And So It Begins: Another Cautionary NaNoWriMo Tale

Business first: The Reader’s Choice Contest is still going on! Go to the Fiction Affliction columns at, scroll down and read synopses of all the urban fantasy, YA paranormal, paranormal romance (print only), science fiction, and/or epic fantasy coming out this month, pick the one you most want. Then come back here and leave a comment. Open internationally. As always, extra point for following the blog and another for a Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson.

Okay, now on to National Novel Writing Month. I did it last year for the first time and it was a colossal mess. I decided to try abandoning my OCD plotting tendencies, jump right in armed only with an idea and an opening scene dancing in my head, and write. So I wote. A lot. By the time November 30 rolled around, I had 59,000 new words.

But, as we all know, 59K does not a novel make, and I had reached “the end.”

So in December and January, I went back and retroactively plotted the novel. Subtract February and March for revisions on another book. In April, May, June and July I rewrote the book using my new outline. 94K. Much better, although I saw some inherent problems. What I wrote during NaNo was a pure paranormal romance. What I wrote during the subsequent months was essentially an urban fantasy. I thought I had woven them together but I ended up with a genre fence-sitter.

So, here’s the cautionary tale as NaNo starts up again and I intend to spend this year’s NaNo rewriting last year’s NaNo….again. If you are a plotter, do not start NaNo without doing your advance work. Unless you want to be working on 2010’s NaNo project again in 2011.
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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

9 thoughts on “And So It Begins: Another Cautionary NaNoWriMo Tale

  1. Words of wisdom, Suz, as always. I’ve never done NaNo before and can’t do it this year, but it seems one of the most important things is understanding how you write before you get started. Then either put in the months of plotting beforehand (if you’re a plotter) or get stuck in on Nov 1st (if you’re a pantser) or make pages of ineffective notes the last week of October (if you’re me). Many many people, NaNo lasts for months and months.

    I’ll be starting my next WIP in January, so I’ll be having my own JaNo. Who’s with me??

  2. Great advice. I’m doing Nano for the first time this year. I’m not a plotter, but I am an edit-as-I-go person, so this is not my natural state of writing for sure. I doubt I’ll be able to turn off the internal editor completely, so I’m going into this hoping to get 30k mostly usable words by the end of the month. I have no real notions of “winning” and getting to 50k. I know for me to write that fast it would have to be drivel, lol.

  3. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of a writer I am, I think I am a little of both. I have a general idea, a few scenes, what I think is the point and necessary epiphanies, just not sure how I’ll get from A to Q. but I have 49000 more words to get there!

  4. I’m up for JaNo, Kat! I hope to be finished with these revisions and starting the new WIP then too.

    Roni–LOL. I think the thing that helped me churn out stuff fastest was substituting the word ALBATROSS for everything I needed to fill in later (the model of car a character drives, what a character orders for dinner in a particular restaurant–any pesky detail like that I’d ordinarily spend time thinking about or doing research. Then, after NaNo was over, it was easy to do a search for “Albatross” to fill in the blanks later.

  5. Well, as I understand it you’re supposed to write 50,000 words of a *new* novel for NaNoWriMo, not to rewrite anything you’ve been working on. Do you think it makes sense to set aside WIPs and participate, or knuckle down on existing work?

  6. I think the rules say that if you’ve already “won” NaNo once, it doesn’t have to be a new novel.

    Great advice, Suz. I did my plotting. Got most of my plot lines down and can finish it easily. Love the tip about using ALBATROSS. Not a word likely to come up in the course of a novel so easy to search for. I may filch that one.

    Good luck!

  7. LOL, I can’t take credit for the Albatross idea–someone passed it on to me last year. It works really well, though!

    Matt, I had my outline done to start a new WIP for NaNo, but then these revisions came in that had to take precedence. So I’m using NaNo to keep myself on schedule. Then in “DecMo and JanMo” I’ll be working on the WIP.

  8. Like you, I’m still fixing the mess I made during NaNo 2009. Really wish I’d done more planning as I ended up rewriting most of the novel from scratch. I’m also hoping to finish revisions this month — maybe we should start NaNoReviseMo?