Last year, November 2012, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I knew many writer friends who had entered it previously and loved it, and I wanted to try it for myself. At the least, I expected that writing in tandem with other writers would strengthen my will-power to work on my manuscript daily.
Yes, my manuscript. There are many ways to do NaNoWriMo, besides the traditional method of using it to write a complete first draft, although that’s probably the way to get the most out of the experience. However, I already had a complete manuscript – trouble was, it had been rejected by a number of agents and I knew it needed a complete re-write. Now, I’ve been collecting rejections for a decade, and I was at a low ebb, almost ready to give up. I knew I needed a push, so I entered NaNoWriMo as what they call a “rogue”, with the intent of getting that rewrite I’d been putting off done finally.
I didn’t. I’m not a fast writer. Life intrudes and I allow it to. But I had fun cheering on and encouraging other writers I connected with. When they were discouraged, all I had to say was, “Wow! Look how far ahead of me you are! Good going!” And they could see it was true, which made them feel better. Maybe it was their return encouragement, or the public embarrassment, but I did get a really good chunk of it re-written, which I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t entered NaNoWriMo. Enough to inspire and motivate me to complete it in December.
Early in the new year, I took that rewritten manuscript to a conference, and pitched it to a half-dozen agents. Several of them asked to read it, and one of them, Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency, loved it enough to sign me up. She now has it on offer, being read by several publishers. And just this past Saturday, October 19, it won first place in the Royal Palm Literary Awards, Historical Fiction, unpublished category.
Some people would say I did NaNoWriMo all wrong, and scoff because I didn’t even complete what I set out to do. I have no doubt you’d gain even more doing it the right way, and completing it. But what strikes me is that even if you do it wrong, and don’t finish as much as you hoped to, the fellowship and encouragement of other writers is so inspiring, it can lead you to success, as it did me. There’s room for turtles and hares in this race, and everyone who enters is closer to being a winner than if they hadn’t. I fully intend to enter again this year – as a turtle, of course.
Because I have another manuscript that needs to be re-written, and I’m determined to complete… well, at least the first half of it!
Jane Ann McLachlan
NaNoWriMo member – JAMcL (Stop by to say hello as you pass me!)
About Jane Ann McLachlan
Jane Ann McLachlan is a writer and a college professor in Ontario, Canada. She has written two textbooks on ethics published by Pearson/Prentice Hall: The Right Choice and Ethics In Action. Connections: Parables for Today, a collection of her award-winning short stories published by Pandora Press, just came out in September, 2013.