Writing on a Dare

In November, lots of fiction writers do a crazy thing – we write a novel in thirty days.  National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has gone from a small group of people in Oakland, California to an international extravaganza.  In the Racine/Kenosha area, we meet and cheer each other on throughout the month, many of us hitting our goal of 50,000 words.

I like to think of NaNo as a fast, fun-filled ride down a hill in a little red wagon.  My first foray into fiction writing was on a dare and with the promise of:  you don’t have to know what you’re doing – all you have to do is show up and write.  On December first, you will have a lovely first draft.

A really messy, what-do-I-do-now draft.

“Revise,” everyone says.  “How?” we ask.  And therein lays the problem.  Revision isn’t covered in the NaNo-manual.  Anything beyond spell-check and basic grammar is more than we were ever taught in school.  All of a sudden, fiction writing stops being fun.

After my first NaNo in 2007, I became a flag-waving proponent of the program.  Seven years ago, I became a volunteer liaison for the organization.  I have a lot of first draft novels.  My first book has been revised nine times and pulled out of the ashes more times than I can count.  Every new thing I learn, drives me back to these early drafts in an effort to make them better.

So, pull out your own manuscript.  Before we hack into it like a butcher’s apprentice, format it like you would for an agent:


  • 12 point font
  • 1” – 1.25” margins completely around
  • Double-spaced
  • Palatino, Bookman, Georgia, New Century or similar. (no Times New Roman)

Meet me back here next Wednesday and we’ll start looking at ways to polish our work.  Extra points if you can explain to me why agents and publishers dislike Times New Roman.  (it’s my favorite!)


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