So You Think You Can NaNo

NaNoWriMo logoGood morning. And happy NaNoWriMo. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to get out a 50,000-word novel in one month. As of when this posts, we will be eight hours into NaNoWriMo 2018.

So, TS, are you banging out the next Compact Universe novella this month?


I need to get back into the 1000-word days if I hope to get production up to impressive numbers again. But I did do NaNoWriMo once, in 2006. It began when I originally got an agent for my Nick Kepler detective series that I wrote as Jim Winter. I offered to give the publisher a road caper in lieu of Northcoast Shakedown, to date my only traditionally published novel. The agent told me they couldn’t take Northcoast because I’d already contracted it. So I put it aside for a while.

In 2006, my publisher had gone out of business. I needed something to get me back in the game. At Bouchercon in Madison that year, I approached Charles Ardai, the founder of Hardcase Crime and producer of the SyFy series Haven. I said, “I have an idea, and I want you to talk me out of it.” I told him about how two guys delivering a classic Cadillac to Florida discover they have a stolen holy relic in the trunk. Charles, instead of saying, “We’re booked through next year,” said “I want to see it when it’s ready.”

Well, there went my November.

So I took a rather well detailed outline and began writing on November first of that year. I also took a week-long vacation to Ohio’s Hocking Hills at a place called Ravenwood Castle. I ended up finishing on November 13.

That’s right. I wrote a 55,000-word novel in 13 days called Road Rules. I did a second draft to get it up over 60,000 words. My former editor and another beta reader immediately flagged the new scenes as unworkable. The final draft was a cleaner version of the first draft. I sent it to Hardcase and, while they didn’t take it, Charles Ardai sent me a detailed letter. He did like it and told me so again at a later Bouchercon. I got a new agent and the book came within a couple of sniffs of making it at a major press. But no cigar.

Still, it was a great experience. Would I do it again?

Not really. But I think every serious writer should do it at least once.