This is the talk I gave in September at this year’s Nanowrimo Kick-Off Party in San Francisco.
I did Nanowrimo for the first time in 2003. I was a new mom of a two-month-old preemie. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t rub two brain cells together and make a spark. I crashed and burned before I wrote 20,000 words of a book I called The Dangerous Type.
I kept picking at the story and finally finished the book. I loved the characters so much that in 2012 I decided to use Nanowrimo to write a sequel. That was my 9th Nanowrimo. It was the first time I went in with nothing but the characters and a rough idea how I wanted them to change.
I wrote in the car before I picked up my kid from school. I wrote on a school bus while chaperoning a field trip. I wrote in the morning before everyone else was up and in bed before I turned off the light at night. By the end of the month, I’d finished Kill By Numbers, a brand-new 50,000-word novel draft.
In January 2014, I was talking to an editor I’d met through Borderlands Books. I mentioned that I’d written a space opera that I was really proud of — and had a Nanowrimo draft of a sequel. I thought he’d like the stories.
Jeremy said he’d take a look at The Dangerous Type. It look a little over a month for him to get back to me and ask to read the Nanowrimo draft of Kill By Numbers. I warned him that it was really rough: 30,000 words shorter than I wanted. Its bones were in place, but it needed a subplot.
A week later, much faster than I expected, Jeremy came back to ask if I thought I could write a third book. Sure, I said. “Good,” he answered. “I told my publisher they should offer you a three-book contract.”
So Nanowrimo made me a space opera author.
I got very few editorial notes on the first book, which I turned in October 2014. I came up with a brilliant subplot about a starship drive recall for book 2, and turned that in at the end of December. In January, I started writing the final book: No More Heroes. Between January and the first week of March 2015, I wrote 95,000 words, polished it and turned it in. That pace was only possible because of the discipline I’d learned doing Nanowrimo all those years.
It doesn’t matter if you “win” Nanowrimo or not. What matters is getting the words down. If life gets in your way and you only get 20,000 words written, that’s 20,000 words you didn’t have before. For me, that was enough to start a writing career.
You can do this.
For the fourth year in a row, I’ll be hosting Nanowrimo write-ins every Friday in November from 5 to 7 pm at the Borderlands Cafe, 870 Valencia Street in San Francisco. The write-ins are free to attend, but please support the cafe.
You don’t have to be registered for Nanowrimo to participate. Just come any time after 5 pm prepared to write.
See you tonight!