Friday, October 14, 2011

Didn't You Know - All Professional Writers NaNoWriMo

Hello readers! I hope you had a great week! Last weekend, Sarah at Empty White Pages and I did another weekend writing challenge - Columbus Day edition, this time for 10k words. And we both did it! I was completely drained by Monday night, but I'm now 2/3 the way to my writing goal. I may actually hit that mark by Halloween, which a month ago I never would've thought possible. This was the second weekend writing challenge I completed in as many months, and something tells me it won't be the last.

But of course, the writing challenge that all writers are eagerly awaiting is NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Bloggers are already buzzing about the event, preparing their outlines, resting their hands. This year, I won't be participating since I'm knee deep in my current WIP, though I may crash some write-ins.

Many writers view NaNo as a fun exercise, a once-a-year excuse to write like a maniac. However, NaNo is more applicable to being a professional writer than they realize. Produced/published writers need to write fast. They must follow the golden rule of NaNo: always hit your deadline.

The best example of this are TV writers. They are constantly writing because they have X number of episodes that will air. It doesn't matter if they fall behind or get writer's block. Something HAS to air in that timeslot. You need to feed the beast. Last Sunday, I watched this special called South Park: 6 Days to Air. It went behind the scenes of making an episode of South Park. The staff had 6 days until their episode was set to air, and they had no idea what the show would be. It didn't matter. They had to meet that deadline. No excuses. So in 6 days, the writers brainstormed an idea, plotted it out, wrote the script, animated it, voiced it, revised, and combined it all together into a 30-minute episode.

Writers on sitcoms and dramas also must churn out scripts in a few weeks. When I worked in a writer's office for an hourlong drama years ago, the writers had fallen behind with their writing schedule. They'd hit plot roadblocks that took up more time solving than they anticipated. Could they push back the airdates of the episodes? NO. By the end, they were writing 60-page scripts in days. And you thought having a month to write wasn't enough time?

Screenwriters for movies have more time to write, but if studios are waiting for a draft, then they have to write. It's been said that John Hughes wrote Weird Science in two days and The Breakfast Club in three days. Joe Eszterhas wrote Basic Instinct in three days. Kevin Williamson churned out the script for Scream in less than a week. Lots of screenwriters have the luxury to take months or years to write their script, but they are usually not getting paid for it. They write their scripts on spec, and then hope to sell it, just like authors.

And just like authors, once somebody is paying you for your work, they will always impose deadlines. Publisher, movie studio, TV network. Publishers won't wait forever for revisions. As a first-time author, you want to impress them by meeting your deadline. Even for writers who self-publish, they have deadlines, too, set by their readers. Readers devour e-books rapidly, and they always want the next book now. Amanda Hocking famously sold a kajillion e-books in a year, but she put out nine in that span. If she had just written one, then taken a year to write her next novel, sales would have dropped.

So remember when it's November 28th, and you're only at 34,000 words, and you're thinking of throwing in the towel, keep on writing! Don't stop. Think of it as practice on your way to being a  published author. Anyone who pays you will always set a deadline, so get used to it.


  1. Some good points you've made here Phil. Writing with you has definitely shown me that I work much better with deadlines :-)

  2. Phil, I've joined the NaNoWriMo craze-o this year and am a little nervous. But after reading your post today, I think I can settle a bit. To think, Hughes got my fave old school move done in a matter of days (The Breakfast Club rules!!)

  3. I've been doing NaNo since 2003. Love it! I hope my son naps this year, so I can get some time to write.

  4. Way to lay it to me! Thanks for the kick in the pants. I better get writing!

  5. I work best under pressure buy NaNo is just to much for me. I don't think I could ever do that.

  6. A nice encouraging post, Phil! I may join the NaNo challenge as well. Why not?

  7. @Sarah - You are definitely my favorite writing buddy

    @Angela - I am in awe that Hughes wrote those classics in less time than it takes me to write 1 chapter. Good luck with Nano!

    @Christine - Wow! Since '03! You are a Nano expert!

    @ER - Like you say, Get Busy Writing!

    @Nancy - I'm confused...if you work under pressure, the Nano would be ideal

    @Julia - Welcome back! DO it do it do it