Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

#SaysTheEditor It’s December First!


If you’re a writer, today, the first of December, means one of a few things:

1. Nothing special
2. Something special that has nothing to do with writing
3. A return to social media of a lot of writers you follow
4. A win
5. A loss

If it’s that last one, let’s talk about why it’s a loss.

Did you show up on November 1, intending to write 50,000 words last month? Are you kicking yourself for being a failure because you didn’t hit that 50k mark? Now that it’s December first, is all hope of winning gone?

Be kinder to yourself. You tried.

Yeah, sounds lame to me, too. So let’s talk about the REAL value of National Novel Writing Month — showing up to the page.

Kudos to you if you showed up for thirty days straight. Even if you wrote one word on a few of those days, you showed up. That’s what forms the basis of habits, and now that it’s December, just a generic month in the writing world, you shouldn’t stop. Keep that habit going.

Maybe you burned yourself out during November, struggling for those 50,000 words. You’re probably glad it’s December. If that’s the case, take some time off to recover and come back as soon as you can. Your fictional friends need you.

I remember when NaNo started and they’d tell you to go ahead and write garbage words, include stage directions for yourself – whatever it took to hit that 50,000-word mark. The intent was to show yourself what it would take to write a short novel.

But then NaNo changed, as everything does, and it became about being the month in which you’d draft a book you intended to publish. Hopefully you learned all about the art of revision.

Now, I think the value of NaNo is that it establishes (or RE-establishes) the habit. That practice of showing up every day, of staring at a blank page, of thinking about your characters, their struggles, their growth, the consequences they face.

And if you sat down on November 1, intending to write every day, but you found that because you’re a child, a parent, a friend, a lover, a boss, an employee, a coach, a mentor… a WHATEVER, you can only write on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays… that’s great, too! Make sure you show up on those days. Sit down. Stare at the page. Write at least one word. Two’s better. Ten’s an improvement. So’s eleven.

You get the idea.

Just because it’s December doesn’t mean you need to stop writing for the next eleven months.

Winning, in terms of being a writer, isn’t getting 50,000 verified words written on a page. Winning is showing up and doing the hard work of writing. It’s making a habit of working on your craft.

That said, though, while December tends to be a slow month for editing projects for me, don’t send me your NaNo attempt this year if you haven’t revised it extensively yet. Always send your editor your best work, so that s/he (I!) can give you the best feedback possible. The idea is to get yourself as far along the path as you can, and then bring in the big guns.

Good editing ain’t cheap. Remember that.

But maintaining your writing schedule? Rolling through the bumps that invariably pop up, interrupting your sacred writing time?

That costs you nothing — but will pay off down the road.

Keep writing. THAT is what makes you a winner. Not some random word count that is, to be honest, short for a good novel.


Says the Editor: NaNo Winners and an Editing Discount!


My timelines the past few days are starting to fill up with NaNo Winners — this year’s slew of writers who were able to write 50k words in the month of November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. (You know: NaNo)

Congratulations to the winners. I’ve done it myself, way back when, and I know it’s no easy feat. I remember my year-old daughter standing at the door to my office, dropping her shoes over the baby gate to get my attention. (If I didn’t close the gate, she would come in here and turn the computer itself off. She was a pistol at that age!)

I found that the month-long rush to get words down didn’t work for me as a writer, and of course, I strongly believe in doing what works best for you as a writer. Yet I have other friends and clients for whom NaNo sets the discipline of writing every day, and for them, it lasts throughout the year. They use it as a tune-up time, to make sure they’re still pushing themselves to write daily and to get the words down. Even when revising, they set lofty goals and do their best to achieve them.

So NaNo works on many levels (and if you’ve got thoughts on this, let’s hear them!), but one way it doesn’t work?


Every novel needs to be revised. NaNo, by its very structure, doesn’t leave a lot of time for revising as you go. In fact, they tell you NOT to revise at all. The goal of NaNo, after all, is 50,000 words — not 50,000 good words.

So once you win, close up that file. Take a deep breath. Pat yourself on the back and order the winner’s t-shirt (do they still do that?), then sit down and indulge in the best piece of chocolate (cake) you can find. Savor it. 50k in a month is no small feat.

And then return to whatever you were working on that was interrupted by NaNo.

If you hate it or need a jumpstart, or if you think it’s time to get eyes on it, drop me a note. The first four manuscripts that come my way as a “Help Me After NaNo” plea will get a discount. (Why four? That books me solid for the month of December.)

Remember: this isn’t for your 2017 winner. It’s for what you were working on before November began. Or something you’d set aside before NaNo and now need some feedback on.

In other words: complete before November 1, 2017.

And again, to the winners and the winners-to-be in the next few days: huge congratulations from a veteran NaNo participant and winner.


No NaNo?


It’s November, the time of year when the Movemeber people are growing mustaches and the writerly types are busy pounding out 50,000 word manuscripts they hope to turn into books of some sort (of high caliber).

Okay, being a woman, you can probably figure out why I’m not part of Movember. No, it’s NOT rampant upper-lip hair that is the reason I am so camera-shy. (Sorry to those of you who thought otherwise. Shut up, Will. You’ve met me; you ought to know better.)

Which leaves NaNo. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. As I said, it’s the time of year when writers of all sorts — published, unpublished, even some best-sellers — write a draft of a new novel. And after my fabulous sales success last month with Trevor’s Song, you’d think I’d be hot to use NaNo as a way to follow up with something even better.

So why isn’t Susan NaNoing?

Well, first, there’s the little issue of Susan the Editor continuing to wear the primary hat in these parts. Business remains good, so thanks to you who use me as your editor and those of you who refer your friends to me. I’ve got open spaces at the tail end of the month, and in December (and beyond).

That’s good for any of you who are actually doing NaNo. Revise your books and send ’em my way. I’d be glad to help you turn them into something truly amazing.

Yes, the editing business is good. But that doesn’t explain why I’ve done done NaNo twice: a winning project in 2003 and an unfinished work in 2005. Why go out on the downer note of a quitter?

Because the one thing that was reinforced to me both years was that… when I write like that, I write crap. My childish, innocent side comes out more than my dark side does, and all you who love Trevor know how much fun my dark side is. I can’t even say that it’s okay, in this era when Young Adult is still the hot genre of the moment (although it’s cooling a bit), to let that young side out.

That young side? It’s too young to be allowed to develop a plot. It does okay (not great. No Trevors in sight) with characterization and pacing, but plot? Oy. Man, the stuff I came up with those two years… teenage fantasy ain’t got nothin’ on the stupid shit I cooked up in pursuit of what eventually got shoved under the bed. It was barely salvageable, and I do mean barely. You’d think I’d never gone outside or lived in a city, it was that bad. Naive. Juvenile. Embarrassing.

And it got trashed as soon as the month was over. Heck, with the second attempt, I didn’t even wait for the month to be over. I just said it was crap and I had better things to do than write crap.

While it’s more than acceptable to give ourselves permission to write crap — sometimes, it’s entirely necessary to the process — I decided it wasn’t okay for me to give up a month writing stuff so bad, all I’d take out of those two experiences was ONE character. ONE. That’s not a very good return on investment. It’s not even a BAD return on the investment. It’s DREADFUL.

So… no NaNo here. In its simplest form, it doesn’t work for me. And that’s okay. Everyone’s process is different. This is part of what makes the world the wonderful place it is. We all have our things that work, and our things that don’t.

Which now begs the question of what I AM writing, and when you’ll get to see it. After all, I’ve got readers to keep happy after that sales spike last month.

The answer to that remains simple: sales spike or no, my royalties aren’t paying the bills yet. Editing still does.

Guess we’ll all have to remain patient and see.