Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

NaNo Inspiration: Water For Elephants

During the month of November, which we all know is National Novel Writing Month, many folks will ask you why? Why are you doing this? What is the point? As the month progresses even your most ardent supporters may flounder as they grow lonely waiting for you to finish. You spouse may begin to think the laundry will never again be clean, and the clutter that will accumulate this month will start to take on a life of its own, and they will ask, why?

To write a novel, of course.

Your NaNo novel will be messy and in its infancy by December 1st. You will have plot holes large enough to drive a semi through and your character arcs may sag in the middle. On your first read through you will find entire paragraphs that were written in the wee small hours when you were running on fumes from your 15th cup of coffee and you will wonder what the heck you were babbling on about. It will be bad.

But, have faith! Many have gone on to publish their NaNo efforts to great success!


Sara Gruen LOST NaNoWriMo with this novel! Her NaNo attempt came up about 10,000 words short, but she continued working on it and now is a best selling author! Water for Elephants was published in 2006 and is now a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson!

Sara Greun has published two novels that were born during NaNo- Water for Elephants and Ape House (2010). She didn’t finish the 50,000 words either time but found the challenge to be just what she needed to get the writing done. Even if you don’t finish, it gives you something to work on. As Ms. Greun said in an interview here, “The wonderful thing about NaNoWriMo is that it gives you something to edit. Because the only thing you can’t edit is a blank page.”

A few years ago Ms. Gruen wrote a NaNo pep talk in 2007 when she herself was falling woefully behind in her word count. Her advice – write the fun parts.

In the wee hours of last night, when I was trying to figure out how I could possibly give advice to people about their word counts when mine is so abysmal, I realized my problem. I’ve been ignoring my own advice, and everyone else’s too. You know, the “no editing” rule, and the “it’s okay to write a really bad first draft” rule, and the “move around the story as much as you want” rule. I was dutifully handing that advice out to my nano’ing friends, but I wasn’t taking it myself and I was (and am) 5,640 words behind where I should be according to my little spreadsheet. But today, I am going to jump around and write only the fun bits! I’m going to write about food fights, and disastrous sex, and escaping in-laws, and apes with unlimited credit! I’m going to write about roach-infested motel rooms with strippers upstairs and ways of using Jefferson Starship’s “We Built This City” as revenge! (Sorry Grace, I love you, but…)

And whenever one of those scenes starts winding down, I am going to ditch it without so much as a sayonara and look for the NEXT fun scene. The transitions can wait.

What great advice! I always try to slog through the parts in order even when the writing is difficult. I figure if I save all the tedious bits til the end I will never manage to write the final 10,000 words. But I will be keeping this advice in mind this month. There is always a day when the writing comes hard. And it is good to know that even famously published professionals have those days, too.

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