In a couple weeks the mad frenzy known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) will begin. During this month, during these 30 short days, writers are encouraged to write a novel. All I have to say is please don’t.
Now before you start throwing tirades at me saying NaNoWriMo is the most wonderful writing event on earth, keep reading to understand my point.
Writing a Book Takes Time
I would have no issue if NaNoWriMo would just change their name to National First Draft Writing Month. It’s not as catchy, but it establishes a more realistic mind set for the event.
For those with superb time management skills, a first draft is possible within 30 days. You cannot write a “book” in 30 days unless you’re some kind of planning genius, you possess a supernatural writing talent that should be studied by scientists, or you live on Venus where one day equals 243 Earth days (in which case you may be taking a tad too long to write your book).
A book requires draft after draft of revision, fine tuning, subjection to test readers, more revision and more fine tuning. Each draft takes several weeks, sometimes months, not a mad rush over a 30-day span.
The Problem With Rushing
Not to be cynical, but I’m going to make a generalization that the majority of NaNoWriMo participants are not going to find representation or be traditionally published (if you can find a statistic otherwise, please share it). Some participants may never write again beyond those 30 days, but many will turn their work into a self-published novel.
Telling folks they can write a novel in 30 days sets up an unrealistic expectation that writing is easy, that writing should be rushed, that books should be written and published as quickly as possible.
Those expectations are flat out wrong and are also detrimental to indie authors ever gaining respect.
Bookstores, reviewers and the general public already have a negative image of self-published novels. Much of that negativity stems from books that are thrown together just so the writer can get his words out there and into buyers’ hands. Rushing equals all the things that make self-published novels horrible: poor editing, horrid covers, wonky formatting, and less than stellar writing.
Why the Rush?
If you think your book is so great that you’ll sell a thousand copies in the first week, then you will….but please delay that first week until your book has been honed and polished to a perfect gem. Your book should be able to rival, no, not rival, BE BETTER THAN what is coming off the traditional publishers’ presses. That is the only way indie authors are ever going to be taken seriously.
The Experts Weigh In (And Agree With Me)
In a recent article from Publishers Weekly, several successful indie authors were asked what they would tell newbies to the self-publishing world. A striking majority begged other self-publishers to take their time with their books. While it doesn’t give any major insights, it is a good article reminding writers that quality work requires more than 30 days of scribbling.
This Does Not Give You An Excuse to Procrastinate
While you need to take time crafting your words, procrastination is not allowed. Writing a novel, while fun and exciting, is a long and tough process that can easily be put aside. After all, it’s not like you, the indie author, have any sort of deadline from the publisher, do you?
No? Well you should! You’ll just call them “goals” instead of “deadlines.”
I don’t encourage setting a publication date goal. Too many things come up in life, too many issues can come up in your drafting that can either make you miss that goal (leading to feeling bad about yourself) or rushing to meet that goal (leading to a crap book).
Instead, set draft goals. Give yourself X number of weeks for research and outlining. Once the planning stage is done, give yourself X number of weeks (or 30 days, if you must) to write the first draft. Each time you come to the end of one step in your project, set the goal for the next step’s completion.
Allowing yourself this time not only leads to a book you can be proud of, but also teaches you how long each step takes – information you can use when planning out your next novel.
Oh, and when you meet your goals, don’t forget to find some way to reward yourself.