There are good reasons to blog the novel during #NaNoWriMo, and there are excellent reasons not to. It’s entirely up to you, but you need to consider a few things before you commit to a decision: Copyright, Commitment, and Willingness to Fail.
You won’t “lose copyright” to your work by posting it on your blog, but you will be giving up or sharing potentially profitable rights. This confuses a lot of novice writers, and it depends on what, if anything, you plan to do with your NaNoWriMo novel later. For a simple overview of copyright and the implications of posting online, see Copyright Essentials for Writers. It’s not a definitive guide to copyright, or all of its nuanced implications on the world wide web. Just the basics, as they apply to most of us.
But when it comes to submitting, publishing, and selling your work, you could be giving away valuable rights (not “copyright” per se) just by posting the work publicly, anywhere. Until the work is first published, its contents are a secret that readers will pay more to discover. “First rights” are more valuable, generally, than reprint rights. When you post, you generally agree to share, for free, the digital rights with whoever owns the platform that lets you publish your words to the web. Read the terms of service for your web hosting company. You may be surprised at what you’ve already given away for free.
But this is not (generally) a nefarious move on their part; they require those rights in order to do exactly what you’ve asked them to do – to publish your work on the Internet without the fear of you, or any publisher you may sell your story to, suing them for a copyright violation. In fact, if you try to sell your blogged novel to a traditional publisher and fail to disclose that it is “published” already, they could sue you for a copyright violation. You simply no longer have “first worldwide rights,” in whatever language you posted, to sell them, and attempting to do so would be fraudulent. That doesn’t mean you don’t still have copyright – it just means your book has been “previously published.”
There are also other rights that can be separately sold: reprint rights, syndication rights, movie rights, product rights, rights in translation, TV rights – the list is almost as long as your imagination and a buyer’s willingness to buy. For an unknown author, more typically, a publisher will offer to buy all rights for a one-time fee. Before you get too excited by such an offer, remember that Harry Potter was rejected numerous times before it was bought for a limited run of 500 copies by a very small, also relatively unknown, publisher in the UK. Had J.K. Rowling accepted an offer to buy “all rights,” that publisher might be worth billions, but she would still be living on public assistance.
I would argue that most of us are not going to write the next wildly successful, bestselling novel during NaNoWriMo, and live-blogging the thing can be a lot of fun. But then again, you might use November to begin the draft of an incredible literary work, if you’re willing to put in the effort to edit and polish it later.
Every time I’ve tried live-blogging NaNoWriMo, the novel has fizzled out after a few chapters. Will you leave your readers hanging in suspense? I have several who’ve committed to buy Eradicating Edna, if I ever finish it. I am seriously thinking of continuing last year’s romp, which I’m tentatively titling, The Bonny Anapest, this year:
All I can say about this is that you have to give yourself permission to quit without self-flagellation. To quit live-blogging the thing, or to quit writing it, altogether.
Before you start blogging your NaNoWriMo novel, you need to commit to the idea that it just isn’t life or death. If you get to 5,234 words and think, “This just isn’t fun at all, anymore,” and catch yourself snapping at loved ones because you’re torn between deadlines like dinner or 1,667 words, just stop. Breathe. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can possibly happen if I don’t write 50,000 words this month?” Is anybody going to die? (If you’re writing a murder mystery, your characters may be breathing a sigh of relief! If you’re writing an apocalyptic demon ninjas vs. nuclear zombies kind of novel, millions may live rather than die a horrible, slow, brain eating death!) Could you maybe push yourself – just a little – to write 25,987 words by November 30 instead of just quitting 5,234 words in? ProTip: fumbling sex scenes and long, rambling, dream sequences are great for increasing word count. So are drunken sing-a-longs, random ninjas, epic stream-of-consciousness description of moody settings – and never use a semicolon where a conjunction will do.
Now, can you laugh about this and do it in public?
Many have, and have survived to tell the tale. If you do it in public, you’re probably not half the laughingstock you think you are (you’re not trying hard enough!!); there are others doing it with you, and feeling better for knowing they’re in good company.
It’s similar to killing (or creatively torturing) the inner critic and shoving the perfectionist monster back in the closet: call a truce with yourself and your inner demons for a month. That may be the most important thing you’ll gain from participating in NaNoWriMo, if you can manage it. If you can’t manage it, it will kill you. Maybe not in November, but eventually it will.
You don’t have to win everything. Even a silly little badge that says you wrote a novel in a month. But you can’t win at life if you don’t get in the game, so whether it’s NaNoWriMo or some other thing that tempts and challenges and scares you a little, jump into the fray and try. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen? If the answer isn’t, “Someone could die,” then what have you got to lose?