Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo and the End

Today is November 1, otherwise known as the first day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or just NaNo). During November, writers around the world aspire to write 50,000 words (aka a novel-length piece) in a single month.

There’s an official signup where you can track your progress, encourage others, and “win” by completing the task, but there’s also plenty of people who do it unofficially, working on their own with the hopes of cranking out nearly 2,000 words daily to complete the task.

Though I’ve never officially done NaNo, I think it’s a great tool for many writers, especially those particularly affected by writers’ block, or who thrive on a community banded together for a common goal. I also love the spotlight it gives to the writing world and the work and artists who fill it.

That said, I’ve noticed that in years past, most people are focused on crossing the finish line.

They just want to get to 50,000 words in a month—quite the feat, indeed. (Even though 90 percent of the people who do NaNo most likely know that 50,000 words is normally too short for a novel and that they will have to add another 10,000 words at least, and that they will have to do extensive revision before sending anything written in a month out to agents and editors. RIGHT?)

And, with all this focus on “the end,” I thought I’d share a conversation I had this week with a coworker. We went for a walk on our lunch break and began to discuss books. She’s an avid reader, and involved in a book club. When we discussed what she was currently reading, she said she was halfway through Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. This, of course, led me to ask if she’d read Flynn’s monster hit Gone Girl. She nodded, but then chewed on her words for several seconds.

“Did you like it?” I asked, before adding, “I loved it.”

She bit her lip. “I did—until I got to the end. I mean, what the heck?”

Now, I won’t give it away, just in case there’s someone reading this who hadn’t read the ending. But basically, and this is what I told her, the ending, as innocuous as it is, is the most twisted thing about the novel—which is saying something.

Many people I know didn’t like it. In fact, I didn’t like it, per se, though I totally respect the genius stroke Flynn had in leaving so many readers uncomfortable.

For me, even with the ending, the book was brilliant and I recommended it to many, many people. But for this reader, it left her too uncomfortable. She didn’t recommend it and she didn’t see the movie when it came out, even though it was nominated for all sorts of awards and had an all-star cast. And yet, she was giving the author another chance. Because even though she didn’t like the ending, it, like the book, stuck with her, and propelled her to read more.

So, dear NaNo warriors, when you get to the end—whether it be this month or next—make sure it counts. No two readers will view your ending the same way, so make sure it’s the right one for you.


  1. I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year (JMJackson054 if you want to buddy up). Fortunately, since I am a pantser, I have no illusions that my first draft will be my last. And since my average novel is over 90,000 words, I know at the end of November I’ll still be in the middle of things. All that is fine with me, because I want to focus on getting those first draft words written. Wish me and anyone else fessing up before the world their plan to write 50,000 words this month a lot of luck and perseverance. (Oh and I did my word count today before looking at email. One day down 29 to go.)

    ~ Jim

  2. I haven't tried NaNaWriMo, but I think it's a great idea. Especially for writers like Jim who have a realistic view of what the results will achieve.

  3. I'm participating in Nano this year for the second time (I'm Mystery Diva - but I confess, I am also a sporatic sprint writer and will most likely not be participating daily). I wrote my first traditionally published book during Nano, although the end product bore little resemblance to the first draft. I'm hoping to jump start the third in my series this time. Like Jim, I spent a lot of time being a pantser, now I'm jumping in with an outline and want to see where that leads.

    Jim, congratulations on your first Nano word count. I am impressed!

    As for Gone Girl. I was one of the ones who did not like it. I quit halfway through. Nothing in the writing held me and I the story seemed tortured. I know I was in a minority. I do have it on my Kindle though - so now I'm going to have to bring it back from the cloud and check out the ending.

    Good post, Sarah!

  4. I like how nano writers support each other. It can be a great live and on-line community. Writing can be a lonely business, but it doesn't have to be in November!

  5. Nice job, Jim! You're going to crush it!


  6. I've never participated in nano because I don't want another thing on my "To do" list that will add to guilt feelings when I don't get it done. I think it's good for those who need that extra push to write, but the only thing that makes me want to write is to find out what my characters are going to do next. As you can see, I'm a pantser, and only have a general idea in my head of what is going to happen next although I do jot down ideas of what I plan on putting in my next book, but I don't like the idea that I MUST write a certain amount of words every day.

    I didn't like Gone Girl, either, and quit only part way through because I didn't like either character. I want at least someone I like in the books I read.

  7. No Nano for me - I have enough guilt about not writing enough!
    I admire Flynn tremendously, but have to say that reading Gone Girl made me want to wash my heart. Dark stuff, brilliantly done, though a friend thinks there is a big plot hole in the story.