Is Nanowrimo a legitimate path to becoming a published novelist?

I’m not participating in Nanowrimo this year (I’m too deeply entrenched in revisions of Restless Spirits 2), but I’ve done it enough times to know that this is a week during which many of you who are participating might be tempted to call it quits. So I thought a word of encouragement might be in order.

There seem to be two types of writers who take part in Nano (not counting the established pros who continue to participate each year for a myriad of reasons–okay, so there are three types; but I’m concentrating on the first two): those who never expect to get published and are just doing it for the challenge of writing a novel inΒ  30 days, and those who dream of becoming a published novelist someday.

It’s this latter group to whom I’m mainly speaking. Now, among this group are those who plan to self-publish, and that’s great, provided you actually go through the work of editing and revising and polishing your manuscript and don’t just rush to throw your November word-vomit up on Kindle and Createspace as soon as humanly possible.

But there are also those who still dream of doing it the old-fashioned way: getting an agent, having a publisher actually think your work is good enough for them to take a chance on, etc. And if you’re in this group, you might be wondering if Nanowrimo is a legitimate pathway to this goal.

I want you to know that it definitely can be.

It’s possible that this novel you are working on right now won’t ever be published. It’s possible that it shouldn’t be. That it’s merely practice — part of the 10,000 hours you need to put in in order to actually become good at a thing.

But it’s also entirely possible that it will be. Maybe soon. Maybe someday. Probably, you’re not done with it at the end of November. It needs work. It needs to go through feedback and revision and more feedback and more revision and possibly even more of both of these things until it’s ready. It could be an overnight success or it could take years. But if it’s good — if you know, deep down in your gut, that this novel has potential, and people you trust to be honest with you read it and corroborate what your gut is telling you — it’s worth sticking with it.

Restless Spirits is my first traditionally published novel. I wrote it during Nanowrimo in 2008. I spent another year revising it before publishing it in blog form in 2009, and then revised it again before self-publishing it in 2011. After it was discovered and acquired by Vinspire last year, of course it went through even more revisions. So it was a long, long road that stretched out over eight years before that little Nano novel found it’s way to traditional publication.

And I’m not the only one with a story like that.

The week my book launched, I hosted a launch party on Facebook where I invited three other authors to take over for a short time to promote their own books. As each of those authors talked about how their books came to be, a theme quickly became evident: every traditionally-published book featured that night began its life during Nanowrimo. Similarly, every single one took a few years to go from Nano-draft to actual published book.

I realize that the “took a few years” part might sound discouraging, but the truth is, none of us would have been there that night with books to promote if we hadn’t participated in Nanowrimo and stuck it out to the finish.

Of course, who knows? Your book could be an overnight success. Realistically speaking, it probably won’t be; but stranger things have happened. But whether it is or whether it takes years to get there, one fact remains: finishing Nanowrimo–finishing the work you started this month–is the first step on the journey.

So push through that Week 4 slump, and don’t let Turkey Day or the Gilmore Girls revival derail you. You’ll be glad you did. Someday, you might be very glad indeed.

PS – Click here for more Nanowrimo success stories!

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3 thoughts on “Is Nanowrimo a legitimate path to becoming a published novelist?

  1. I used NaNo this year to kickstart a rather large project that I’m actually serious about. (The first that isn’t just ‘wooo writing is fun’.) I could technically have started the project at any time, but I was hoping the excitement of NaNo would make it easier to dive in, knowing the deeper I delved the less likely I’d be encouraged to ‘drop it’ after November. I may be missing my goal by a large chunk (darn it, life, getting in the way like you do) but I’ve done enough so far to feel like it was worth it. And I still have at least a little more time this month to devote. It may not be a traditional NaNo experience and I certainly have a long writing road ahead… but it has helped!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s excellent, Lissa! Of course, the important thing is *that* you finish, not *when* you finish. Even if you have to take a break and come back to it. I’ve found that once I get past a certain point on a project, I can pretty safely take a break if I need to, knowing I’ll pick it back up again when I’m ready. It sounds like you might have reached that point. Go you!

      Liked by 1 person

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