Friday, October 10, 2008

And now for something completely different.

You can't judge a book by its cover, but you can make an educated guess. You can tell by looking at the cover of Going Too Far, my new novel coming from MTV Books in March, that it's a lot darker than my Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies. If you're only interested in reading my ro-coms, you're in luck--The Ex-Games will be published by Simon Pulse about a year from now. But I hope you'll follow me over to the dark side just for a visit. Every once in a while I like to shake up my writing by trying something new.

And that's why I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month during November. You can participate too by signing up at It's free--all you need is an e-mail address. If you're under 13, there's a children's division where you can set your own writing goals for the month. If you're an adult, you must pledge to write a 50,000-word novel in November. (To put this in perspective, Major Crush is about 55,000 words, and The Boys Next Door is about 62,000.) If you're between 13 and 17, you can choose whether to be a child or an adult (for once!).

Some people participating in NaNoWriMo have actually had their novels published. Recently I read a wonderful book called No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. I was surprised to find a testimonial by one of my favorite writers of adult romantic comedy, Lani Diane Rich. She says she wrote her first book during NaNoWriMo and sold it to a major publishing house! If I recall correctly, this is the same book that won the highest award for a romance novel, the Rita (which our own Niki Burnham has also won!), and Lani wrote the entire thing on Post-It notes. Hey, whatever works.

Most people writing a novel for the first time won't get it published. But they will gain the satisfaction of having written a novel. It's one thing to take creative writing classes and write short stories and poetry and talk about writing a lot. It's quite another thing to sit down and write this tome, and a lot of us will never do it unless we're given a little push. My push was taking a creative writing class in which we had to write part of a novel, and after the class was over, I just kept going. This could be your push.

For those of us who have written novels before, NaNoWriMo can be an opportunity to clear our minds of our usual plot patterns and write something completely different. This worked for my friend Christy Reece. She'd written novels before, but she hadn't gotten one published. Then she wrote a novel very quickly--not for NaNoWriMo but for an even shorter, two-week program--and was surprised to come up with an adult romantic suspense novel, a genre she hadn't considered writing before. That novel and its two sequels will be published by Ballantine next spring.

I hope you'll give NaNoWriMo it a try. If you finish a novel in November, (1) congratulations!!! and (2) please don't send it to Simon Pulse on December 1! Mike the Romantic Comedies Czar will come find me! Just because you can write a novel in a month does not mean that you can write a good novel in a month. NaNoWriMo works because you have to turn off your internal editor, the nagging voice telling you that your writing isn't good enough and you should just give up now--or that you should keep rewriting the first paragraph over and over until it is perfect and then move on to the second paragraph five years from now. You simply can't write a novel in a month with your internal editor on because you don't have time. You turn the editor off and let the words flow, and that's what allows you to finally get the novel out, or to free yourself from your usual rut. BUT, it's very important that when you've finished your novel, you turn your internal editor back ON and let her run rampant across your manuscript with her red pen and her fairy-dust of self-doubt. That's the only way to shape these 50,000 words into something worth showing to other people. And if you can survive writing a novel in a month, you can definitely survive your own internal editor.

Are you with me? Sign up and then feel free to add me as a writing buddy. My user name is "jenniferechols." My critique partners Catherine Chant and Victoria Dahl are also participating, so I look forward to a fun-filled month of moral support and, you know, taunting.

Tell us about your writing experience. Have you finished a novel? Do you want to? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Leave a comment here before October 17 and you're automatically registered to win a copy of No Plot? No Problem!


Christy Reece said...

Hey Jenn, I am going to sign up for NaNoWriMo! Need to finish a book that's been on my mind forever. Sending my internal editor to the dark side of Mars and going for it.

Thanks for the push and the plug. I need lots of both.

Can't wait to read Going Too Far!

Anonymous said...

Oh but Jenn, even when you go over to the dark side, you're still funny. So even though it's a darker story, your signature style still shines through. I still chuckle when I think about certain scenes in Going Too Far.

I encourage all fans of Jenn's work to check out the new book next year. :-)

And Jenn is a great buddy to have during NANO. She never quits.

C. (one of the aforementioned CPs)

Victoria Dahl said...

Going Too Far is AWESOME! You should all be madly jealous that I've read it.

NaNoWriMo and Jenn are my only hope for keeping up with my writing schedule. Hope the family isn't expecting Christmas this year!

Erin Downing said...

I joined!! I joined!! Maybe I'll try something a little different...a little darker...oooooooh.

Anonymous said...

This will be my second year doing NaNo. I'm actually writing my NaNo in the style of a Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy this year. I'm very excited. I've been planning it out for the past month, and I'm dying for November to come so I can begin writing. It's going to be a lot more fun having a plot, as opposed to last year when I didn't figure out what my main conflict was going to be until Nov. 15th.
[To any new NaNo'ers out there...I would not suggest following my example from last year!...even though I did reach 50k!]

Jennifer Echols said...

MJ, good luck this year! I'm definitely plotting my book about a week before NaNo starts. Some people (Christy) prefer to write without an outline at all, and some people (Vicki) are comfortable starting with a vague idea and making the rest up as they go along. But other people (me, Cathy) need clear direction or we'll write ourselves into a corner.

In other news...the NaNo founder says in his book that it's helpful if you have a hat to put on when you write. I think this is why the NaNo icon has a Viking helmet on it. Well, I have selected my hat.

Anonymous said...

My hat is an old WB network Baseball cap that has the Everwood logo on it.
I feel as if the main purpose of the hat is to keep my hair from distracting me, despite Chris Baty's assertion that his hat brings him to Elsewhere.

I tried the "Vague Idea" last year, and we just didn't see eye-to-eye. I'm hoping that by having Background and Various Plot Points, but not a Climax, I won't be stuck writing my last 9k on Nov. 30th this year.