The NaNo Experience:
Getting That Romance Novel Written

©Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved


November will bring with it National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, or NaNo to those of us in the know. J  



Instituted in 1999, the goal of “NaNo” is to write a 175 page (50,000 word) novel by midnight Nov.30. This is “seat of the pants” writing, favouring quantity over quality. You register at their site, where you can also find forums for support. Once registered you can set up your own page where you can post about your progress.


The beauty of NaNo is in the accountability. Once you register (and it’s free, by the way), you are compelled to check in daily, or every few days, and report on your progress. You can see other writers’ progress, sign up to get emailed encouraging messages, drop in the forums to rant or cry or ask questions or just rub elbows with other obsessed writers. You can even arrange to meet up with other writers in your area. And if you reach your goal, you get a neat little virtual certificate that you can post front and centre on your author web page.


I participated in NaNo in ’06, ’07. and ’08. I totally failed to finish in ’06, but the book was awful anyway and will never see the light of day. I ’07, I finished but was unhappy with the manuscript and set it aside. In ’08, I reached just over 30,000 before the end of the month, so didn’t win but had a pretty good start to a romance novel.


This summer, I took out the ’08 manuscript and finished it. I handed it over to my beta reader, and while she was reading it, I dug out my ’07 manuscript—and was surprised to discover it was not as bad as I had thought. In fact, it was pretty darn good. So I got to work on a second draft.


My beta reader returned the first novel with her suggestions, so while I worked on that second draft, I handed her the second draft of the ’07 book. I was getting excited now at the prospect of finishing and submitting two books before the fall.


By the end of August, I was ready to submit the ’08 book. I chose Awe-Struck Publishing (now an imprint of Mundania Press), and was offered a contract. It will be released in April of 2010. In mid-September I submitted my ’07 romance to Draumr Publishing and am waiting on whether or not they wish to read the full manuscript.

Without the discipline of writing for NaNo, I may have never written either of these books. And because of my summer success, I am writing a sequel to my ’08 book for NaNo ’09.


By NaNo rules, you are allowed to have an outline from which to work, but you are not allowed to jump in with a work already in progress. I found the outline very useful as it kept me on track and saved me time. I could sit down each day with my direction already laid out. Mid-point in my writing, my story veered from the outline, so it’s important to remain flexible.

NaNo has become an international phenomenon. Many winning novels have been written through NaNoWriMo. Their stats are as follows:

1999: 21 participants and six winners
2000: 140 participants and 29 winners
2001: 5,000 participants and more than 700 winners
2002: 13,500 participants and around 2,100 winners
2003: 25,500 participants and about 3,500 winners
2004: 42,000 participants and just shy of 6,000 winners
2005: 59,000 participants and 9,769 winners
2006: 79,000 participants and 13,000 winners
2007: 101,510 participants and 15,333 winners
2008: 119,301participants and 21,683 winners

And several authors have gone on to have their NaNo books published, me among them now. A list of these published works can be found at the NaNo site. While there, consider signing up for NanoWriMo ’09. You’ll be happy you did.


For more information on this subject consider reading:


Writing by the Seat of your Pants by Judy Bagshaw


Outline your Novel in Thirty Minutes by Alicia Rasley 


Develop a Kick-Ass Plot by Lynette Rees 



About the Author:  Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include several novels, a collection of short stories, and short stories in multiple anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website



Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell