From NaNoWriMo to Sold

Books GeekMom

I first heard about National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo in 2007, halfway through November.  This is where millions of people, all over the world, attempt to each write 50k in the month of November.  I attempted to join it, and was actually working on something that month, but I couldn’t figure out their word count do-hickey and wrote about half the words needed to “win.”

In 2008 I tried again, but writing 50k in one month, with a day job and a family, was hard.

In 2009 I wrote 30k of a YA Steampunk called INNOCENT DARKNESS in one of Candace Haven’s fast draft classes (70k in 2 weeks, yes, you read that right.)  After those 30k, I hit a stall in the story.  I had an outline, but the outline was contemporary.  Steampunking the story on the fly was hard, since I had to change a lot of the story, not to mention all the research and worldbuilding I had to do.  Also, at about 30k in, I still wasn’t sure it was working as Steampunk.  Then I went to a writing conference.  The two finished manuscripts I had to pitch had vampires in them–and people kept talking about how they didn’t want vampires, but did want Steampunk.  So, I pitched INNOCENT DARKNESS, letting them know it was still in-progress and got a good response.  That meant I needed to find a way around my road block, make the story work, and finish it.

I needed some motivation, so I decided to use INNOCENT DARKNESS (ID) as my NaNoWriMo book in 2009.

Yes, I know, technically, I’m a big fat NaNoWriMo cheater because I already had words written.

Because of NaNoWriMo I wrote 66k in 3 weeks (seriously.) That was *a lot* of writing, and the support I got from fellow NaNoWriMoers really helped.  I never would have been able to pound it out and force my way through my road blocks without the counters, support, and pep talks.  I wrote 8k on Thanksgiving, while surrounded by family, in an effort to finish my story.

The opportunities I pounded out ID for didn’t lead to my sale, but they lead to good feedback and after I’d taken a couple of months to edit and refine the story I started sending out queries in early 2010.  I was targeting agents, but on a lark I sent it to Flux since they were looking for Steampunk and took unagented manuscripts.  A few weeks later, I got an email, which led to a phone call from my now-editor, which led to my manuscript being taken to acquisition, which led to a 2-book deal, all in a couple of weeks in April of 2010.  At the same time I also sent a query to my now agent, which led to a full request.  She offered me representation a couple of hours after I got “the email” from  about Flux buying ID and the sequel.  I was in McDonalds when she called.  It was quite the adventurous few weeks.

I didn’t do NaNoWriMo in 2010.  However, this year I’m going to try to write my sequel – and do it right, not cheater style.  Considering a have a very different job with a much more demanding commute it should be interesting.  I don’t know if I’ll “win” (write 50k+) but I will certainly try.

My YA Steampunk Dark Fairytale INNOCENT DARKNESS, book 1 of The Aether Chronicles, releases from Flux 8-8-12.

So, will you NaNoWriMo?

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11 thoughts on “From NaNoWriMo to Sold

  1. This is so exciting! You may not have technically written the whole thing during NaNoWriMo but it was a huge part of getting it done. I have had students participate in the HS version. None have ever come close, but the kit they send is full of great stuff to help kids become better writers. Thanks for sharing your story. As a fellow Steampunk enthusiast and a YA fan, I will definitely have to pick up ID when it comes out. Continued success in your writing career and keep us updated this month!

    1. The NaNo young writers program is teriffic. I wish your students the best of luck! Let me know if they need an email pep-talk half-way through. I’m happy to help. My contact info is on my website. 🙂

  2. This was fun! I enjoyed reading your journey to publication!

    I tried doing this once, but I couldn’t what with working full time and I had final edits on a couple of books that had to be done pronto for my publisher, so that didn’t work at all for me! 🙂

    For me, I just have a weekly word count I need to reach, and hope to even do better than that. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I end up having other edits or like a blog tour coming up in December requiring 24 interviews and guest blogs I have to write now, and that’s the end of word count for the week!

  3. That is great news and interesting tale on how nano inspired you and now look at you! I’m so happy for you. I’m totally signing up for Nano. Three years ago I did it and wrote my first YA contemporary nitty gritty story, Off Leash which is up on Amazon now. So excited for the month of November – bring it on!

  4. I’m so glad you chose to share your story. I am an unpublished NaNo cheater (doing exactly as you did – moving forward on my WiP) and your tale is both inspiring and motivating! I wrote Steampunk for NaNo last year without having done any prep work or research. Every time I needed a gadget or scientific interaction, I wrote something like “insert a wacky weapon that does this.” As the novel when on, my descriptors got sillier and sillier. Almost a shame to replace them with the real thing. The very first night of NaNo, all excited, I wrote my first 2k words in a couple hours. Then my computer crashed for some unknown reason. Even though I had saved my work numerous times under several file names, I lost it all. I never did manage to catch back up after that fiasco but I did make it to around 40k.

  5. Congrats on your success and for using NaNo to work for you! I’m a published “cheater.” I never win, but use the resources and support to get a jump on my WIP.

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