AutPress- Bookshelf

Mixing It Up: Strange Storytelling and Weird Works

Say the word “storytelling” and a few different images might come to your mind. You may think of relaxing on the couch with an absorbing book or picture a group of entranced listeners sitting around a fire and drinking in a chilling ghost story. With our rich creative history, we’ve developed multifarious tools to tell our tales. Whether it’s a single-author book or an anthology, mixing up genres can provide fresh perspectives on storytelling.

Moving Beyond Genres With Monsters

Ada Hoffman’s latest release Monsters in My Mind is a great example of how both short stories and poetry become useful narrative tools. As a mix of flash fiction, prose poems, microfiction, and other forms, it’s evident of the delicious weirdness of which the human imagination is capable. Just as our reality can be neat and structured while messy, strange, and frightening by turns, Hoffman’s book is a unique container into which she’s packed artifacts like parallel universes, fantasy quests, reimaged fairytales, almost-sentient AI, velociraptors, and even cephalopods. This anthology is eldritch in all the right places, spilling far past the borders of the expected and predictable.

Strange Tales in Multi-Author Anthologies

The mix of voices in a multi-author collection results in a fabulous blend of shifting sceneries, intersecting timelines, and fascinating folk. For proof of that, just look at Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber. Woven together by editors Dani Alexis Ryskamp and Sam Harvey, the collection features individuals all attempting to navigate the test chambers in which they’ve been placed. For some, the goal is mere survival while others seek to escape and subvert. Examples from the cast of characters in this anthology include an early hominid targeted by the cruel leader of her hunting party, an agent in an interdimensional police force, autistic transgender women navigating landscapes of social connection and desire, and a guy who talks to his wheelchair.

Add Our Wonderful Weird Books to Your Shelves

Whether it’s oral histories born before the advent of the written word, captivating novels, or lengthy posts on one’s social media pages, we naturally engage in narrative acts. Sometimes, our singular or collective experiences extend into realms that are wild, unusual, or fundamentally bizarre. At AutPress, we’re a huge fan of strange worlds, weird storytelling, and genre-blurring books. Be sure to pick up a copy of Monsters in My Mind, Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, Barking Sycamores: Year Two and other anthologies from the AutPress store.

 

A gold and black artwork featuring a headshot of a dark-skinned person, with a golden halo around their head.

Black Science Fiction Writers You Need to Read

(Featured image: “Constellation I” by Lina Iris Viktor)

by N.I. Nicholson

As my AutPress colleague Dani Alexis Ryskamp likes to say, it’s wise to read obsessively and read ALL THE THINGS. If your medium of choice is speculative fiction, you might have read Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Piers Anthony, Douglas Adams, or other oft-lauded sci-fi writers until you’re blue in the face. But if you haven’t read N.K. Jemisin, Octavia Butler, or other Black science fiction writers, you’re missing out on literature with a rich past and that’s crafting new visions of the future.

Roots in an Afrocentric Cultural Movement

Before we delve into Black sci-fi authors, you need a quick history lesson in Afrofuturism. Anthropologist Niama Safia Sandy summarizes its core ethos: “Time is this really fluid thing. Now is now, but the past is now and the future too.” Jazz musician Sun Ra is considered an early pioneer, and a quote from his 1974 film Space Is the Place aptly speaks to that ethos: “I come from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you from your ancestors.” Yet one of the earliest Black science fiction writers, Pauline Hopkins, has Sun Ra beat by about 50 years. Her 1902 novel, Of One Blood, documents the discovery of a clandestine, technologically advanced civilization in Ethiopia. (Wakanda, anyone?)

This movement spans multiple art forms, blending elements of science fiction and magical realism with African history to craft visions of the future. Award-winning musician and actress Janelle Monáe tells the story of Cindi Mayweather, an android fighting to save humanity and for android equality, through three concept albums: Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), The ArchAndroid, and The Electric Lady. N.K. Jemisin, Octavia Butler, and Samuel Delany are just some examples of Black science fiction writers. Joined by visual artists like Lina Iris Viktor (the awesome artist who created “Constellation I”, which is our featured image) and filmmakers such as Wanuri Kahiu, they forge ahead to create new legacies in Afrofuturism.

Magic, Social Inequality, and a Broken Earth

Nora K. Jemisin is the latest of many Black sci-fi authors using the central theme of a planet or society in crisis in their works. As Lauren Wheeler over at Black Nerd Problems mentioned, Jemisin is the first Black author to win a Hugo for Best Novel. The first book of her The Broken Earth series, The Fifth Season, was selected by TNT for development into a television show. Its saga occurs in a world with heavy social stratification, ravaged by periods of catastrophic climate change. She’s one of the Black science fiction writers continuing the tradition of painting vivid waking dreams in words, imbued with a sense of urgency while spilling over into prophecy.

Bustle has called her “the sci-fi writer every woman needs to be reading.” I’ll take that a step further and suggest that any speculative fiction writer needs to read Jemisin to see how to effectively craft a fictional realm that richly immerses and rewards your readers. World-building is a tricky business, but N.K. Jemisin is a contemporary example who balances storytelling with the intricacies of sci-fi or fantasy settings.

Apocalypse and the Lasting Truth of Change

Octavia Butler, a Hugo and Nebula award-winning author, is also one of Afrofuturism’s literary superstars. The late writer’s works include genre classics such as Kindred and the Earthseed novels series. Kindred presents the tale of a modern Black woman inexplicably sent back to a pre-Civil War past, becoming entangled in the stories of her ancestors. Meanwhile, the Earthseed books, published in the 1990s, are more examples of work by Black science fiction writers that foretell our modern political and social circumstances with eerie accuracy. The series’ first novel, Parable of the Sower, shows us a world in 2024 marred by global warming, resource shortages, and privatized schools. The second book shows the same Earth in 2032, now also beleaguered by slavery, rampant misogyny, and a contingent of violent supporters of a political candidate promising to “make America great again.”

Sound familiar?

Butler’s work is a textbook case in extrapolating future outcomes from current circumstances. She was a master at discerning trends in local, national, and world events and paying attention to social conditions. Remember when Niama Safia Sandy said that “Now is now, but the past is now and the future too”? There you go. Not only that, she both read and wrote prolifically, which further illustrates my point about reading to shape your own writing. Octavia Butler should be your starting point for learning not only elements of fiction craft but how to weave into your work the relevancy that will keep readers hooked.

They Didn’t Leave Poetry Out, Either

I’ve mostly discussed speculative fiction, but let’s not forget that writers are whole universes. Much of modern Black poetry is innately focused on storytelling, as evidenced by writers like Roger Bonair-Agard, Terrance Hayes, and Patricia Smith. Tim Seibles uses this medium to give a first-person perspective to Blade, the half-vampire daywalking hunter from the Marvel Comics universe, in his collection Fast Animal. Nerds of Color displays its opening poem, “Blade, the Daywalker,” and it’s a model for revealing character traits, motivations, and voice in poetry.

Speculative fiction themes can also be used to interlace and order poems as I’ve done in my next book, slated for release in 2019. You might have seen a glimpse from it if you’ve read the first Spoon Knife anthology. Wielding poetry as a storytelling device, Time Travel in a Closet features a multiracial transgender man forced to relive episodes from his traumatic past, thanks to involuntary acts of time travel. While his future self cannot interact with these events, he’s forced to answer a pivotal question: how will he use them to reconstruct his sense of self?

Black-Authored Sci-Fi Is THE Future

As I wrap up this discussion of what you can learn from Black sci-fi authors, I’ll leave you with a few things to consider:

  • Jemisin’s The Fifth Season won a Hugo award and was positively reviewed by The New York Times and NPR. It’s also a 512-page book with not one but two glossaries in the back.
  • Butler’s Kindred was adapted into a graphic novel, then released in January 2017. That’s nearly 40 years after its initial publication in 1979.
  • Nova, a 1968 novel by Black sci-fi legend Samuel Delany, was called “fresh and exciting” by com writer Jo Watson…in 2015.

Whether you’ve been brains-deep in crafting new chapters this year or you’re furiously banging out prose this NaNoWriMo, reading Black-authored science fiction is the smartest move you can make to develop your own craft.

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First-Time Writers: AutPress Wants You!

If you’re an emerging author, you know how challenging it can be to break into print. In a market flooded with both conventional and indie publishers, how can first-time writers even get noticed? Probably the most frustrating part of your endeavors is building a track record that convinces publishers to even open and look at, much less touch your work. This prospect can be even tougher if you’re transgender, neurodivergent, queer, disabled, a person of color or part of any group that’s typically marginalized by the mainstream. These challenges, plus the rich untapped potential of new perspectives and untold stories, is why Autonomous Press exists. At AutPress, we’re here to help new writers realize their goal of getting their best work into the world.

Emerging Writers in Our Anthologies

Both the Spoon Knife and Barking Sycamores series include work from first-time writers and other new voices. For instance, we were honored to include poetry by Marcel Price, a Michigan spoken word artist performing and writing as Fable the Poet, in our first Spoon Knife anthology released in 2016. Later that year, we released his chapbook Adrift in a Sea of M&Ms. It’s a collection that “shine[s] a light on anyone who has ever felt like an outsider,” as poet and critic Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib eloquently states. Price’s work is not only imbued with incredible structure and rhythm, but it’s a vehicle to bring issues of race and mental health to light.

Indeed, Price is one of many first-time writers in each anthology who also come from a huge range of lived experiences and backgrounds, including neurodivergent, queer, transgender, mad, disabled, racialized, and currently or formerly homeless individuals. Every volume of Spoon Knife and Barking Sycamores is also available as a digital anthology, so enjoying each exciting collection is as easy as purchasing it from the AutPress store.

More Books in Store From New Writers

We’ve got more titles in the works for early 2018, but we wanted to quickly mention one of our fall releases before we sign off. On deck we’ve got Nantais, a science fiction novel by emerging author Verity Reynolds that features an engaging web of mysteries demanding to be solved before a child, a starship, and an entire alien species are lost forever. Want to know more? Stay tuned to this blog, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep posted.

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The Poetry Revolution Is at AutPress

Poetry is a broad genre with the capacity to spark new thought, communicate a wide range of human experiences, and even light the torch to ignite revolutionary social change. Take one look at books like Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler or Pedro Pietri’s famous poem “Puerto Rican Obituary,” and you’ll understand what we mean. With AutPress’ focus on social justice and transformative books, we uplift voices often ignored by mainstream online publishers and publish works that threaten the status quo. From nationally touring spoken word artists to writers firmly rooted in hip-hop and science fiction, our catalog contains some groundbreaking poetry you won’t want to miss.

Fearless Narratives on Race and Mental Health

For people of color, particularly those of Black ancestry, discussions about mental health challenges can be difficult, nuanced, and complex. Kid Cudi’s admission about his battle with depression and media coverage of Kayne West’s struggles are perfect examples. Also, revelations about the long-term psychological effects of systematic racism make these issues more salient now than ever. At times like these, AutPress author Marcel Price’s chapbook Adrift in a Sea of M&Ms fits perfectly into the public discourse. Touring all over the country as Fable the Poet, Price courageously engages audiences with narratives on race and mental health issues in his. It’s a poetry collection that’s been called “brutally honest” by slam poetry luminary and cultural critic Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, and “insightful and accessible” by performance artist Dasan Ahanu.

Taste the Rhymes in The US Book

Thirsting for a book that blows science fiction, hip-hop, pop culture, neurodivergence, and communication wide open? Look no further than The US Book. Writing as Michael Scott Monje, Jr., Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon thrills readers with verse artfully contained by her execution of poetic craft while overflowing its containers into many realms: Battlestar Galactica, lyrics from hip-hop artist Nas, Star Trek, Doctor Who, art history, and more. Author Felicia Miyakawa recommends that you “read this rich prosody loudly (use of mouth parts optional)” and “taste the rhymes.”

AutPress Feeds Your Need for Poetry

 Don’t forget that we have several multi-author collections like the Spoon Knife Anthologies and Barking Sycamores: Year Two in the AutPress store, along with Ada Hoffman’s upcoming fiction and poetry collection Monsters in My Mind. Through exploring neurodivergence, pop culture, or challenging social issues, AutPress books delivers unforgettable, deeply satisfying literary experiences for readers seeking something different from the mainstream.

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Need Some Real Experts on Autism? Turn to AutPress

When search for reliable, trustworthy resources, they often discover that it’s easy to be inundated with tons of bad advice and flat-out prejudice. Fortunately, Autonomous Press is one of the top publishers online transforming the landscape when it comes to autism. Three of our bestselling books are perfect guides to help you better understand your autistic kids and provide an environment in which they can grow up happy and healthy.

Guides to Autism, Written by Autistics

Parents of autistic children turn to The Real Experts for practical and sage advice. As a collection of essays written by autistic adults, this book contains insight from individuals who in every way, shape and form are like the autistic kids growing up in this modern era. This book features insider wisdom and accounts from respected activists like Amy Sequenzia and Neurodivergent K and autistic parents such as Morénike Giwa Onaiwu and Nick Walker. In The Real Experts, you’ll read firsthand what helped these individuals thrive.

The ABCs of Autism Acceptance

Do you wish you had a 101-style introduction to issues that matter to your autistic child? The ABCs of Autism Acceptance is the ideal primer for parents of autistic children. Author Max Sparrow (writing as Sparrow Rose Jones) challenges the ways in which autism is conventionally viewed with essays on topics ranging literally from A to Z. From an insightful look at autistic culture to revealing typical barriers neurodivergent folk face in their daily lives, Sparrow offers analysis, detailed research, witnessing from the testimonies of other autistics and even anecdotes from his own life.

A Groundbreaking Book on Typed Communication

At AutPress, part of our innovative approach centers on neurodivergent people’s lived experiences. That’s been true since our founding in 2015 and began with our first round of titles, which included the groundbreaking Typed Words, Loud Voices. Parents of autistic children who type to talk will appreciate this book, which is the first and only anthology of its kind features essays from people using this method to communicate. Dispelling the common misconception that their words are not their own, these individuals disclose stunning inner worlds of thought frequently discredited by detractors of facilitated communication and so-called “autism” experts, and ignored by mainstream media.

As you might have already discovered, many of the self-proclaimed experts on the subject are not autistic themselves, yet rely on faulty information and flawed research. If you’ve been bombarded by frightening and harmful misinformation, you might feel confused and worried for your child’s future. Thankfully, AutPress is here to help with books like The Real Experts, The ABCs of Autism and Typed Words, Loud Voices. Visit our AutPress store today to bring these valuable resources into your library.

AutPress- For Writers

AutPress: Where Writers Get Paid for Their Work

If you’ve ever searched for mainstream or indie publishers that are also paying outlets for writers, you already know how difficult it can be to receive fair compensation for the labor and creative efforts you’ve put into crafting your fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, memoir, or nonfiction pieces. At Autonomous Press, we’re not only changing the game by the books that we offer to our readership, but also by what we offer to our authors. With a business model that’s drastically different than other publishing houses, we set ourselves apart from the rest of the industry.

How Is AutPress Different From the Rest?

 There’s one major difference between AutPress and other indie publishers that we’d like to call attention to straightaway: One of our central focuses is on compensating writers. It’s part of our total plan to revolutionize publishing, which also includes uplifting marginalized voices that are underrepresented in mainstream media. We want work that pushes boundaries and ventures outside conventional genre norms. In short, we’re looking for unique, untold stories that demand an audience, along with storytellers willing to craft them into self-contained universes and receive royalties for doing so.

How’s that for a fancy way to say, “Get paid for writing fiction”?

Speaking of Writing Fiction….

 Fiction’s not the only type of work we want from aspiring writers seeking indie publishers, but you’re going to see a lot of it released by AutPress in the coming months. On deck for our extravaganza of deliciously weird fiction this autumn we’ve got Verity Reynolds’ sci-fi novel Nantais that’s packed with a rogue computer virus, a search for a missing child and an interstellar plaque that could wipe out an entire alien species. Coming up we’ve also got Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, a science fiction novel by Dora Raymaker, and Monsters in My Mind, a mind-bending collection of fiction and poetry by Ada Hoffman. Keep an eye out for these titles in the AutPress store.

Come Join Our Revolution, Comrades

You’ve now seen three reasons why we’re unlike any other indie publishers in existence. We not only center the voices or marginalized people but we also pay them for their work. Moreover, we love material that’s engaging, innovative, weird and just plain fun to read. That’s a major departure from many media and publishing companies, and we’re glad to be a standout from the pack.

stack of blue hardcover books

4 Things You Can Do to Help Your Favorite Author Succeed

Following a favorite writer can be hard on a fan. Often, it’s years between books, and even when a writer is as prolific as possible, it can be hard to find people to connect with unless there’s already a broad base of fans. That means your favorite funky sci-fi series might just have to be enjoyed in solitude. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to connect your favorite authors to your social media following. There are also a couple of great ways you can help promote a writer’s work so that more people will see it. None of them take very long, and when fans get active about promoting the books they love, it provides opportunities and leads to others who are looking for their next great read.

Since publishing companies base their release schedules and their future book contract offers on the sales of individual books, promoting your favorite writer isn’t just a way to share the love. It’s also one of the best ways to make sure the author will be able to continue doing good work. Here are four things we encourage every Autonomous Press fan to do when they want to help encourage our authors.

1. Review the Book

You don’t need to be a professional writer to put together a review for your favorite book. In fact, you don’t have to write more than a sentence if you don’t want to. Doing something as simple as going to the Amazon page for a book you love and leaving a four or five star review with a statement like “This book changed my life and made me a fan of all this author’s work” is enough. See, the major bookselling sites like Amazon recommend books based on past readers, reviewer social networks, and the number of reviews it has received. Whenever you leave a review, it helps those numbers.

If you want to go a little farther, leaving three or four paragraphs will let you show people why they should love the book. Make sure you give a brief summary of the plot, compare it to one or two other similar works, and provide clear explanations for the things you like about the book. If you do that, then you will be able to sway readers who might be on the fence. You will also be able to get more traction out of your review, because on top of being great for Amazon, it will also be a great fit for book loving social networks like Goodreads.

If you blog at all, then you might want to consider posting a blog about the book. If you do, make sure you link to the writer’s page and to a place where people can buy the book. This does a few things:

  • It helps your review show up when people search for the writer or places to buy the book
  • It helps the writer find your review for their own promotional purposes
  • You provide the book wider traction on search sites by making sure it is mentioned on more websites

2. Suggest the Book to Other Reviewers

OK, so you might have a book blog or a Goodreads account, but chances are that unless you’re a journalist or an aspiring author yourself, you probably don’t have access to a large platform for your reviews. That’s OK, though. You can suggest books to reviewers with larger platforms than yourself, too. Sometimes they will post threads on their venues asking for suggestions, and that is your opportunity to get in there and make a suggestion. It can also be helpful to drop notes or link to your review in the comments of related books. For example, if you follow a reviewer and they cover something similar to your fave’s books, you can always drop a comment suggesting your favorite to people who also enjoyed that book.

3. Nominate Your Favorite to Your Book Clubs

The fastest way to get ten or twelve new fans of a book to talk to is to get that book picked up in your local book clubs. Whether you gather in a friend’s living room to exchange notes on favorites or your club is larger and more organized, it helps to make sure you can spread the word and it gives you the chance to really talk about what you loved in detail. If you have the reach and the support to turn this into a larger-scale reading event like a community read-along, then that’s even better.

4. Buy Copies as Gifts for Friends

Last but not least, if you have people in your life you want to share a book with, it’s important to put copies into their hands. This is most easily done by gifting out copies to anyone you want to encourage to read the book. It also helps you figure out what to get people when you have a gifting opportunity for people you don’t know that well. Nothing works better for a Secret Santa present than a great book, too.

When you go all-out to make sure people know about the books you love, it helps build community around them in ways that are important for both readers and authors. Make sure you are taking the time out to encourage writers by gifting your favorite books. You can also help people find new writers by giving them books that their favorite writers are in–for example, if you know someone who loves Michael Scott Monje Jr.’s Shaping Clay series, you might want to get them The Spoon Knife Anthology to help them explore similar writers, or even Spoon Knife 2, the anthology where “Michael” is revealed to be Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon, one of our founding partners.

Dear Sir or Madam, Will You Read My Book? How to Get Editors to Read (and Love) Your Manuscript

As experienced editors, the team at Autonomous Press is often amused by the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” Querying editors the way the song’s main character does is no way to get paid for writing fiction – and yet it happens every day.

Yet some of us also admit that in our early days as aspiring writers, we loved this song. So how did we get from first time writers to experienced authors and editors? Certainly not by following in the “Paperback Writer”’s footsteps! Here’s what the poor narrator gets wrong:

Dear sir or madam, will you read my book?

Already, the editor’s toes are curling. Always address your query to the editor by name. Ours are listed as “senior editor” under their respective imprints – that’s who you need to write to.

And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer….

Editors assume that writers who query us want to get paid for writing fiction. We want to get paid for publishing it! Pay for everyone!

But your (and our) desire to get paid isn’t enough – you (and we) also have to produce things people want to give us money for. Skip this line in favor of telling us why your book is engaging and important to publish right now.

It’s a dirty story of a dirty man, and his clinging wife doesn’t understand.

We try not to judge your manuscript too heavily on its description in the query. At that point, we’re only checking to see if what you describe is the kind of thing we publish. Hint: the Paperback Writer’s description is not.

If it’s not the kind of thing we publish, we’ll pass. Not because you haven’t written an outstanding book – you probably have! We’re just not the right place to help it shine like it deserves.

It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few. I’ll be writing more in a week or two. I could make it longer if you like the style, I can change it ‘round….

Where to start? This person certainly wants to get paid for writing fiction – they’re producing enough of it – but this is an editor’s nightmare.

  1. A thousand pages is far too long. Aim for closer to 150, double-spaced. Better yet, use word counts, not page counts – 60k to 70k is a solid length for a first novel.
  2. Writing more in a week or two? You mean you didn’t send us a completed manuscript? Pass.
  3. Offering to “change it ‘round” when you submit it indicates that you aren’t confident that you’ve written a cohesive, engaging story. And if you’re not confident, we’re not.

Overall, this Paperback Writer gets an A for enthusiasm, but an F for effort. Fortunately, you now know how to do better.

Books About Autism: What’s Out There?

Autism is one of the most talked-about subjects in recent years, and it’s one of the hottest topics for books, as well. Autistic writers are increasingly getting involved in publishing, resulting in books from a wide range of perspectives – including titles written by autistic people specifically for the parents of autistic children.

Like books on any topic, however, not all books on autism are created equally. When you read, it’s important to consider what type of book you’re reading, who its audience is, and what it’s trying to convince you.

Here are the most common types of books about autism:

  1. Personal Narratives

Also known as “I am autistic and I wrote about it,” these books may simply be sharing the author’s experiences, or they may be seeking to convey important information about autism and being autistic. The latter are often aimed at a more specific audience, including other autistic people, non-autistic professionals who work in the field, and parents of autistic children.

  1. Secondhand or “Viewer” Narratives

A fair number of parents and professionals, not themselves autistic, have written about autism and autistic people in their lives, as well. These range from books in which non-autistic parents write about their children to books in which professionals with decades of experience in the classroom or laboratory share their perspective. It’s wisest to weigh credentials against tone here: even the most decorated academic or researcher may write about the humans they “study” as if they’re lab rats, not people.

  1. Examinations

This category includes both heavy academic tomes on autism and creative works, like The US Book. While non-autistic parents of autistic children may pick up these books if they’re looking for deeper ways to understand their child’s perspective, these books are more frequently read by other researchers and professionals. Unlike first- or secondhand narrative-type works, their central argument and agenda is often much clearer.

Have you written a book in which autism or autistic perspectives play a key role? Keep these categories in mind as well. When you query publishers, you’ll want to specify how your book fits in to the books already out there – both how it’s similar to others and how it fills a role that no other book can currently fill.

Writing the Marathon: The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo

For many first time writers, November has a new name: NaNoWriMo, or “National Novel Writing Month.” Sometimes shortened just to NaNo, the goal is to write an entire novel in just one month. There’s a community and a wide range of advice, but as with any novel endeavor, the bulk of the work is done alone – just you and your writing tools of choice.

If you’ve been thinking about writing a novel, NaNo might sound intriguing – and the fact that several novels that started as NaNo projects went on to become bestsellers might sweeten the deal. Should you NaNo your way to author success?

Here are the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo, from the perspective of editors who read and publish a lot of work from first time writers.

Pros, or “NANO YES”

It gets you writing.

Every novel in existence was written in only one way: the writer(s) sat down and wrote it. Every word.

When you’re new to novel-writing, a structured system like NaNo can help you turn writing into a ritual and a habit. Because the word count demands are so high, you really have no choice but to write every day if your goal is to have a novel-length work in 30 days. If you’re having trouble holding yourself to that schedule, NaNo can help.

There’s no time for the inner critic.

The novels we publish through NeuroQueer Books run about 70,000 words. Divided by the 30 days in November, that’s 2,334 words a day – about 7-10 double-spaced typed pages.

That’s a lot of fiction in one day, especially for a first time writer. There’s no time to question whether it’s any good; you just need to get it done. If your inner critic is keeping you from writing a word, though, speed might be the answer to quieting it down.

Cons, or “NANO NO”

The community can derail you.

Every year, NaNo writers sign up online with every intention of finishing their project, only to get sidetracked by the community aspect of the event. Writing is hard. It’s much easier to join message boards to talk about how hard writing is. If socialization or the shiny new things of the Internet regularly get in your way as a writer, consider skipping NaNo – or doing it without formally signing up.

For the love of cheese, please edit.

No matter who you are or what you’ve written, any novel produced in spurts of 2,500 words a day is going to need editing before it can be published. You’re going to need to cut, rearrange, rewrite, add, and polish – and it’s going to take a lot longer than a month to get your manuscript ready to be seen. Please do not send the results to any publisher until you’re confident you’ve told a solid, engaging story. (Unfortunately, there’s no National Novel Editing Month!)

Is NaNo right for you? Try it and find out. It might be the tool you need to go from first time writer to debut published author.