Friday, 14 October 2011

The Makings of a NaNoRebel by James Tallett

(source: acegames)

I'm a NaNoRebel. Always have been, almost certainly always will be. To me, NaNo is nothing more than a way of making sure I get down 50,000 words in a single month. That's it. Get the writing down for the story I'm working on, whichever way I have to.

For those that don't know, a NaNoRebel is someone, generally, who is working on continuing an existing work. It's what I did last year, and it's what I was going to do this year, until real life got in the way and guaranteed I couldn't finish the 50,000 in a month. Buying a house and moving in have a strange tendency to take up a little time.

So, last year, I was sitting down to plan my first NaNo, sometime in September, and I'm jotting down my notes, building out the plot. It was only about a page long, maybe two, of chapter names and bullet points, and like all plots, I knew I'd wander away from it at points along the way. No big deal. And then I plotted out the three books that followed this one (Læccan Waters, the third of six Four Part Land stories).

Now I was done plotting, and I wasn't going to sit around for a month and write nothing because of a silly NaNo rule. Nor was I going to wander off-track and distract myself into another story. If I did that, I’d end up writing an entirely different novel all through the course of NaNo, since the last time I got distracted it turned out to be 100,000 words long. So, I started writing Læccan Waters, and kept it up all through October.

It meant I hit November 1st with 35,000 of story already written. Not a bad total for a month, given I was getting my Master's full time. The first week of NaNo, I did 20,000. Then 10,000 the second. And then I burned out horrendously for the next two weeks, writing sporadically and fitfully to slowly wander towards the 50,000 words written goal. In the end, it turned out I had to write 2,700 words on the last day of NaNo to make the goal, and hit 86,000 words.

Yes, there's an extra thousand in there because the NaNo word counter doesn't agree with either Open Office or MS Word, which is really rather annoying.

So, what were the lessons I took away from NaNo, and being a NaNoRebel? First, that I can write fairly quickly. These days, my average hourly output is around 2,200. It's a great number, but it comes tied down with other baggage. I fall out of the habit or the mood of writing quickly, and if I ever do something like NaNo, which involves concerted effort for a number of weeks straight, I burn out on week two or three. My brain just does not like the idea of writing that much in a single story. Probably why it took me six years to finish a single novel.

As for being a rebel? I highly recommend it. I hit November past the difficult opening part of the story, in the flow of writing these characters, and knowing where the story is going. As the first two weeks showed, I was really rocking it, and if I hadn't burnt out, I'd have ended somewhere north of 70,000 for the month. Not enough to finish the story, but enough to take a huge chunk out of it.

And because I've hit a few writing doldrums recently (too much editing to get two novels into the market), I was really looking forward to the kick in the pants NaNo would give.

And I'd have been a NaNoRebel on that same damn story.

James Tallett is the author of a series of fantasy novels set in The Four Part Land. The first of these, Tarranau, was  published by Deepwood Publishing in Summer 2011. He also created the Splintered Lands project, a shared world fantasy anthology. Quickly recruiting five different writers, over the course of several months James guided the birth of the Splintered Lands, a land full of kingdoms born anew, struggling to pull themselves out of a magical and natural apocalypse. Aside from writing, he can be found on ski slopes across the world. If you’re looking to stalk James on the web, you can try TwitterFacebookhis other Facebook, and Goodreads.


  1. Great post! You've convinced me that next year I should be a rebel. I find that I tend to burn out quickly as well. I'm hoping this year I can maintain a good, steady pace. Good luck this year!


  2. I definitely support using NaNoWriMo as you need it. The 'rules' are there for structure, but it's not a perfect configuration for everyone. I plan to use the traditional model, because it meets up nicely with my planned schedule for this year. Each person should take what they need, and use the community as a support to meet their goals!

    Thanks for the post!

  3. :D I don't usually burn out from writing too much! It's the rest of my life. Maybe that's why NaNo works so well for me. I'm a rebel against the rest of life during that month and let my muse loose!

  4. I tried to convince him to participate again this year. Maybe if we dragged our Headcheerleader and ganged up on him!!! :b

  5. I think that's a very reasonable and intelligent approach.

  6. I just find that my mind latches onto a single idea, and won't let go of it. Seems to be best to let it run where and when it will.

  7. The Four Part Land14 October 2011 at 15:02

    *chuckles* Well, you seem to have rather a lot of projects on the go at once, since you have two with me and maybe four on your own. Switching projects a lot does help with burnout, or at least it seems to.

  8. The Four Part Land14 October 2011 at 15:03

    Somehow, I am less than enthused about the prospect about of being ganged up on :P

  9. The Four Part Land14 October 2011 at 15:05

    If I had my choice of schedule, I'd finish and publish a book each year in the summer, take a short break to work on new projects, and start working on the new novel in Oct or so, for a nice run into NaNo. I just can never seem to hit the goals I want to.

  10. This being my first Nano, I hadn't even entertained the idea of being a rebel... but you're totally right - if you're raring to go before the 1st, then why not?

    I bet I'll still be preparing at 11:59pm on 31st October though haha. Great post!