Friday, January 06, 2017

NaNoWrMo--to say or not to say

I had a brief question: I just completed NaNoWriMo (yay! It only cost me all feeling in my fingers!) I’m very proud of myself and I think just writing that much is a victory in its own regard, but I’m wondering something: when I edit this baby to something resembling publishable quality and send it out to agents, would it behoove me to mention that I achieved a NaNoWriMo victory in the query letter or is that just the equivalent of stuffing your resume like a thin, meatless Thanksgiving Turkey.

Fingerless Felix

Much like revealing the trick in three card monte, or the ingredients in hot dogs, some things are better left unmentioned.

I think it's terrific you set a goal and achieved it.
I think it's really terrific you finished your novel.

None of that matters when we move to the query stage.
There are only two things I care about then: is this a book I think I can sell, and are you an asshat.

Telling me this novel started in NaNoWrMo doesn't help me with either of those questions.

You WILl however be able to use this info in promoting the novel since it's the kind of interesting fact that intriques people. Since I am actually not a person (being ferociously finned and all) it doesn't matter to me.

And I REALLY think it's terrific that you understand that finishing that first draft does not mean you're done.

Press on!


Lisa Bodenheim said...

Yes, congrats, Opie on finishing the novel. And best of luck with razoring, combing, and styling that draft into a photogenic story.

I guess a NaNoWriMo is the equivalent of what's pertinent or not pertinent to put in the biographical section of a query.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

(Over my word limit again)

Question of the day: are you an asshat?

Even though you prepared an entire meal for ten and ate turkey, made sandwiches from leftovers and cooked 5 gallons of soup, PLUS, spent 8 hours outside Walmart in -5 degree weather for a 60 inch TV for a dollar-three-ninety-five, (my father’s favorite price for anything cheap), and another 8 hours outside Toys Are Us for an electronic egg which never hatched, PLUS got all your holiday shipping done on Black Friday, Small business Saturday and Cyber Monday, PLUS spent 4 hours in the hot and crowded waiting area of your local dealership for new tires and an oil change PLUS plinked 90,000 words into your computer for your ‘fiction-novel’, all in the same month AND believe your great American novel is publishable immediately, or at least after one edit, makes you an asshat.

You dear OP are not an asshat.

Colin Smith said...

NaNuNaNu--is that National Robin Williams Appreciation Month? :)

OK... seriously... I know of at least one nytba who makes no secret of the fact that at least a few of her novels started out as NaNoWriMo projects. But that information usually comes out after the announcement of a publication date. And I'm fairly certain when she queried the first novel, the agent that signed her didn't know its origins at the time. After all, as Janet said, when you're looking for a great book, do you really care if the author NaNo-ed it, dreamed it, sweated blood for ten years over it, or whipped it up in a few hours. As long as it isn't plagiarized, or the result of some other similarly dodgy practice, who cares?

That said, you deserve a pat on the back for completing NaNo, Opie Felix. It's an achievement you should feel good about. All the best to you! :)

DLM said...
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DLM said...

The part where this is marketing fodder is interesting, I can see other NaNo authors grooving on that. But yeah, it's not useful verbiage in the limited real estate of a query letter - which all has to be useful in making the point that "Me make word good salad, also am nice."

Or perhaps something more eloquent, like 2Ns's father. :) Lady, that is voice, just in four words. Love it!

NaNoNanu. Hee. Aww. And Opie Felix is the best name/wish/projection!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

So many 1st drafts complete during NaNoWriMo, I doubt agents or publishers care anymore than they do that my revisions are being done nights, weekends, and wee hours of morning. We have a half day due to specter of snow here in Deep South so I will be revising starting after lunch.

My query will say nothing of the hours given to banging this beast into submission. I will simply present said beast, polished and house broken, and hope agent believes it can be turned into shiny profits full of enthralled readers. It is all us writers can hope for.

Congratulations, OP, on your 1st draft. That is a great achievement.

RachelErin said...

I think it's something to be shared with certain groups at certain times. Many readers, agents, other writers, etc, are a bit disdainful of Nano, believing it is impossible for a good book to start off as a fast first draft. Obviously if you are among your fellow Nano-ers, they will love the fact that one of their own made it all the way. But it's more blog post than blurb material.

And, never underestimate the editing. I'm editing something that technically started out as a Nano project, but is basically unrecognizable (it does still have a quest and a blue pearl in it. And a moon queen).

Editing is the fastest, easiest part of my day job, and the hardest, most painful part of my fiction. If I could edit my fiction with the confidence I edit my non-fiction... Le sigh. But most options in fiction could work, if you do them right. Non-fiction is more straightforward (e.g. I can promise my colleagues the vast majority of readers will glaze over the phrase "to characterize epigenetic markers").

So I find the decisions deeply personal - of course I could tell the story this or that or the other way, but I choose MY way. Much more vulnerable. Speaking of, if I can work really fast this morning, I too can take the afternoon to edit. Thinking of you EM!

And congrats to the OP on finishing. That's a milestone that also should never be underestimated.

Theresa said...

Congrats to OP on the big finish!

Colin, I'm happy to know I'm not the only one hearing Robin Williams's voice in my head.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Congrats OP. I made some pretty gruesome mistakes with the first few versions of my query...okay, the first 90 versions... cringe-worthy.

I learned to ask myself, as Diane mentioned above (and Janet has schooled), is this the very best use of this very limited real estate?

We're east of Atlanta on the SC line. We aren't used to extreme weather, but Mr. Cantori says we're gonna get hit. I'm heading out to take extra hay to the horses, double-down on bedding for the elderly donkeys and piggy girls, and make sure all the water troughs are full. And I may have to run to the store to stock up on a few yummy dark beers. Stay safe, everyone!

Julie Weathers said...


Congratulations. That is a wonderful accomplishment. Some people can hammer those suckers out as easy as spitting watermelon seeds. For most, and I'm sure you reside in this tribe, it's a lot of hard work.

How, and generally why, you wrote your book are like making sausage. No one needs to know. Having said that, on the ranch, Mom made wonderful sausage. The trick aside from the right ration of lean to fat meats, was a wonderful blend of spices. We mixed our hog meat with venison. The game warden in the area used to stop by the ranch from time to time and visit. He'd ask about game population.

"Should we open a antelope hunting season?"

"H3ll, no. The only one left around here is that one doe."

He was generally right about that. They stayed mainly down in Teddy Roosevelt Park on the other side of the fence from our ranch and only a few wandered around on top.

So, while Bob was talking about this or that he'd invariably get invited to eat lunch or dinner. Often it included sausage. Mom, being the mostly obliging sort gave him almost the right recipe for his wife. It was the right meat mixture, but a bit vague about the spices.

At the time we had a huge hog named Sally. She wasn't only huge, she was also mean and would attack people at random, including visitors and she didn't much care if the visitor had a badge and was from the government. Bob had made a run for the house a time or two with a grunting sow on his heels bearing down on him like a locomotive.

One day he showed up, but Sally didn't so he asked about her.

"Oh, we butchered her."

He sat down to a nice ham dinner with us and during the course of the conversation you could see the wheels turning. "What did she dress out at?"

"A little over 900 pounds."

That's a very large hog carcass.

"Gawd ahmighty. Are there any deer left in the country?"

Now even though ranchers feed deer on their hay and oat fields and the deer munch on hay stacks all winter, they're not allowed to shoot deer and do anything with the carcass except in hunting season just like regular people. So, this was a rather indelicate question. It was kind of like a revenuer asking a moonshiner how much corn he bought last week.

Sometimes it's not only best not to know how sausage was made, though to be honest ours was made with good cuts of meat and was danged good sausage, it's also good not to reveal how you make sausage.

Agents don't need to know up front that this is a Nano baby. They also don't need to know you slaved over this for ten years or that if you don't sell it you will lose your home and all you hold dear or that this agent is your dream agent and no others will do. None other for me, I declare!

Just walk in with all the confidence and grace you can muster and let the work do the talking.

Writing Quote of the day:

There is no such thing as great writing - there is only great re-writing!

Ernest Hemingway

Happy editing OP.

Donnaeve said...

Congratulations OP!

I've nothing to add that everyone else hasn't already on top of QOTKU's advice, but, here's my angle - for what it's worth.

Let's say you're in the market for a red convertible, and lo and behold, you find it. It's The Car You Always Wanted! The salesman comes up and says, "Well, ya know it was made in Michigan."

You, "What? Who cares? I want The Car."

Julie Weathers said...


You, "What? Who cares? I want The Car."--

Ha! Well, I probably would. I seek out things made in America. I'm pedestrian about things like that.

John Davis Frain said...

Okay, I read The Jungle, I get the bit about the hot dog ingredients. When is someone gonna break down the trick for three card monte. I wanna make a few bucks at the train station for lunch.

I'm considering that on topic, by the way. Because Nano, being a self-reported word count, is much closer to three card monte than it is to any delicious hot dog.

Ardenwolfe said...

Not to be an asshat myself, but . . . WILl? That's WILL, right?

Colin Smith said...

Ardenwolf: that's not being an a**hat, at least not the way you are noting typos. Janet appreciates this since her blog attracts a lot of eyeballs over time. She wants it to be as typo-free as possible, so she appreciates our help (courteously given, of course).

Along this line, Janet, intriques should be intrigues, should it not? :)

RachelErin said...

Ooohhh, a new word! intriques. It could be a portmantaeu of intriguing antiques. (which we call AN-ti-quays in my family. I have no idea why).

Or it could mean intricate little things, or be a fantasical kind of pet or fairy-type creature.

Stopping now. Back to work.

Unknown said...

Yes! Or political plots that are oh-so-dated in their structure and execution.

Colin Smith said...

OR "intriques" is a word Janet will use in the next writing contest just to see how good Steve Forti really is... ;)

Janice Grinyer said...

uh- yeah. You really don't want to know how.

"and then after we finished up a USFS contract I took time out for hunting season but then the old gelding's front foot abcessed out so I was writing inbetween fixing that up and the butchering and then there was the dead badger issue that was poached on our homestead and left on my fence, that I found when I went to get the mail that made my writing just stop because DEAD BADGER... *sigh*...but I got going again AND then..."

Lennon Faris said...

Congrats, OP! That is quite a feat and super exciting. I'm in the same point of the process and can relate to wanting to shout it out (well I guess I did virtually yesterday). I had thought this post's answer would be a straight out 'no', though. Janet's answer was more interesting than that.

Happy writing!

RosannaM said...

Did my one and only NaNo last year and I discovered that I can write fast if need be. But in order to get to THE END, I skipped thru a bunch of stuff in the middle. I got the 50K words, but was left with a hot mess that I have yet to tackle. So for me the challenge is not beneficial.

I rewrite a lot sentence by sentence, so tend to have low daily word counts. This works better for me. I can get hung up for hours just thinking of the name of a Diner or a Town. If I absolutely can't get it right I will name it something dumb and go on, but it drives me a little crazy until I get it right.

When querying, I will not say I got the idea when I was in the bathtub (although that happens) or after a few glasses of wine (although that happens too, but not at the moment because I'm in the middle of another personal challenge-The Bone Broth Diet). I will just write the best query that teases the story.

Colin Smith said...

Totally off-topic question, but a good question for the group, and potentially a blog article for Janet

As well as picking at my novel, I'm writing and submitting short stories. I have written some (and I'm working on more), and I've submitted a couple to various places. What I'd like from y'all (Janet included) are some ideas of good places to submit, preferably ones that pay. :) I've searched Google, and got some ideas there. But I'm interested to know of places y'all have had good experience with. Please note category/genre specialties.

Janet: Are there short story publishers you tend to favor, or that your clients have had good experience using?

Thanks! :)

Colin Smith said...

Janet: Another angle on my question that I think would be of interest to the Reiders: Which short story publications in particular catch your eye if you see them referenced in a query? (e.g., you have said before that having a story published in either AHMM or EQMM is a definite plus and should be mentioned in a query.)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I would like to echo Colin's question. I too have a slew of stories I wish to submit. Thanks to the group in advance.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Is it just an Internet Legend that people submit their hot-off-the-presses NaNoWriMo project in December of the same year? I'd like to believe it hasn't really happened, or at least not in quantity.

It's interesting, to me anyway, when I find out if a published novel started as a NaNoWriMo project. It's also interesting to people at the library, when they ask me about my writing workshop or the NaNoWriMo shirts I'm wearing.

Colin I only submit to paying markets, and most often, they're also scifi-fantasy-horror markets. Ones I like reading and collecting rejections from are Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Apex, Nightmare, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, The Sockdolager. Daily Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Fireside, Asimov's, Analog, and Kaleidotrope. Electric Literature's Recommended Reading is another one I like reading, and is a more "literary" market.

I use The Submission Grinder to check out markets and keep track of my submissions. They also let you filter out places that charge a submission fee (like Ploughshares and Glimmertrain, two more literary magazines that do pay, but also charge).

Donnaeve said...


I'm definitely sensitive to that, and feel the same way - it was the quickest thing I could think of...

In hindsight, I could have said telling an agent that your MS was a NaNoWriMo endeavor is akin to stating your masterpiece painting which now has the eye of a fancy art gallery, was done in one night while in a hot drunken state of fervor, and all you did was paint your body and roll it across the canvas.



Ardenwolfe said...

Hah! Intriques. Missed that one, but I like it.

John Davis Frain said...

The Submission Grinder newsletter (is it monthly? Sure seems like it comes out more often, maybe bi-weekly) lists markets under categories such as "New" and "Temporarily Closing" and other categories. They feature genres including mystery, suspense, sci-fi, horror and others.

Short stories may be significantly shorter than novels, but the waiting isn't much different. I've had a story at AHMM since March 9. Just write another one, so you're ready to submit when they ask to print the first one.

Good luck!

Joseph S. said...
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Joseph S. said...

I second RachelErin's comment:

"Editing is the fastest, easiest part of my day job, and the hardest, most painful part of my fiction. If I could edit my fiction with the confidence I edit my non-fiction... Le sigh."

Julie Weathers said...

And my baby boy is in NY tonight. Couldn't find a Starbucks so he's drinking beer. That's about the same isn't it?

The bulls are back in town.

Megan V said...

RosannaM— you and I have the same writing style :) It can be frustrating to have a low word count by comparison to all these amazing writer speed demons, but then, you have to figure that writers should use the method that works for them.

Joseph S. said...


Here's rooting for your tough youngest son.

Craig F said...

Cool, a Tofurky.

OP, may the sacrifice of the feeling in your Felix Fingers not dissuade you being a writer. I must admit that Nano whatever has somehow bypassed me. Did you actually win something or just the feeling of you fingers?

If you won a national prize I might include it. Otherwise my 250 words are precious to me.

I am sorry that I am out of sorts tonight.

Way off topic:

So, you are an FBI agent and someone walks into you office. That person says they are hearing voices. He thinks the CIA is forcing him to join ISIS. You Baker Act him for 72 hours. Then he climbs on a plane. gets into an altercation on it and land in Ft. Lauderdale.

Shouldn't you, as an FBI agent, check to see if he has guns with him? Some days I agree with Der Trump that our intelligence service isn't very freaking intelligent.

Just because I am 60 doesn't mean I need to lose friends all of the time.

roadkills-r-us said...

A current _Writers Market_ is a good place to find which magazines pay for short stories.

Polishing up more of my short stories and submitting them is high on the list this year.

I wrote the first draft of my first novel[1] in a month, but that's because it was ready to pop out. It was not in November. At. All.

[1] Not counting the one I wrote entirely in my head over the course of a year, and have not been able to get onto paper. At. All.

Colin Smith said...

Thanks everyone for the short story submission suggestions. Jennifer especially for the Submission Grinder tip. That site looks awesome, and could be very helpful.

I'd still like to know which mags catch the agent's eye... Janet? :)