It is the final day of NaNoWriMo for 2016. I wrote 96,603 words: ten short stories and fifteen chapters on my next novel set in the world of Neveyah. I had my winners certificate by the 23rd, but I write everyday and update my wordcount. More than sixty of the 265 participants in my region will also get their winner’s certificates, which is a very good year. Some years only thirty participants in our region make it to the finish line. On average, 7 out of ten entrants will fall by the way in any given year, because 50,000 words is a difficult goal to achieve in only 30 days, if you are not completely fired up by your novel.
Those who fall by the way are authors who discover that having an idea that would be a good book and writing that book are two radically different things. They are daunted by the amount of work that is involved.
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a contest in the sense that if you write 50,000 words and have them validated through the national website you ‘win.’ But it is not a contest in any other way as there are no huge prizes or great amounts of acclaim for those winners, only a PDF winners certificate that you can fill out and print to hang on your wall.
It is simply a month that is solely dedicated to the act of writing a novel.
Now lets face it–a novel that is only 50,000 words long is not a very long novel. That falls more into the line of a long novella and is only half a novel, in my opinion. But a dedicated author can get the basic structure and story-line of a novel down in those thirty days simply by sitting down for an hour or two each day and writing a minimum of 1667 words per day.
That is not too hard. In this age of word processors, most authors can double or triple that.
As always, there is a downside to this free-for-all style of writing. Just because you can sit in front of a computer and spew words does not mean you have the ability to write a novel that others want to read.
Over the next few months many cheap or free eBooks will emerge testifying to this fundamental truth.
The good thing is, over the next few months many people will realize they enjoy the act of writing. They will find that for them this month of madness was not about getting a certain number of words written by a certain date, although that goal was important. For a very few, participating in NaNoWriMo has fired them with the knowledge that they are authors. For them it was about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years, something that had been in the back of their minds for all their lives.
These are the people who will join writing groups and begin the long journey of learning the craft of writing. They may go back to school and get their MFA.
These authors will take the time and make the effort to learn writing conventions (practices). They will attend seminars, they will develop the skills needed to take a story and make it a novel with a proper beginning, a great middle and an incredible end.
They will properly polish and edit their work and run it past critique groups before they publish it.
These are books I will want to read.
It’s not easy. Sometimes what we hear back from our readers and editors is not what we wanted to hear. The smart authors haul themselves to a corner, lick their wounds, and rewrite it so it’s more readable. They will be successful, for a variety of reasons, all of them revolving around dedication and perseverance.
But when we write something that a reader loves–that is a feeling that can’t be described.
Authors must keep their day jobs, because success as an author these days can’t be measured in cash. It can only be measured in what satisfaction you as an author get out of your work. Traditionally published authors see a smaller percentage of their royalties than indies, but if they are among the lucky few, they can sell more books.
The fact your book has been picked up by a traditional publisher does not guarantee they will put a lot of effort into pushing a first novel by an unknown author. You will have to do all the social media footwork yourself. You may even have to arrange your own book signing events, just as if you were an indie.
Going indie or aiming for a traditional contract—it’s a conundrum many new authors will be considering in the new year.
However, if you don’t write that book, you aren’t an author, and you won’t have to worry about it. The concept of NaNoWriMo will jump-start many discussions about this very issue.
Today marks the end of NaNoWriMo 2016. For many, it will be a mad scramble between now and midnight to get their 50,000 words and earn that certificate.
Some of us have completed our first draft, and some of us still have a ways to go. But we are all walking a path that is more rewarding than any high-paying job I’ve ever had.