in December. What a nice holiday goal. Thanks

  16. I agree – it takes a lot longer than a month to produce a publishable novel, but I think you miss the point of NaNo, which, for me, anyway, is to get a basic draft done, without stopping to edit, thus keeping the momentum and inspiration going. The ‘editing’ prior to submitting to a publisher, or even self publishing, can take many more months and even years, but at least you will have something to work on, Of course everyone is different – but it works for me! I have completed NaNo four times and,had three novels published with a small publisher. I probably won’t be competing this year since I’m still revising last year’s NaNo novel!

  17. Good to hear it works for you, Hywela, but what gave you the impression I missed the point of NaNo? I thought what you’re saying is exactly what I said, and my caution was for people who thought they were done when the draft was done.

    Good luck with your work on the one you’re revising, and all the best with it.

  18. Thanks for the great post!

    I’m generally anti-NaNoWriMo, but I’m currently writing an ongoing series that’s taken a back seat to my other projects even though I love where the series is going. I figure I might do a half-NaNoWriMo, or some similar arrangement (40%? 60%? The 50,000-word mark is convenient for those kinds of numbers) in order to make sure the juices are flowing for my series. Thoughts on this sort of hybrid approach?

  19. I plan to. I’ve been doing NaNo for about the last ten years as a way to get ideas out of my head and onto paper. Right now, my plan is to write 2000 words daily from 8-10 five days a week.

  20. I do not intend to deal with NaNoWriMo, as I have enough to deal with at this time and finding time to keep up with you Jerry and the website has become a challenge, not that I do not want to be there but rather finding time to get all things I need to do and accomplish. I am now working at a temp job, as well that takes my time away. Why does time always have to be a big factor in life. :)

  21. Sorry Jerry – my remark was really in reply to Karen who is not a NaNo fan – with all due respect to her – as i said everyone has their own ways of working,but I find I work best when I have a deadline, otherwise other tasks take priority, so I find NaNo a great incentive to prioritise my writing., I agree with your post completely!

    Thanks so muchgfor the o

  22. I don’t think I’ll try the NaNo thing. I’ve thought about it in the past, but it just seems too fast and I’m a more laid back writer. The good thing about it for me would to get an idea going, but I’d probably fall along the wayside and not finish it in time. I may try it on my own to get a new novel going. That sounds like fun, but to try and finish it in 30 days? Not so fun. :)
    Thanks for your input about this subject.

  23. Hi Jerry, I have friends who participate in NaNoWriMo, who have then self-published their work. I have to tell you that it is discouraging to read their books, or shall I say “get through a chapter” before I realize that the writers work is truly awful. I agree that the program can be a motivating tool but as A Word Weaver member who works hard at my craft by reading, studying and being a part of your guild, I believe the program can give a false hope to some because it doesn’t teach a writer the skills they need to produce a quality manuscript. Thanks for all you do. By the way, I have been blessed to receive many of Joy Gage’s teaching tools after her passing. I miss her terribly. Blessings, Alice

  24. I won’t participate because I am so busy trying to shut off the editor in me and finish up the novels I am working on. I write a lot even though I work full time. I find that I spend almost as much time creating the scenes in my head as I do writing them down. This one story line has turned into three novels and it has taken over my life. Some day I hope to get it back, along with my sanity. :)

  25. Next month will be my 9th Nano, and I completed at least 50K every time but the first. While Nano isn’t for everyone, it’s a good way for many people to knock out a first draft (or at least 50K of a first draft) with a crowd cheering you on as you cheer for them. Writing a first draft can be an isolationist experience, and Nano gives us the opportunity to have others around us who are going through the same temporary insanity. It’s like a marathon to runners. Why would anyone want to run 26 miles? Because it’s a challenge; it’s something very few people can accomplish in their lifetime.

    Nano knows it’s only a first draft and needs revision (and they even have a badge you can earn if you take the revision pledge in December). Oh, for sure some people sprint
    through those 50K words and think they can turn around and publish it. But most of the writers I’m acquainted with through Nano understand that version is what my local writers group calls “brain vomit.” In fact, one of the prizes for winners the past few years has been a discounted membership in the large, online writers workshop, Scribophile. And the people in that group are very serious about polishing to publication standards.

    I’m not sure your statistics accurately reflect the Nano community, though. One thing to consider is the majority of these people are writing for the ABA market, which can be much more difficult to break into than the CBA because there’s more competition. Many
    writers self-publish, not because they couldn’t be traditionally published (meaning not because their work is substandard), but because they choose to be in control of the final product and to reap a larger percentage of the sales. (And yes, I did read your post about the comparisons. Still, for some people indie publishing is a good choice. Perhaps not as lucrative, but in other ways.) Most importantly, a large portion of those who have participated in Nano over the years aren’t serious writers, and they will never be serious writers. They do it merely to say they did it and maybe print a book to set on their mantle like a trophy.

    No, none of my seven finished novels have found a home yet, but that has to do with
    health issues and not because the work is substandard (they have consistently been semi-finalists in the Genesis contest and in 2015 I was a finalist with one). I build my writing calendar around completing a new first draft in November, December, and January each year. (I continue writing, but only 25K in Dec. and Jan. to finish with a 100K first draft. Again, health issues often slow me down to a crawl, which is why I’m building up a stock before I launch the first one.)

    So, if people are good at pushing themselves to write, they might not find Nano that beneficial. However, for those of us who sparkle when we’re faced with a challenge and who need a few kicks to keep on task, Nano is our thing. (We get a written “pep talk” every day.)

    What will my writing schedule look like during November? My goal is to stay above the red line every day (at least 1667 words a day). My Scrivener session goal is set at 2K, but as long as I’m above the line each night, I’m happy. I get to pray for my writing buddies each day and encourage them as they struggle to make their own word counts, and many of them pray for me, too. It’s one of the best months of the year for me as a writer!

  26. I did NaNoWriMo in 2009; completed the requesite 50,000 words, and got the certificate. “It doesn’t matter what you write.” I was told. “Just complete 50,000 words–and don’t use contractions, say ‘do not’ and ‘can not’, so as to make every full word count.” Well, I did it–and what did I end u p with? Fifty thousand words of…drivel. What did I learn? That I can type 50,000 words in 30 days, yes, but not 50,000 words that make sense.
    So, no,I haven’t done it since, and I’m not doing it in 2016. Sorry.

  27. Excellent advice.Too many people think when they are done with their manuscript when they type The End. I’ve talked to Writer’s who say they don’t have to follow the rules and don’t read books about improving their writing. Listen to Jerry. He’s right.

  28. Thank you for sharing, it’s a great idea and encouragement for all to write away and manage to achieve a completed book within a month. However what are you’re costs to coach a writer, review their book, advise and give tips on a successful book and so forth?

    Thank you


  29. Sonia, I would urge you to get on the notification list at, and someone will let you know when the next registration window opens at The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild.

    There’s no obligation, but you will be given a chance to enroll then. We record and archive everything we do and it’s there 24/7 for members.

    This includes:

    • A Live Online Workshop (with one per month already archived since January 2016)

    • A live Office Hours session (where I answer members’ questions for at least an hour and guarantee an answer in the Forum on our site if yours doesn’t get answered during the session)

    • Manuscript Repair & Rewrite sessions, wherein I have recorded myself editing a member’s first page, along with rationale for every change (the most popular feature we offer)

    • A monthly Master Class, a recording of my interview with a publishing expert, asking all the questions you would ask

    • Free access to two of my courses: Fiction Jumpstart and Nonfiction Jumpstart—each worth $149 alone

    • Lots of Bonus Material (manuscript proposal examples, etc.)

    • A Forum where members interact with each other daily and occasionally with me; already people have found writing partners, formed virtual critique groups, etc.

    My goal is to make it a ridiculous bargain, and as I say, all those things listed above already have archived versions since January 2016, and you would have 24/7 access to dive into those.

    Meanwhile, my blog site is always free, of course.

  30. There are a few reasons I would like to attempt Nano. The first reason is I am a new writer, starting Uni next year (Bachelor of Creative Writing) so I need to practice. Unfortunately I have been battling with depression for past two months and writing has become non existent. I thrive on deadlines. When I got into the the top 50 in a screenwriting contest, I was given about 6 weeks to write a TV pilot which I had never done before. I didn’t make it to top 10 but I got a good coverage and now I have a solid draft even though I have not worked on it for a while. I’m thinking maybe Nano will help me get back in touch with what I have been wanting to do for so long which is writing. It might also help me face the demons I am facing now. Nano for me is not about being published or winning a prize or being in a top 10, it is about challenging myself practicing the craft I so desire to learn.

  31. Jerry, thanks for the caution. I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, but I always feel a little pressured to do so. It’s such a huge thing amount the writers’ groups I belong to. I would rather write with the method I prefer and at my own pace. So thanks!

  32. I think you you speak words of wisdom. When i first started on this uphill trek of writing, I was eager to join in with the fast track process and I followed every blog that was going consequently i did very little actual writing ! I have realised that for me writing a novel/story is a long painful process but I am beginning to find my own rhythm and methodology. There is no fast track for me,we each have to find our own path and mine is a slow one as I need to smell the roses along the way. Thank you Jerry for being an ever present friend in my inbox your words have helped me .

  33. I knew about NaNoWriMo last year and was not excited. This year, I’m trapped in the web of editing my first full novel, preparing for university, and well, submitting my initial proposal/query/…
    However, there’s a novel idea bubbling in my head (six months plus), and I might putting flesh on the bones if there’s no editing work and resumption is shifted. Baring those factors, no to NaNo.
    May those who participate be pleased they did. Words of the Anonymous.

  34. I think you you speak words of wisdom. When i first started on this uphill trek of writing, I was eager to join in with the fast track process and I followed every blog that was going consequently i did very little actual writing ! I have realised that for me writing a novel/story is a long painful process but I am beginning to find my own rhythm and methodology. There is no fast track for me,we each have to find our own path and mine is a slow one as I need to smell the roses along the way. Thank you Jerry for being an ever present friend in my inbox your words have helped me .

  35. By not using contractions you upped your word count easily. I figure I can write 50K words and use contractions. Personally, I feel it is up to the author as to whether or not the work is drivel or not. For those years I slammed in the last 15K words to get done in time – I called that a skeleton and deleted it on Dec 1st. I had a base to rewrite and give it better flesh.

  36. Jerry — I am going to do NaNoWriMo this year. First time ever….in fact I just found out about the event (you can guess I’m not exactly in the writing world). I am older, and have had the plot line for a novel (fairly) clear in my head for some 20yrs. I even have about 20,000 words of various sections; most 1st draft quality. My bucket list …for now…is to finish the darn thing. There are a segment of the Na,etc participants who use the event to finish a novel; Chris Baty mentions them in his book and calls them “Rebels” LOL. But it is a valid use for the event in my opinion . He even passes along tips from other “Rebels” to use.
    For me it is an opportunity to put it all out there and hold myself accountable to do it. AND the fact that every one knows you will not produce a finished product in 30 days. In fact, one of the freeing things I find in Na,etc. is the permission to produce crap. To not get real precious…just get it out there first. That’s what I hope to do…type “The End” by Dec. 1st. BTW, I have been reading Baty’s book in prep and he mentions over and over again not to expect a finished product in 30 days. He figures it takes about a year afterwards to polish that 1st draft into an acceptable form. Would you say that is accurate?

  37. These are some of the same reasons I would like to give it a try. Sounds like it’s what I need for now.

  38. That was seven years ago–however at our last writer’s association meeting (last week) our speaker was one of the local people who are assisting with NaNo, and she repeated the “tip” not to use contractions–or hyphenated words. the thing is, it is easy to write 50,000 words in 30 days, IF you don’t care what you are writing, but I (like others who have commented here) like to semi-edit as i go along, and it would take me more time to try to remember not to use contractions–particularly in dialog (and I use a lot of dialog.)

  39. That sounds like what I’m saying in my blog, Katrina, but I wouldn’t put a hard time frame on the rewrite. Obviously I do it faster (averaging four finished books a year), but each writer has to do it at his/her own pace. The key is quality, not speed.

  40. Thanks, Vivra. And the idea of not writing in contractions–which will result in stiff, archaic prose, especially in dialogue–is a trick and a way to further insure a lot of reworking later. It’s one thing to make the point getting the first draft done fast so you have something to work with, knowing it will suffer from the speed. It’s quite another to intentionally inject wrong writing for word count purposes and, in essence, make it even worse on purpose.

  41. Jerry–Thanks for bringing this up. I tried NaNoWriMo once before. Bursting with energy on October 1st, I was out of steam by October 5th. It just didn’t pan out for me. Like losing weight, I have to do it little by little, day after day, a couple of hours a day. I don’t want to discourage those who are trying this. I struggle all the time with perseverance (while many of your guild members probably don’t) and NaNoWriMo can be a spur in the flank for some.

  42. I’ve participated in NaNo (including Camp) several times. In that, I’ve won two NaNos proper, and one Camp. It’s a HUGE feeling of accomplishment, but on at least one of those, my word count wasn’t so much 50K of effort towards one novel, but rather a weird conglomeration of completely different story parts, blog posts, and real-life ranting. Thus, a couple of things have started to bother me. One is that technically NaNoers are on the honor system. There is absolutely no reason that someone couldn’t generate 50K words on and “win” the competition. You can even edit your daily wordcount now! Granted, there’s no love lost; the most you get is a certificate and bragging rights, but still…the lack of any true reward can feel a little useless once one starts getting serious about writing. Secondly, folks aren’t encourage to edit as they write, but to just “sit down and write!” Except towards the end, when it’s encouraged to do crazy things like spell out dates, add useless descriptions, etc. I don’t know if a print-out certificate is worth learning bad writing habits, personally. :/

    One year, there was a “rant” forum on the Nano site, but since the board resets every time – and they want to encourage a positive environment – I haven’t seen it again in several years.

  43. Yeah, those sure don’t sound like sound teaching methods. I agree with turning off your internal editor when trying to get down the first draft. But all writing is re-writing. Why inject stuff you KNOW you;ll have to change.

    The idea of just throwing any words on the page to total 50k is like painting a mural by splashing cans of paint all over it.

    Thanks, Lady Tam.

  44. Resumption for academic classes.
    And I meant barring…
    Typos always seem a tap away.

  45. I am planning to participate in NaNoWriMo but with a plan of completion for projects I need to wrap up before I begin to do the really hard work of revision.

    So let’s talk about that Jerry. I am floored that you complete 4 books a year. How long does it take you to revise? Mine is very slow and tedious and I find I need stretches of time to do it well, which I often don’t have, then I put it away, pull it out again and bemoan that I need to do it again and again. I’m looking at a year or so on revising. I think its because I feel like I’m firing in the dark often-making changes to make more changes. Considering hiring an editor.

    Can you offer top 3 tips to revision you found that helps?

    Again, it blows my mind that I have access to your expertise in whatever small way. I really am grateful for your availability to writers and hope you understand how truly invaluable you are. (Yes you will receive all kinds of jewels in that crown in heaven :) Thank you.

  46. Yes, I will be participating . . . for the motivation. I understand it will be just a draft. My setting is the World’s Columbian Exposition, and the genre, a Middle Grade novel. I will certainly be overwriting, but able to edited grandly at the end! Thanks for your words of wisdom, Jerry! I look forward to your next post.

  47. Very wise counsel. I think what most early writers need is that push to finish and NANOWRIMO does just that. I believe (and I could be wrong) that most entrants KNOW that this will not be the finished, publishable product. The notes at the beginning, when you sign up, tell you to write fast and don’t necessarily pay attention to grammar, punctuation, style, etc. JUST FINISH. Then you have somewhere to go. Take that effort, and beging to edit (or rewrite). Ask for help, if you need it. Polish and polish, then maybe attempt to publish. If nothing else, you have the first of ten “novels in a drawer” that a lot of authors say it took to get that extra-fine, published work bought.

  48. Thanks, Jarmila! Are you referring to the Chicago Fair of more than a century ago, or are there other Columbian expositions? If it’s the Chicago one, I read a couple of books abut it within the last year. Fascinating.

  49. “Your chances of ultimate success is 1 in more than 1,725.”
    So you are telling me I have a chance (Dumb and Dumber ’94).

  50. I’m tackling it this year, simply as a motivator to finish my first draft. I’m 25,000 words in, my outline is sketchy but promising, my characters are talking, I know how the story ends…but like so many others, most days the fear gets the best of me. I need a break-out experience, something that will push me to sit down and get the story out so I can start the real work of taking my pile of word-sand and shaping it into a castle. My goal isn’t to be traditionally published. It’s simply to write this story and see where it leads.

  51. I’ll have to disagree with you on this one. It appears you’re seeing
    the one month of Nano as all someone does to improve their writing. My
    first Nano manuscript, back in 2009, was not great writing. No, that’s
    too kind. It was pretty bad. Really bad. But as the years have
    progressed, I’ve spent the other 11 months each year learning more about
    the craft so when I write my first draft next month, it will be a
    decent first draft because I’ve learned over the years to incorporate
    those basic things into my writing as I go.

    In a lot of ways, I
    see Nano as “on the job” training. I’m learning the discipline of
    writing a specific amount of words each day, I’m learning how to meet a
    deadline, I’m learning how to encourage other writers while I do my own
    writing, I’m learning to be accountable to other people with my writing,
    I’m learning to let my creativity loose so it can create, and I’m
    learning to set a writing goal and accomplish it. Those are excellent
    things for any writer to learn.

    In regards to the craft, during
    the other 11 months, I read articles online that help me hone my skills,
    and I make heavy use of critique groups to give me other perspectives
    on how my writing is being perceived. I also participate in writer
    communities to learn from those more experienced. I even subscribe to
    newsletters from well-known writers.

    That means that each year
    I’ve written a first draft, it was better than the year before. Now
    most scenes have few changes and only require minimal polishing before
    they’re ready to go.

    While that might not be how everyone does it
    or how other people learn to write, it’s been such a great school for
    me. I think caution comes when people make blanket statements about a
    program they’ve never actually participated in. Maybe try it one time
    to see before you decide it’s not for you or that you should advise
    caution regarding it. The first year I did it, I didn’t get involved in
    local write-ins or bounce ideas off of other writers in the forums. I
    didn’t take advantage of the resources available on the Nano site. And I
    failed. The next year, I got involved; I found people who held me
    accountable for my words; I went to local write-ins. And I “won.” I
    didn’t do it for the “prizes,” and I certainly didn’t do it for the
    certificate. I did it for myself. I did it because I wanted to
    practice writing so I could become a better writer.

    the negativity surrounding Nano has caused some writers to figure they
    shouldn’t write anything until they have all the “right” classes and
    their words are perfect. Pardon me, but that’s hogwash. That’s like a
    child waiting until they can run before they even try to walk. Writers
    don’t spring fully formed out of Zeus’ head. They grow, sometimes
    slowly and sometimes faster. Nano can be a terrific place for writers
    to grow, and the Nano environment encourages writers to try, even if
    they fail. A person who has the skeleton of a story after 30 days will
    be way ahead of a person who sat frozen with an empty page in front of
    them, too scared to write because they might not measure up to what
    someone considers “good writing.” A rudder never steers a ship unless
    the ship is moving.

    So, even if Nano wasn’t my thing, I’d be
    cheering people on for conquering their fear of writing “perfectly” and
    taking on the challenge to put their story down, no matter how much
    editing it might need later. There’s plenty of time to edit after the
    main story is recorded. And even a badly written story is better than
    never writing it at all.

  52. Your goal sounds fear-induced too, Paula. You’re doing NaNoWriMo for the right reasons, it appears. Now set your sights higher. Why pay to be printed when you can be paid to be published?

  53. Mr. Jenkins, I think some of your facts about NaNoWriMo are not accurate. I understand that you’re promoting your business, and I respect it. I believe, with your experience and success, that you do have something to offer people, and it’s probably worth the money they’re paying. But the way you framed the NaNo experience is a little disingenuous, and it doesn’t do you credit.
    First of all, 430,000 people didn’t finish last year. The real figure is something closer to 10 percent of that number. Your post makes it seem like 430,000 rubes got duped into thinking they’d finished an actual novel, and boy won’t they be sorry when they try to publish. Then comes the pitch, of course. What they should do is enroll in the Writer’s Guild. Then they can really learn what’s what.
    I think you’re better than that, sir.
    This is not the spirit of NaNoWriMo at all. NaNo is, and always has been, a personal challenge. It gives people of all skill levels a chance to ditch the million reasons why they shouldn’t sit down and knock out a first draft and just give it a try. Even if a person only gets 10,000 words in November, why, that’s 10,000 words more than they would have written otherwise. And when you do get to 50,000, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment. Making a commitment to writing, and fulfilling that commitment, is a wonderful feeling. Of course there are going to be the literary equivalent of raw effluent in the draft. But there are also going to be gems. There are certificates, and back-patting, and TGIO parties, sure, but the real accomplishment is on a purely individual level.
    This is my fifteenth year of NaNo. I’ve never tried to publish anything. I’ve only subjected a few people to the dubious honor of peering inside my fevered, November-fueled brain to see what horrors escaped and made it onto the page. I’m not one of the rubes you described in the opener of your post, and most of my fellow Wrimos aren’t rubes either. We know our stories aren’t going to win Nobel Prizes for Literature. It’s not the point. The point is in the doing, and for the most part we’re happy with it.
    I don’t think that NaNo is in direct competition with your guild. It’s funded by a combination of donations, promotional item sales, and partnerships with various businesses. Instead of running the program down to promote your own, why not embrace it, support it, and become a partner. I’m sure Grant Faulkner (the director) would love the extra help.

  54. My routine when I’m on deadline (which is the only time I write) is that the first thing i do every day is a heavy edit and rewrite of what I wrote the day before. That catapults me into the day’s writing, so I must turn off my internal editor and just get the hunk of meat down so it can be carved the next day.

    So while the two disciplines are entirely separate, they happen the same day, and then when I’ve finished the manuscript, I go through it one more time with a fine-tooth comb until I’m happy with every word. So it’s writing, rewriting, and polishing.

    I hear you about knowing when you’ve gone from making something better to just making it different. That’s what makes you a writer–learning that difference and knowing when to stop.

    So, 1–turn off your internal editor when writing; 2–know when enough editing is enough; 3–keep even your self-imposed deadlines sacred.

    Thanks for your kind comments, Robin.

  55. I’m glad it works for you, but I’m afraid you missed my first post. :) I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo several times, won one, won a Camp Nano, participated in several camps, etc. etc.

    However, I’ve realized that, for me, two things need to be true in order for me to get anywhere. Even with researching and getting critique from others and such, the same process just doesn’t work for everyone.

    For one, I personally need a real-life goal to work towards. The two times I won, it was actually for a real-world reward: 50% off of Scrivener the first time, then 50% off of Scapple the second time. Granted, those are investments in more writing, but it still gave me something to work towards.

    For two, I detest feeling as though I’m wasting time and effort. Bad writing is bad writing, even if it’s part of the learning process. And I DETEST editing! If I think there’s something worth holding on to in the mess, that’s one thing. But if I’m just putting whatever down to meet some arbitrary number, well…that bugs me.

    Like I said, everyone’s different, but I assure you, I’ve put in my own time with NaNo. If you want to check me out on the site, I’m chinalizard on there. :)

  56. Michael:

    My facts came from NaNoWriMo and no one there says I misrepresented them.

    ‘Rube’ is your word, certainly not mine. I would NEVER refer to novice writers as rubes.

    Show me where i promoted my ‘business.’ If someone clicks on the URL to my Guild, they can get on a notification list when enrollment opens again. No obligation, no pressure. And in 15 years owning the Christian Writers Guild and now the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, it has cost me several million dollars and I have never earned or taken a dime from it. It’s my way of giving back, not profiting off people.

    Where’s the ‘pitch you referred to?

    Where did I run the program down, and if I did, why zero complaints from them?

    All I did was caution people to understand the intent of the program, and then I encouraged them to do it–just to not overrate the result…which NaNoWriMo does as well.

    Where do I even imply people got duped? And how can they be duped–or be competition to anyone–when it’s free?

    Do me a favor and give it another read and explain how the following can be considered “running the program down.”

    “So, yes, I’m all for anything that motivates a would-be novelist to start and (more importantly) to finish.”

    “I’m not trying to talk you out of trying this. If it’s the trigger that results in your first finished novel, bravo!”

    “It appears to me their goal is not to see you finish a pristine manuscript ready for the marketplace. Their aim, and it’s a worthy one, is to encourage.

    “NaNoWriMo serves to prove to you that you can both start and finish a novel of at least 50,000 words. And that’s just what many writers need.

    “If you believe it would work for you, motivate you, get you to finally get going on your novel, I say go for it.”

    “If you’re gearing up for next month’s NaNoWriMo 2016 challenge, I wish you the best. Check back here the first week of December for what to do next. My hope is that your foundation and frame are ready for a lot of finish work.”

    Well, what do you know? I said what you’re saying, and just because you already knew it doesn’t make others rubes.

    And what I’m offering the first week of December, after everyone has finished their 50,000 words? A FREE blog, just like this one.

  57. You claimed that 430,000 people finished. That isn’t the case. Check the 2015 NanoWrimo annual report. The number of finishers is closer to 40,000. The 430,000 figure probably refers to participants, not finishers. Some people don’t even write ten words.

    NaNoWriMo refers to all its participants as novelists, whether they finish or not. But what you’re implying here is that because NaNo refers to its participants as novelists, these people are being set up with unrealistic expectations about what that term entails. Hence, “rubes.”

    When you say “Sounds fabulous, right?” you’re setting us up for the “but wait.” That’s where you present the problem, which is that if you do NaNoWriMo and expect to be published, your odds are slim. Which is true. Then, you present yourself as a writing coach as the solution. So yes, you’re promoting your business:

    “As a writing coach, my goal is to help get your work to where it’s marketable to traditional publishers. That’s the sole purpose of this blog and The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild. So, far be it from me to criticize a well-intentioned program like NaNoWriMo.”

    Calling it a “well intentioned program” is a left-handed compliment. I find it a little condescending, as if you’re patting us all on the head and saying “look at you all, writing novels. How cute.”

    I applaud you for what you have done to give back with your writers guild. But I wouldn’t mind at all if you profited from it. Personally, I’m fine with someone profiting from their business. That’s what businesses are for. But NaNoWriMo is something that is very near and dear to me, because it has given me and hundreds of thousands of other people the license to be creative without the pressure of publishing and all of that. Maybe I’m just a bit overprotective of it.

  58. You’re saying fewer than one in ten participants finishes? There’s a ringing endorsement. And if that’s the case, why does NaNoWriMo’s own site say these “431,626 participants…started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.”?

    You’re saying they call them all novelists? Even those who “don’t een write ten words”?

    Yeah, I’d agree you’re a little overprotective of it.

    My picking up on a guy’s funny little quip and turning it into a bit of doggerel is running down the program? C’mon, Michael. I admire your loyalty, but you’ve really got to lighten up.

  59. Your tone has changed, sir. It seems that the cordial veneer is beginning to rub off. Yes, fewer than one in ten actually reach 50,000. In the end, the number is really irrelevant to NaNoWriMo’s mission. That’s because the whole purpose of NaNoWriMo isn’t to publish books. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to inspire auto mechanics, out of work actors, teachers, students, grocery store clerks, babysitters, refugees, pharmacists, and anyone else that creativity is something that should be cherished and celebrated, and that you don’t have to fancy yourself a “writer” to write a novel. NaNoWriMo believes anyone can write a novel if he or she puts his mind to it. Not publish a novel. Write a novel. And yes, if a person writes 25,000 words of their novel in November, I have no problem calling that person a novelist. Some people go in with the highest of hopes, and events in their lives force them to put their novel aside. It happens. But NaNo celebrates everyone who sits down and makes the attempt. It’s all about the attempt, Mr. Jenkins. That’s all NaNo has ever been about. Way back at the beginning, Chris Baty used to take our registrations one at a time, by e-mail, and personally enter our information into the site. He did this because he believed that making the attempt to reach some kind of challenging goal was a noble and edifying thing to do, even if one fell short. Chris’s vision was to help people unlock their creative potential. It was never about publishing. And I love it for that reason.

    And you just ran it down again with your sarcastic “ringing endorsement” statement. I get the feeling that perhaps you don’t actually feel too kindly toward NaNoWriMo after all.

  60. The sarcastic “ringing endorsement” comment was not directed at NaNoWriMo.

    I see you have a pattern on other sites of baiting with innuendo and then pretending to be disappointed when you get the attention you were after. Thanks for not doing that here.

  61. You did more research on me than you did on NaNoWrimo. Will get a blog post next? I see you have given up defending the false premise upon which the above blog post is based, and have turned to attacking me personally. Fine. If I haven’t been clear enough in my past responses, here it is straight: You mischaracterized the purpose of NaNoWriMo to promote your not-for-profit-but-you-still-have-to-pay-for-it Writers Guild. As for me seeking attention, I didn’t just float in here on a whim; you sent me the e-mail. It was you who sought out my attention, not the other way around.

    But since I see you deleted all your previous responses to me, I think we’re done here.

  62. I’ve considered participating in NaNoWriMo in the past, but I’ve decided that it really isn’t for me. The word count requirement every day is too much for me right now, plus I like to take at least one day off per week from writing. I don’t want to write every single day for 30 days and get burned out. That may work for some people, but I know it won’t work for me.

  63. I’m trying NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, mainly because I’m hoping it’ll get me out of a writing funk that’s kept me from writing for a few months. I want to try and get at least a rough draft. With no one else to keep me accountable for my daily word count, I thought NaNoWriMo could be a good idea. I’m not trying it because I’m hoping to have a publisher contact me. I think I’m pretty happy of being self-published. I just need to have a deadline set to get motivated to find a few minutes to write every day. I seem to work better when I know there’s a deadline approaching! :)

  64. Yes we do. I don’t have a lot of time (who does?), so I’m choosing what’s most important in my writing training, which is at this time, your blogs and writer’s guild. Thank you for all the great training!

  65. Hi, Jerry!

    I’ve given this a lot of thought, despite signing up approximately one month ago. Why, you may ask? Simply put, I have very little faith in myself. I am trying to stop second-guessing myself and to trust the Lord, but this is an ongoing struggle. In addition, completing NaNoWriMo has been a big goal of mine for the last four years, and while I did exceed my goal this past Camp NaNo, and came within five thousand words the previous July, I have yet to hit 50k. The truth is, I get discouraged and give up far too frequently and easily. As a result, I haven’t ever given NaNoWriMo a fair shot. I haven’t really tried. Hence, my reluctance to post here (announcing your goals aloud to a large number of people somehow makes it more real, doesn’t it?) but like I said, I signed up weeks ago. I have to do it now. And I want to, I really do. I just have a lot of doubts. Do you have any advice?

    On a lighter note, I am very passionate about this story idea. It’s different from anything I’ve done, which makes it doubly exciting and challenging. I really wanted to write something out of my comfort zone, which tends to be science fiction/horror/fantasy. With this, I’m going literary. I’m even going to attempt a *very loose* outline. Gasp!

  66. I like your resolve, Dustin, and there are no tricks or secrets except to get after it andforce yourself to hit your word count every day. I do hope you don’t literally mean “literary,” however. That’s an awfully tough genre to write quickly.

    If you just mean something conventionally commercial rather than sci fi, etc., the fact that you are so passionate about the idea is the best thing going for you. Keep us posted.

  67. I will keep you posted, indeed. Thank you, your support and kindness means the world to me.:) Just out of curiosity, what makes the literary genre so difficult? It’s my understanding that literary is primarily about the characters, as opposed to plot. Am I mistaken?

  68. I want to write a children’s book. This may be the right place to start? Do you have any recommendations for how to get going with this? I am thinking smaller children, but I would also need an illustrator.

  69. Actually, Michaela, NaNoWriMo is probably not the place to start with a children’s book, especially for smaller children. NaNoWriMo is designed to help people knock out 50,000 words in 30 days. That will give you at least 50 times the copy you want for a young children’s book.

    You’ve chosen the most difficult market there is, due to the limited vocabulary you can use and the cost of printing and binding and warehousing and shipping books with few pages but lots of four-color images. (That’s the publisher’s costs, but it makes them much more selective.)

    You’ll want to carefully study everything there is to know about that market, because the last thing you want to do there is self-publish. Don’t pay to be printed if you can be paid to be published.

    You don’t need an illustrator, but you do need to know the TYPE of illsutrations you want. When you submit your manuscript, along with descriptions of the artwork for each page (which you can also enhance with your own rudimentary stick figures), you might include samples of the artwork from other kids’ books that you’d like emulated. The publisher has a stable of artists they would contract with.

    Good luck with it and all the best. I know several children’s authors and can get answers for you if you run into questions.

  70. Are you sure you’ve got the numbers right? They do form the basis of the article and I think you’ve confused “participant” with “winner.” I believe about 14-20% of participants “win” by reaching 50,000 words, maybe about 30,000 people, not over 400,000. Writing is not that cool. And as someone who cranked out 100K last year, I get it, it needs revising. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good start. If I didn’t try I would have written 100,000 words less. I learned a lot in writing those words and, yes, it was my first NaNo but it was my eighth novel-length work with The End typed on it. Failure isn’t the opposite of success. Not even trying is the opposite of success.
    You seem to think 50,000 words in a month is too fast- writing 4 books a year as you say, surely you draft (not edit) faster than 1667 words a day?

  71. I got the numbers from NaNoWriMo, but have since been told that they call ALL participants novelists, even the vast majority of that 400k figure who don’t finish.

    The rest you and I agree on. I encourage it for those motivated by it and simply add the caution that you don’t need.

    Good thinking, CRC.

  72. Don’t feel bad. When “Dumb and Dumber” first came out, I got into a contest with a friend of mine as to who could see it the most (it didn’t hurt that we were in the Navy and getting discount tickets at the local movie theater). I won–17 times. The problem is that I’m forever left with the image of Jeff Daniels on the toilet.

  73. I first joined NaNoWriMo in its infancy, back in 2000, though I didn’t realize it until I signed up again, got a new password and saw the round, blue “16” badge off to the side. Well, whaddya know?!?

    So it’s been sixteen years since I’ve returned to this realm, and now it’s only because of a matter of timing. Due to certain lifestyle circumstances getting in the way, I’ve written almost nothing since I earned my M.A. last year (my thesis was on the 1956 Meyer Levin “documentary novel,” and the subsequent events surrounding the Broadway play and movie based on that novel). Desperate to do something new writing-wise, I began playing with a novel idea at the end of October and, hey, wouldn’t you know it, I happened to start writing just before National Novel Writing Month!

    Now it’s Day Four, and I’m almost 13,000 words into it. Yes, yes, pat myself on the back for the progressive word count, ain’t it grand, blah blah blah. But are they GOOD words? I can’t really stop to judge, but to draw on old writing advice, I doubt that losing the entire first chapter would affect the story one whit. I don’t doubt that I’ll finish something. But it’s my usual doubts as to the quality of my work that continue to bubble under the surface. Who would want to buy this meandering child of words? Perhaps it should go and play in the Scribd backyard with everything else.

  74. Day 9 closed out at the halfway mark, 25,000. Yay. What’s really frustrating is when you validate the word count and it says, “24,993.” (insert “Peanuts” comment here… “ARGH!”)

  75. The validation process can be done any time. It’s what you can do to raise your word count automatically on their chart… or you can put it in manually. But if they provide the easiest method, why not, right? (besides, me and numbers have never gotten along–I never went past Algebra 1, and the teacher only passed me because I tried, not because I could pass the assign ments)

  76. Not in terms of trying to get a senior citizen to change their ways, no– “it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t sound right,” etc. It would also just be one more thing to drop on the floor and have me retrieve, because they cannot pick things up very easily. And as I mentioned, there is a growing resentment for not “sharing time” (read: sitting on my tuchus and watching TV with them for hours on end), to keep them company). And yet, I’ve made 25,000 words in ten days.

  77. Why? More often than not, the “average person” that finishes a book isn’t looking for much more than basic success–in their community, to their families and friends, etc.– to get the book in the local book store and library, give it as a gift, and otherwise feel a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes that’s all you need.

    Although as a warning, “snap publishing” (i.e. Amazon Kindle) is rife with copyright dangers. I’ve had almost everything that I self-published via that method get stolen and distributed on torrents and websites for free. Thus, there are no further sales. Luckily, almost everything I’ve put up through Amazon has been short fiction that no one bought, anyway, so no great loss.

  78. More often than not? Respectfully, I hear from eriters everyday, and that has not been my experience. There is a place for self-publishing, of course–and I have outlined them in various venues. But self-publishing just to impress friends and family seems akin to buying your own World’s Greatest Boss mug. It impresses anyone else only if they believe you were really chosen and bestowed it. A self-published book may impress acquaintances if it’s well-done, etc., but if they are impressed at one’s “success” for having paid to have it printed, they have been misled.

  79. When I think “self-publishing” for the purpose of giving it to friends and family, my thoughts run to family biographies and autobiographies and the like.

  80. The question being, how many writers actually produce quality material that agents, editors and book publishers would release for those “thousands”? Today’s writing landscape is mostly internet-based and, for the average user, ranges from Facebook posts to blog postings, along with websites like Scribd and selling through electronic publishing (again, having had work easily stolen via this second method, I don’t recommend it). Long-form is a long haul.

  81. How many writers? Very few. That’s the whole reason for My goal is to get people’s writing quality to the highest level they’re capable of so they can shop their work to traditional publishers if they wish. No guarantees, of course, because there is, as you imply, tremendous competition at the top. But regardless what a writer wants to do with their work, I believe I can help them get better at it.

  82. I know NaNoWriMo may have its benefits, but I find it is not for me. Being a first time writer, I have learned that it takes patience, diligence and a ton of work. To rush me, at this point in my writing, would be disastrous. I’m the type of person that prefers to take my time because if rushed, I lose the “meat” of a story. Just because a story is finished, doesn’t mean its done. I don’t want anyone making me accountable for completing my novel, except my own desire to do it. You either write or you don’t. As for deadlines, I have learned a lot about myself. If I begin to prepare for it, by the time it arrives, I write better. Just saying…..

  83. Good to have you back, Lia, and I resonate with what you’re saying. It does work for some, however–those who need a deadline and a little kick in the pants or support. As you can tell from what I wrote and how I respond to comments, we’re on the same page re finished vs. done. :)

  84. Personally, I can’t buy into the NaNoWriMo method of support with “Camp NaNoWriMo” and forums and write-ins and whatnot, although I have to admit that it is refreshing that they’re promoting the idea of social bonding through writing. In an age of heavy social media, there are those who fear, loathe or otherwise feel confused when left alone to “do it” and need to know that they’re not missing out on the world going on around them. Hence the reason people go to coffee shops and write with other people around.

    I was taught “old school,” where you sit down and write and live in your own bubble until it’s done–which is fine and I’m quite comfortable in that kind of situation, but not everyone can work that way.

  85. Interesting. I totally work alone till I hve a completed ms. and am ready to transmit it. But The Forum has proved to be most popular among my students. They love community, and I’m happy to offer it.

  86. To my mind–and from my experience, the difference between Literary fiction and Commercial fiction is that the former is character-driven (as you mentioned) as opposed to plot-driven. But more importantly, Literary fiction doesn’t worry about the writing itself taking center stage. In other words, a literary author would labor over the prose until it reads like music, and the more beautiful the better.

    We commercial fiction writers want massive audiences. Some of us are better than others and simply write at a higher quality level (I do not put myself in that category). So there are some commercial writers who write with a literary style.

    But to most commercial writers, the story, the plot, the fictional construct is more important than vocabulary, deft turns of phrase, majestic paragraphs that soar like a symphony. We want to write well and economically and, primarily, communicate. I don’t want to generalize about literary fiction–because frankly I envy those who can do it–but it seems that on the whole, if you don’t quite understand the story or the message, that’s on you. Enjoy the writing if not the content, if that makes sense.

    I have been quoted joking that I wish I was smart enough to write a book that’s hard to read. That’s how I often feel when I read a literary novel: I don’t get it, but it sure is pretty.

    The literary writers–and there are a few–who also emphasize great story and pacing and conflict, etc., become mega-bestselling authors.

  87. Wow, Jerry, this is precisely the response I was hoping for. :) Thank you, man! I love character driven stories, and I like to think that my writing reflects my passion. I want write well, possibly even beautifully, and tell a great story, so I suppose I fall into that category. I want to become known as one of the great storytellers. This is all occurring to me now, and I realize how grandiose that probably sounds, but I believe that the Lord gave me this amazing gift, and I’m not going to squander that. I’m going to make the very best of it. I need to see His plan for me.

  88. You’re in a tricky spot because as a person of faith, you know where your priorities lie; then you have this very real writing dream with, as you say, a grandiose dream of “being known as one of the great…”

    Naturally, we need such dreams, unless becoming known competes with our faith priority or the cardinal rule of effective writing: thinking reader-first.

    And I see I could have better worded my last sentence in the previous message. It should read like this:

    THOSE literary writers–and there are a few–who also emphasize great story and pacing and conflict, etc., become mega-bestselling authors.

    My point in that adjustment is that there are few literary writers who can accomplish all that.

    But it’s a worthy goal. :)

  89. And I’m still adding–it’s at 53,000+ now. I’ve got to wrap this up with one more chapter in order to get a complete rough draft out of this thing. Then there are probably two to three more that can be put in the middle of the novel. Plus the rewriting/editing process. That, and I need a new title. I suck with titles.

  90. “I Suck With Titles” sounds like one of those videos you’d find in the ’80s, in the back of a poorly-renovated 7-11 and behind the swinging wood doors, where some clerk with a lazy eye asks, “You are over 21, right?” (insert creepy wink)

    The finished project won’t be under 70,000 words, I’m sure of that.

  91. Hi Jerry. I have a question regarding the do’s and don’ts of italics. I’ve been told by a couple of people not to ever really use italics. However, I have seen that style of writing in many books. For example, an opening page describing a nightmare. Any suggestions?

  92. Aha! I knew it. As I was reading through some books with italics, I found it to be a distraction. I eventually put the book down and that is exactly what I do not want for mine. Thank you, Jerry.

  93. Well, apparently I can’t stretch the story over 70,000 words without making it too wordy (I’m a little concerned that it may be that already, actually).

    The NaNoWriMo system of waiting until “January and February” (in terms of the “revision promise” badge bit) is simply ridiculous, though. My goal was to finish the rough draft in November and be done with the revision in December and, so far, that’s all on track. Now I could just use a reader. I’m afraid it’s not a very good story and not literary-agent material, so I’ll probably just have to do self-publishing.

  94. True, you never want to stretch a story. You want to delete needless words, giving you room for more tight scenes.

    And the writing was fast, so don’t make the revision fast.

    Let me see your first 200 words and I’ll give you a quick response.

  95. Sent you an email. Got redirected here. “Enrollment for The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild is currently closed. The next enrollment period is coming soon, and we’d love to welcome you to this vibrant, growing community!” Ah, well, better luck next year!

    Though, really, I just don’t have faith in the finished draft. No sense wasting either of our time on it, it’ll be Kindle fodder. More importantly, it’s not an idea that’s ever going to evolve into a serial novel or even a sequel, and that’s where the money lies.

  96. Guess what I found under my tree? A book by some author named Jerry Jenkins. Have you heard of him? It’s called, “Valley of the Dry Bones.” Getting ready for chapter one! :)

  97. Gosh, Jerry. Been editing via your guide. Where did my draft go? It is shrinking. Perhaps a short story by the time I’m done? Better yet, a short trilogy? By the way, I like your book. A great read! I see how you manage the single point-of-view/third limited. After I read a chapter, I think of my draft, and well, more editing. I am able to pinpoint paragraphs needing help and so forth. Here’s to a better year of writing.

  98. Hello Jerry. Hope your day is great. I need some advice. My story has one main character, and as you suggested, I introduced her in chapter one. Everything has been fine however, I’ve noticed something in my writing and can’t seem to work through it. I have two other characters who have critical roles in the plot. At times, I see the main character fade because of them. I’m having a difficult time keeping her in the spotlight. I understand that other roles have to be in the storyline. But to what extent? Can I work this through if its limited to only her perspective? Am I on the right track with that thought? Thank you, and hope to hear from you soon.

  99. Lia, I had to negotiate this in my most recent novel. I have a single perspective character throughout, but many strong personalities that have to have their say. See how I do it here:

  100. Ah, yes. I have your newest novel. One of the first things I noticed was how you keep it in a single perspective. I thought I had to keep the focus of my main, in each chapter. I find that untrue, even more so, since she came back to life this morning. It’s a learning process how to shift from character to character. I do believe I’m getting the hang of this because she suddenly sprung back into action, in my most recent chapter. Funny how last night I felt a bit defeated, and now, I’m back on a roll. Wow…writing is a challenge. For those who do not write, have no clue. Even so, I’m still pursuing this endeavor of mine. Well, here’s to another learning experience (I’m raising my glass of pepsi on the rocks to you). If I hit another snag, and I’m 100% sure I will, you’ll be the first to know. Jerry, thank you for all that you do.

  101. Good afternoon, Jerry. I had to take time away from your course, “Confidence Jumpstart.” Now that I am able to focus on it again, I am unable to log in. When I try, it states, “no registered user.” Did something happen while I was away? Thank you for your time.

  102. I’ve sent a couple more messages with no reply. Just sent another today. Advice?

  103. Hi Jerry. I’ve been dabbling with the dreaded query letter. Good grief! I have a pile of crumpled up paper in the trash. It’s overflowing! I have a feeling I’m going to need a bigger can.

  104. Me again. By any chance can you repost that self-editing list? During the evacuation in my town, I packed it up, and cannot find it. If not, that’s ok. I’ll try to work off memory.

  105. As I often say, allow yourself to be bad at this at first. You crawled and fell a lot when you learned to walk, fell when learning to ride a bike, maybe burned a cake or two when learning to bake. :)

  106. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. I have to keep telling myself this because this is unfamiliar territory. I have been reading the inserts on several books to get ideas but, going to have to keep practicing . In due time, I’m hoping to pull off a good query.

  107. When a successful author can relate to the struggle, that is what makes writing great. You have no idea what influence your words have on me. Now, I’m all fired up and ready go again. To be continued…

  108. A whole paragraph. Mind you, it is by far the worst one I’ve written yet, but somewhere in there is a great query. I celebrated with a bowl of rocky road ice cream.

  109. I participated in NaNoWriMo in previous years and only made the word count once. I personally understood that completing the 50,000 word count challenge did not mean I had a complete novel. And the people behind NaNoWriMo do subsequently send out emails after Nov 30th about things like “So, you’ve written your novel. Now what?” I think after November they begin to talk about the editing and proofreading process that needs to be done before a novel can be considered complete or publishable.

    I do not think I will participate in NaNo 2017 because I have a hard time staying on track. And I tend to write less when I feel pressure because I get depressed especially once I fall behind. And it’s hard for me to stick to one topic. So even though OLL (Office of Letters and Light, the company behind NaNoWriMo) will not be reading my work, I want it to still make logical sense. I do not want to write a drabble of nonsense. I did that for the one time I participated in Screnzy (Script Frenzy, which was also hosted by OLL and held in April but is no longer an active challenge). I am happy that I completed the challenge but not happy with the content. Right now, I use it for reference because I have about three different plot ideas in it.

    Screnzy – Script Frenzy – April (discontinued) – Challenge: write 100 pages of a script in 30 days
    They even showed us how to format our document into script.

  110. Finally finished my query. A definite work in progress. It took over a month just to create a draft. To celebrate, it’s popcorn, pepsi and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (bought it today!). Have a great weekend!

  111. Seems the closer I get to my goal, the harder it becomes. Query is done. I have edited more times than I can count, and now, my creativity has gone into hibernation mode. What is a writer to do? Read someone else’s books. Maybe then, some spark of imagination will ignite.

  112. I’m working on a novel that’s set in 1893 in NYC, and the world’s fair might or might not factor into it, but I know my main character went to it and who with, and I’ve done lots of research on it. Did you read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson? That’s where I first read about it. Amazing book. Hope your novel went/is going well!

  113. I have participated in Nanowrimo for 5 years. It has been a good vehicle for me to get things down and to have a script. my first two attempts were published but with glaring errors on Amazon.
    The next two are still in limbo. They were sent to Createspace who offered to publish as part of the Nanowrimo experience, after having had them edited by a professional but when she purchased a copy found errors that were not in her corrected script. In addition I am not receiving royalties. Each time I have queried this, having had people tell me (both friends and relatives) that they had purchased through Amazon, Createspace have said there were no sales or else the sales were for returned books which had no royalty payments due. But if there are no sales originally, where do the ‘returned books’ come from? My friends re not lying to me as they can tell me what is int eh books.
    In addition my latest attempts to have a proof copy forwarded has taken over two months. The initial order ‘went missing’ the second was sent priority mail via UPS who held it up because of insufficient information on the shipping bill. The third one is supposedly on it’s way to arrive at the end of this week – I am not holding my breath. This has been such a frustrating experience for me. I am a pensioner with limited funds and am trying to write books which will generate a small income for me. Seems I am doomed to failure. But, Nanowrimo, at least has me writing.

  114. I’ve considered participating in NaNoWriMo in the past, but I’ve decided that it really isn’t for me. The word count requirement every day is too much for me right now, plus I like to take at least one day off per week from writing. I don’t want to write every single day for 30 days and get burned out. That may work for some people, but I know it won’t work for me.

  115. I’ve done the official NaNoWriMo twice. But before that, I read No Plot? No Problem! and was so inspired that I did it once on my own before November rolled around. As Jerry says, it is a great tool for getting past whatever is tripping you up, and getting the rough draft done. And yes, getting the rough draft done is the easy part. All three of those rough drafts are now books that are available, in paperback and kindle, on Amazon. I did not opt to even try to find a traditional publisher; I self published with CreateSpace. And since my first novel came out in 2012, I’ve gotten a royalty deposit every month. Is it big? No. At the start it was over $400 a month, then for several years it settled down to around $300. Now its generally under $100, but then I haven’t put out anything new since early last year. And honestly, my seller was the first book I published. The other two haven’t done as well. The point I’m making is that I’ve got books available and I make a little money with my writing.
    That being said, I want to be clear that I work extremely diligently to put out a high quality product. I edit and edit and edit ad infinitum. And then the thing gets proofread – repeatedly. I have it professionally formatted and I have the cover professionally done. It does no writer any good at all when someone doesn’t take the time to produce an excellent piece of work, with all considerations – writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, cover etc – all covered thoroughly. My biggest pet peeve in this business is people who are lazy or cheap or both and put out inferior work. That hurts all writers, and it really hurts self-published authors.
    Now I’m gearing up to do NaNoWriMo a fourth time. For me, it has been the only way I’ve successfully gotten the words down in the first place.

  116. By the way, with CreateSpace you don’t “pay to be published.” It is print on demand, so you only pay for the books you buy. It costs nothing to publish through them if you simply use their publishing. Printed proofs have a cost, but both that and the price of books (if you’re the author) is extremely reasonable. And when you publish through CreateSpace, your books are automatically available on Amazon. But again, PLEASE don’t use this service if you aren’t going to publish a high quality piece of work!

  117. This is baffling to me. I’ve had great success with CreateSpace with all three of my books. They are printed exactly in accordance with the files I submitted, and my royalties (from sales on Amazon) have arrived via direct deposit every month. I can track my sales also. Shipping direct from CreateSpace is also quick, though not cheap.

  118. As of today I still have not received the promised shipment. Glad you have had such a positive experience.

  119. I decided to take the plunge and participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve been working on my novel for the past year, building my story world, plotting, and creating characters. Earlier in the year I reached the first three chapters but became dissatisfied with the direction it was heading. I scrapped it and began working on outlining and story structure . I’m not near ready but I’ve come to a realization that it’s now or never. NaNoWriMo is the kick in the pants I need to

    get half of my first draft done. I’ll probably spend 2018 editing, polishing, and doing more research. As a serial procrastinator, I work better with deadlines. It causes me to get serious about writing and focus.

  120. This is my 5th NaNo and I’ll be an ML this year as well. My general writing schedule for November is the same as every other month: write 2-4 hours every morning and a couple evenings a week as I can. I don’t focus on word count too much- as long as I sit in my chair and focus I can hit 50k a month.

  121. As a former builder, I like the house analogy with the shell up and all the rest of the work to do. In terms of the work involved after the first draft – about twice as much as bashing it out – that seems about right. I have one work published with a small press and another accepted. People proud of their nano novel might try that route as a middle ground between the Big Five and self-publishing.

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