At a few minutes before midnight I am declaring NaNoWriMo over, and I did not make it to 50,000 words.
In the middle of the month I had a bunch of work that needed to be done for money, and a particularly amazing weekend workshop led by the incomparable Jason McClain. So after getting to 19,478 words by day 10 I plateaued and and didn’t start racking the word count up for 13 days. On day 23 I’d gotten to 22,205 words, which means, well you can do the math yourself but that was almost two weeks of not much writing. But then I put together what I think was an admirable rally. In the last seven days I brought the total up to 42,515.
That means that for the month of November I averaged a little over 1,400 words per day, even counting the thirteen days when I didn’t get much done.
One thing significant to me is that even in those 13 days of little progress there were on five days when I made no progress at all. On all but five days in November I sat down and got at least a couple hundred words written. There were a couple of big pushes including the final 6,646 word day.
My NaNoWriMo page contains a bar graph that more clearly illustrates the progress.
The real open question is how much more I’ll need to write in order to finish this story. I never thought that a 50,000 word month would be any more than a good solid start, and I do feel pretty good about it. My 42,515 words is a solid start. It’s much more exposition-heavy than I intended, and I may need to rearrange some of the chapters to make the timeline fit right, but it’s stuff that I have committed to Scrivener. The material I have written hints at the scope of the story but I haven’t yet done much more than introduce my characters. They have had very little chance to develop and there are only two plot arcs that are at all well defined. So ask me again in another 42,000 words how much more I’ll need to have written before this story is done.
I’m not sold on the idea that daily or monthly word targets are a good way to structure writing, but I am certain that accepting this challenge kicked my ass, and I am certain that I’ll dive in to NaNoWriMo next year. Perhaps daily or monthly word targets aren’t useful in the larger picture, but it was a good exercise for November. I’m reminded of training for a race: the important thing is to get out on the road regularly and to put the miles behind. But sometimes one really ought to push for speed in addition to developing a slower, maintainable pace. That’s part of what makes the slower maintainable pace turn into a faster maintainable pace. The goal isn’t to become a better sprinter (at least not for most people) but to build the strength and speed to make the slow, maintainable pace not so slow.
There is something to be said for splitting a task into manageable fragments. One of the next things I’ll be doing on the novel will be returning to the structure and looking for sections I can focus on. I’m not planning on setting a monthly word count again until next November, but I might well set other kinds of goals, such as the completion of a section of a story, or perhaps the short story that is supposed to come between book 1 and book 2.
I need to do some of the aforementioned rearrangements but at some point I likely will post an excerpt of what I wrote during November.