Dogs Underground and NaNo

Titles are damn hard, and Dogs Underground is only the working title of my novel.

When I first heard about National Novel Writing Month (, I thought it was silly. It’s an nonline challenge where you have thirty days to write a 50.000 word long novel. I thought it wasn‘t for serious writers, and that those rushed novels couldn‘t be very good. But then November came around and I was feeling depressed and I said to myself, „Self, do something proactive! You want to be a writer, right? So write!“ So I plunged into NaNo a week late without anything resembling a plot or even idea, because I didn‘t want to ‚ruin‘ any of the serious projects I had swimming around my brain.

My theory was that once I had written a full length manuscript, no matter how shitty it was, I had proof that I can do it. Before that, I had only written short stories, and doubted if I could write something novel-length.

So I started with a deliberately silly premise – ‚My heroes‘ superpower is being able to see the colour purple!‘ and then tried to write a novel from there. I came up with this underground civilisation that’s been cut off from and completely unaware of ours. I figured out how their society works, how my protagonists got there and what they have to fight for, and I gave them a scheming, power-hungry antagonist.

By the end of the month, I had 50.315 words full of awesome characters and bits of great dialogue and neat scenery and world-building, and I was exstatic about my success. I had written a novel! Yay me! The Pulitzer awaits!

But when I looked back at my draft a few weeks later, I realised that the plot was weak and the structure essentially broken. What I did in that month of frenzy was what Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens call discovery writing: I figured out my world and characters and backstories and relationships and what’s awesome about them, but I didn‘t discriminate between what needed to be in the book and what was just stuff I need to know in order to write it. Not having anything resembling a structure didn‘t help.

So now I have to rewrite the whole thing. But I still think taking part in NaNo was the best decision I ever made for my writing, because I have never been this far with any other novel before. I mean, I have an actual rough draft, that’s pretty awesome. It’s something I can work with.

So, what are your NaNoWriMo experiences? Or if you hadn‘t heard of it before, what do you think? And how’s your writing going?

Here’s the podcast where Lani talks about discovery writing. Go listen to it, it’s a great podcast, funny and entertaining, brilliant and helpful.
If you know of any other good writing podcasts, let me know!