Confession of a NaNoWriMo Cheat



All right. I admit. I cheated. I participated in National Novel Writing Month under false pretenses.

I didn’t do it on purpose. It just happened.

You see, NaNoWriMo is a useful publicity stunt. Writers get themselves all fired up to write 50,000 words in one month. They set goals, they get pep talks, they have Word Count Helpers, they get badges, and they find all sorts of ways to motivate themselves to write. It works for some writers, or NaNoWriMo wouldn’t be so popular.

But my mind doesn’t work that way. I write because I feel like it. If I don’t feel like writing, there is nothing in this world that will persuade me to write. Call it inspiration, call it art, call it a mania. If I were to be so silly as to make myself a goal of writing a certain amount of words in a certain time, the words would all be crap, and I’d have to throw them out anyway. Worse, I’d fall in love with them and leave them in, and my book would be worse because of it. But that’s just me.

In this instance, I had just pushed the “Publish” button on “Mountains of Mischief,” which is Book 3 of my “World of Change” series. I thus started on the next stage of publishing, which is the promotion of the new book (of which this post is a blatant part).

Now, I would be the first to admit that publicity isn’t my favourite part of the business. To get myself to do publicity, I set goals, I give myself pep talks, and if someone would give me a badge, I’d gratefully accept. I was looking for any excuse to do something useful that didn’t involve publicity. Now, there’s real motivation.

And stirring in the back of my head was the thought that I also had to start working on Book 4, about which I had absolutely no idea. So that worried me a bit.

Inspiration No. 1

And then, on October 27, I got an idea. The Canadian election was going on, and the New Democratic Party was about to lose a huge number of votes because of their stance on the wearing of the niqab, the total covering which certain devout Muslim women wear.

As it happened, I had an interesting experience involving meeting a pair of women in niqabs at the new Library of Alexandria in Egypt a couple of years ago, and I had a novel perspective on the practice.

So in my head, I began to create a society where the women were completely covered, but for an entirely different reason than everyone expects.

Inspiration No. 2

On a related topic. I often have trouble finding good cover images for my novels, because I know exactly what I want, and perfect pictures don’t grow on trees. So I had an inspiration. Why shouldn’t I go out and find the cover picture first, and then write the novel afterwards?

Away I went on Google Images, looking for pictures of the homes of desert tribesmen. And there were hundreds, and I was easily able to find one that was perfect.

Inspiration No. 3

And so, on October 28, I sat down and wrote the scene where the main character and her friends met the nomads. I had no idea where this scene would fit into the final book. I just started writing.

And then, because of what happened in that chapter, there were other events that were necessary. So I started writing some of those. I didn’t finish them. I just wrote the parts that came to me. And after five or six hours, I had written parts of five chapters. I have no idea how many words. Probably four or five thousand. I mean, who’s counting?

And for the rest of the month, whenever I sat down at the computer, instead of working on my publicity like I was supposed to. I would write another chapter. And another. I averaged two or three thousand words a day, but it didn’t really matter. I was enjoying myself.

By November 27 I had written 35 chapters: some finished, some not. It was time to put it all together. When I first start writing, I make each chapter a single document so I can shuffle them around as required. Now I made one document and Cut-and-Pasted all my chapters on it.

This was the first time I could find out how many words I had written. So I checked. 70,000. Shock and disbelief.

The Deception.

Now, a bunch of my writer friends had been posting on Facebook all month about their progress on NaNoWriMo, and commiserating and congratulating each other and all that stuff. I had been ignoring it, because, as I may have mentioned, it just didn’t appeal to me, it didn’t work for me, but different strokes for different folks, right?

But now I started paying attention. Here it was, just about the end of the month, and these people were getting all sorts of attention for their accomplishments. They were even getting badges, and the word “win” was being tossed around.

So, after a moral struggle for about five minutes, I went to the NaNoWriMo website and signed up. I averaged my total number of words, divided by the number of days, and faked up my logbook. When the end of the month rolled around, I uploaded my full novel, at 79,000 words, and got my prize, which is reproduced at the top of this post.

But now my conscience is bothering me. I feel I must apologize to those who signed up with NaNoWriMo honestly because it motivates their writing, and especially those who stuck to the deadline. To my credit, I did write a huge number of words last month. I exceeded the 50,000 word target easily. But my heart wasn’t in it, and there’s nothing I can do about that.

I leave it to the reader to judge.

And now I have achieved my other objective, at least for today. I have done some promotion for my books. “Mountain of Mischief” is available at Amazon right now for $2.99. Look for “Trouble with Tents” some time next summer.



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