#LWLPodcast NaNoWriMo, Day One

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For many writers, November means the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when they dedicate time and energy to achieve set writing goals. They hit their notebooks and keyboards to pump out as many words as possible.  In this episode, blogger Maryam Jawwad talks with Lyndell about her NaNoWriMo, her first day and the benefits and drawbacks.


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Layla: Today, I like to take a moment to talk about NaNoWriMo. Time to focus on writing is precious. Many authors find it challenging to get a chance to sit at their notebooks and keyboards to draft their stories. National Novel Writing Month offers a chance to do just that. During the month of November, writers participate in NaNoWriMo to concentrate on finishing a story. But is [it] really a fit for everyone?

Joining me today is Mariam Durant; writer and reviewer for the blog The Road Less Read. Assalamualaikum, Marianne.

Mariam: Wa alaikum salam.

Layla: Now, NaNoWriMo is new for you, right?

Mariam: Yes.

Layla: {indistinct 0:42}?

Mariam: First year.

Layla: Let everyone know what NaNoWriMo is. So, it’s National Novel Writing Month and it’s something… they have other ones, but it started off in November. So, every November this nonprofit organization hosts this month of novel writing.

And it’s a way to provide structure and community and encourage people to find their voices. So, you write during the month. You set a goal and you write during the month.

So, you go on their website, you complete a profile, you announce what your novel is and you start writing November 1st. And then on November 20th, if you completed your writing goal, you get to claim your prize, which I think is like a badge or something like that and bragging rights.

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Mariam: I didn’t know there was a prize involved.

Layla: Yeah. Well, that’s it. You get the say… Yeah. You can win. You didn’t even know there was a prize there. Okay. So, then why did you join NaNoWriMo if you didn’t know there was a prize involved?

Mariam: So, I joined because I noticed that I do better with deadlines. And I may do what… and I kind of promised myself that before the end of this year, I would at least have the first draft of a whole book done.

Layla: Okay.

Mariam: So, I’m like… I outlined a couple of things. I worked on a short story and I keep looking at other things and doing other things. And I’m like, “Okay, November. There’s a lot of people doing this in November. You’ve been saying you’re going to do this every year. Now, this year, get to it.”

Layla: When did you first register?

Mariam: I’ve registered in 2014.

Layla: So, you registered in 2004 and your first time doing it is 2019.

Mariam: Yeah.

Layla: Right? Okay. So, now you want to hear something funny?

Mariam: All right.

Layla: I registered [on] November 1st, 2015.

Mariam: Same boat.

Layla: And this is my first one. I joined a group too like this Muslim group of NaNoWriMo writers and I joined their group and everything like that. I didn’t write {indistinct 1:16}. I was in a middle grad school. I didn’t write anything. And I unjoined the group. I never unjoin NaNoWriMo.

And then the executive director at the editorial services where I am their lead content editor, Right Type Editorial Services, she said, “You keep on in there on NaNoWriMo but you’ve never participated in it.” Because she has kind of a love-hate relationship with it. And she said, “Why don’t you give it a try this year? You have a book that you want to put out. Why don’t you give it a try this year?”

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And I’m like, “I have my concerns. I think that there’s a lot of drawbacks to NaNoWriMo. And there are, I mean… I think the biggest… the reason why I felt like I did want to participate in NaNoWriMo is after I became an editor and I started getting NaNoWriMo manuscripts.

Mariam: Oh.

Layla: So, manuscripts of people that had did NaNoWriMo and thought they had a book.

Mariam: And I can tell from the look on your face that they most certainly did not.

Layla: I think that, you know, there are people… and this dynamic is on the website too. There are people who are plotters. So, they structure their plot and their characters and everything. And there are people we call panzers.

Mariam: Yeah.

Layla: So, they just write. And I think I get a bunch of panzers as opposed to plotters. And so, I think one of the biggest drawbacks to that is that you often don’t have a book because you didn’t structure a plot in the first place. And so, your plot points are all over the place and you don’t have anything grounded.

And so, that’s what I got a lot of time and I just had to tell them. I always knew was this like… “So, when did you finish his manuscript?” “You know, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo.” Then I started to hate it. I just was like, “{indistinct 5:07} NaNoWriMo. I can’t believe it. Because you don’t have a book. It’s a way of getting your butt to sit and to write. But that doesn’t mean that the end of it that you have a book or anything close to a book, you’ve got to go back.”

Now, I think if you structure your plot, if you have a plot structure, a three-point plot structure, a five-point plot structure, how it is you want to do it (I prefer three to five-point) then you do have you a manuscript. You’ll never have a book. You’ll have a manuscript because you still have to go through the rest of the process. You have to self-edit, revise. You have to go through the professional processes and stuff like that before you’re ready to actually publish something. But you at least have a manuscript.

Mariam: So, did these people not, like self-edit and go through it and stuff like that?

Layla: I think that the people that I got that did NaNoWriMo, I haven’t run across a manuscript yet where it was like they did NaNoWriMo and it was all good and it was cohesive.

But I think what happens is this, because I know that their authors whose books I’ve edited that did NaNoWriMo, but they didnt me their NaNoWriMo projects. So, they worked on it in NaNoWriMo, but then they finished it.

Mariam: Yeah.

Layla: Then there was the finished manuscript after that.

Mariam: Yeah.

Layla: I’m talking about authors who say, “I’m going to write 50 thousand words.” and they write the 50 thousand words. Yay! Which is great. And then they’re like, “Okay, here’s my manuscript.”

Mariam: But even with all of the research that I was doing on it, it seemed like NaNo themselves, like they encourage people to edit during December and January.

Layla: Yeah.

Mariam: So, I didn’t know that people just, “Okay, I’m done.”

Layla: I don’t think it’s the organization. I mean, the organization… I’ve been navigating the website for months now, and the organization has a lot of great information about novel, preparing your novel, announcing your novel, during the writing process, structuring your plot and everything. So, they have all that stuff and then advice afterward.

Mariam: Yeah.

Layla: I don’t think it’s the organization. I think that there are just some people…

Mariam: Individuals.

Layla: who kind of just think that, “I’m going to end up with a novel.” First of all, depending on what you put as your goal, you may not even be close to a novel, depending on your genre.

Like I set a goal of 50 thousand words; that’s the baseline for a novel. It’s around 50 thousand words. But depending on if you want to submit to a publisher. Publishers have guidelines. Some publishers will be like 75 thousand. So, you’ve written 50 thousand. So, you’re two-thirds the way there. You still 25 thousand. You have to think about that.

If you’re an indie publisher, you may have a little bit more wiggle room. You may not; you may decide, “Oh, I want to write something that is 80 thousand-90 thousand words”, but genre right now, is it really too friendly to that? Authors have said, “I can write 80 thousand words in a month.” I’m like, “That is not a book. There’s no way in the world have you written a fully-fleshed out book in…” Unless that’s all you do.

Unless that’s all you do. It would have to be you’re not doing anything else. You know, like the writer off in the cabin in the woods type of thing. But other than that, it’s like, “how are you even doing that? That’s like impossible.”

So, 50 thousand words, which is what I said, is like that’s the baseline for a novel. Then you have to go back. Like the website says, “You have to go back December-January to start doing that. Then you have to go through the whole editing process.

But my whole thing is like even at 50 thousand words. What did you set your at?

Mariam: Mine is 50 thousand as well.

Layla: The 50 thousand. So, that’s 1667 words a day.

Mariam: Yep.



Layla: Okay. How many words? Now, this is November 1st that we’re recording this. It’s the first day of NaNoWriMo and it is 4:53 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. And we’re both on the East Coast. Right?

Mariam: Mm-hmm.

Layla: So, it’s 4:52, your time, 4:53, my time. How many words have you written?

Mariam: I’ve actually written 1983, I think. Alhamdulilah.

Layla: Alhamdulilah.

Mariam: I was like, “I have to get something done.”

Layla: I have written 79.

Mariam: As you said, you’re busy.

Layla: I was busy all day today. I’m going to try and get the rest, the other 1600 out. But honestly, I’m pushing myself because my normal goal for a day of writing is 500 to a thousand.

And if the book is really flowing, I have done two thousand words and just stopped because that’s really like a chapter. I just really stop at a chapter. I don’t really do more than a chapter a day.

Mariam: And that’s exactly what I did, basically.

Layla: Was a chapter.

Mariam: Yeah.

Layla: So, I usually stop. But it’s just like I am pushing myself as a writer to write 1600 words a day, every day. I’ve had to send e-mails where I was just like, “No, I can’t do that. I can’t have that meeting. I can’t do that during the month of November. I’m not available for a lot of stuff because I still have to work, but I also want to work on my novel. I still have to homeschool my kids, but I also want to work on my novel.” So, now…

Mariam: You’re working and homeschooling?

Layla: Yeah, I work at home. Well, I work from home. So, I have to really eke out my time. So, now it’s just like…

Mariam: Stress for you.

Layla: Am I going to be able to do it every single day? Now, first of all, I don’t want the novel to be too long. I really want no more than 70 thousand words, if I can help it, for a novel. 75, absolute tops. But if I get around 70, I think I’ll be really happy with that number.

And it’s in my head and I have it plotted out and everything like that. So, I’ve done all the things I was supposed to do, for me as an author, so that I could turn around and start pumping out those words.

Do hear what’s going on behind me?

Mariam: Actually, I haven’t heard anything.

Layla: Oh, my kid’s been going on for the last five minutes.

Mariam: Oh, really?

Layla: Now, all of three grown people are home. That’s why. So, now they’re being loud and inconsiderate. And so, it’s just like, how am I going to do this? How am I going to do this in the podcast? How am I going to do this? And I have two articles due for two different publications. How am I going to do this? And I have the Black Muslim Reads.

Mariam: Yeah.

Layla: I have all of those things…

Mariam: And you’re still editing that as well, right?

Layla: Yeah. This is the stuff that I haven’t seen yet. This stuff that I haven’t seen yet.

So, it’s like, how am I going to do all of that? I may have to put that off and really crunch it in December; the Black Muslim Reads. So, I’m thinking NaNoWriMo will be November and Black Muslim Reads will be December.

Mariam: Yeah.

Layla: I started building buddies. Did you start building buddies yet?

Mariam: I did start building buddies.

Layla: How many buddies do you have?

Mariam: I think I have like five now.

Layla: Okay. I think I’ve got like 10 or something like that. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with the bodies.

Mariam: I have no idea what you’re supposed to do with the buddies. I don’t know any at all.

Layla: And I got an invitation to go to like a kickoff party where I live. And I’m like, “Nah, I can’t make that. Sorry.”

Mariam: I got one of those, too. It was supposed to be this week; Monday, I think.

Layla: Oh, yeah.

Mariam: And I wanted to go, but I wasn’t able to. But at the same time, I was like, “Do I know…”

Layla: Hell, no. Do I want to be in a room with a bunch of writers?

Mariam: Exactly. And then not only that, I just felt like I would be really awkward. I was like, “Do I want to be in this room with a whole bunch of people that I don’t know, just talk about NaNoWriMo.

Layla: I think that we’re all trying to get our stories out there. And that’s the important thing. And I think that’s one of the good things about NaNoWriMo.

I think that people really need to understand that it is a way of writing and getting a large amount of as much writing as you possibly can because it forces you to focus, if you participate in it. But that does not mean that you have a book.

Mariam: It doesn’t mean like that you’re done, that this is your finished product.

Layla: You’re not done. The end of NaNoWriMo is actually the beginning. Because that was one of the things I learned about… This is my fourth novel that I’m writing and I’ve written short stories and novellas and everything like that. And one of the things that I’ve learned about, no matter how long the work is, whether it is a short story novella, novelette, novel, finishing the manuscript is just the beginning.

To Decide to do NaNoWriMo is ultimately about taking the time and the space to write and try to achieve a goal. And the closer you get to that goal, the better. But if you don’t achieve that goal, you can look back at what you did achieve and see what you want to do from there.

So, it’s actually kind of a cool premise. Authors please, do not send me your NaNoWriMo projects. That’s what I have to say like right now.

Mariam: Disclaimer.

Layla: Disclaimer, you know. Go back. Put it away, then pull it out, revise it. Then put it away, then pull it out and do some editing of your own. Then send it to me after. Thank you so much, Mariam. It’s been a blast. And I’ll see you on NaNoWriMo.

Transcript completed by osuloye169.

Music: Maria by David Sonya Beats

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