I just finished my NaNoWriMo goal and hit 50,000 words. When I say just, I mean I literally did that like ten minutes ago. [edit – this blog post was initially written on 11/30, though I am editing it now on 12/3]
I’d like to celebrate, and also explore some of the ups and downs of this victory, some stuff I learned along the way.
First, here’s my graph! The line is the daily average increase – so if you do 1,667 words per day, you follow the line. The bars are my wordcount per day. As you can see, I started out fairly steady, sometimes poking above the line, sometimes landing on it, and then it started to slip around the middle. By the 20s it was slipping a lot, then it flattened out, and then for the last five days I’ve been pulling the sharp increase (steadily) of about 3,000 words a day.
Did you hit 50,000 words?
Yes! Just barely. I think my final count was 50,019 or something. I literally just stopped as soon as I had it.
Is the shitty first draft (so far, at least), shitty?
Oh yes. It’s the shittiest! Seriously, I found myself making changes in the middle of scenes. Like I would decide that it was afternoon instead of night, or that I wanted my narrator to be someone else for this scene right in the middle of writing it, and I did (this was hard for me) not go back and fix the first part. So it’s the most horribly incoherent inconsistent piece of junk imaginable. You can’t read it, because it will actually not make sense.
But if I had gone back and changed it, I would not have gone forward apace. So I sacrificed every bit of quality in the name of getting words down.
Is that really okay?
I don’t know. It felt strange. But I’ve never written this much of a novel before, ever, despite having ideas for years and years. So it’s something.
Is the novel’s first draft finished?
No, perhaps not even close. But it is doing some stuff I never would have thought of if I hadn’t started trying to write it. Stuff happens in the writing that you didn’t necessarily plan (as I learned in writing fanfiction), and that can lead to stuff you wouldn’t have thought up if you hadn’t started, or at least that’s how it works for me.
How did you do this?
Okay to be honest, I cheated a little. I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for years, and yes I have been against it for a variety of reasons, but a lot of those reasons were related to the fact that I couldn’t think I could do it those years. This year, I felt like I could. I am not working nearly as many hours as I was before, so finding and making time to write, while it did take effort, was not nearly as hard as it would have been when I was a full time teacher. To be fair, though, this kind of thing is part of why I quit that job. I wanted to be a person again, and part of being a person in my case, part of being me, is trying stuff like this, trying to be a writer. So being in a job where this was impossible meant that life was not sustainable.
Outside of that, I just put in the time. Sometimes my foreknowledge of a scene and my fairly fast typing made 800 words happen in 15 minutes (this actually happened). Other days I took 40 minutes just to do 200 words.
I typed as much as I could at 750words.com (I couldn’t do that when I was apart from the internet, but otherwise I typed there), which tracks a lot of stuff for you. I’ll be interested to review it more in the future, but I do know that I wrote better in the morning, and I wrote in chunks averaging about 35 minutes.
I needed concrete goals. Having a “hoped for” of 2,000+ and a “minimum” of 1,667 made me write about 1,670. Having a “hoped for” of 3,600 and a “minimum” of 3,000 (at the end) made me write 3,000. What I had to, I did. Going above that was much more rare. After reaching the “minimum” of the day I was free to do the other stuff I wanted or needed to do that day, like chores or whatever, but at that point the guilt and pressure were off.
I also did morning pages. Every day. It turned from something I struggled to do into a given, just by being a small amount next to the story writing I was expected to do each day. Three pages by hand in the notebook? Psh. Thousands of words on the screen was the new nemesis.
Did you write every day?
No. Two days I didn’t write at all. That made me feel kind of panicky because they came after two days where I wrote like 35 words or 200 words or something. So I was way behind and started to feel the pressure of failure from that.
Are you burned out by all this?
Not really. I do want a bit of a break, but not a full stop. A slowing, maybe. I will be glad to relax a bit on the pushing and pushing for words. I will also like the chance to settle down and make some decisions about adjustments and planning the rest of the story, though.
Do you feel like a writer now?
You know? I kinda do. This was the first time I put writing anywhere near the top of the to-do list. Typically, because I think of it as something I enjoy, I don’t allow it until after the less fun or harder stuff has happened. It comes after all the work and chores and other obligations. But this month it was in the top four things, every day. Right up there with “go to work” and “get the car emissions tested.”
I actually started making two lists, one of just four things – the four main things I had to do that day, some of them large in time commitment, others small (but large in emotional energy – like making the call to the insurance company [again]), and then a separate list of all the rest. Some of the things on “all the rest” didn’t get done, and that was suddenly somehow okay.
It felt super weird to put writing (which is not making me money) above doing things like picking up extra online lessons (which would make me money, albeit very little per hour). But I consistently did. So because of that, I do feel more like a writer than I have ever felt.
Okay, so, what next?
Well. I’d like to finish the draft. Shitty as it is, I think that’s the logical next step. I think I will need concrete goals, and I might even need accountability (someone watching/asking about my goal-meetness). I would also like to outline what has happened so far in the story in addition to what I believe is to come. I think this will help me in getting the draft going towards some kind of target.
Once the draft is finished, I’d like to lay out an outline of what I believe has happened in the story, and edit the outline to make sure the story seems tight. I want to zero in on which scenes will come from which narrator, and I want to go back through and revise (or rewrite) to that effect, adding in scenes if they are now needed and cutting stuff if it no longer fits. Rewriting parts if they are from the wrong POV.
Once that has happened is when I think I’ll need beta readers.
But hell if I know, I’ve never done this before! Finish the draft is my answer. Definitely, finish the draft.