November 29, 2021

NaNoWriMo Success!

I've completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in November. As I posted last month, this was my return to NaNoWriMo after many years away, and my hope was to kickstart the drafting of a novel I was still very much figuring out. What I wrote this month didn't turn out to be so much a first draft as a lot of finding my way into the world, the characters, and the story. The demanding word count goal forced me to make progress much faster than usual, and while that speed produced some garbage, it also sparked some new, surprising ideas. So I consider the month a success at all levels.

To reach the 50,000 word goal (the length of a short novel) in 30 days requires writing an average of 1667 words each day. I started out the month keeping to about that pace. The first few days were slow while I tried to remember how to not worry so much about sentence quality, and as I stopped to think up names for every character who appeared. Then I eased into the NaNo groove and began writing faster and with more abandon. Some days meeting the word count was easy, others it was a slog, but I made myself get my words in every day.

About halfway through the month, I'd written every scene I'd imagined in advance and then some. I had the setup for a story, not much sense of where to go next, and many doubts about whether there even was anywhere to go. I'd already written some scenes and character explorations that fell outside the main storyline I was writing, so I decided I'd better do more of that, plus some writerly musings that I'd allow into my word count. Writing down my streams of thought about plot and character turned out to be an even faster way to generate words, and I realized I could probably reach 50k before Thanksgiving and be able to relax over the holiday long weekend. I ended Wednesday, November 24 with 50,108 words, recorded my win, and then happily put the story almost entirely out of my head.

Now I'm ready to start looking again at what I produced in the mad rush of November. About half the words I wrote are the first part (and a bit of the middle) of the novel this will eventually become, though much will change based on some new directions I worked out later. About 10k words are me posing questions to myself like "Where are the current characters headed, and what would improve their arcs?" and then brainstorming answers. The rest are experimental threads of trying out different character voices, backstories, and world details, and some of those turned out to be the most compelling stuff I wrote. In the final three days, I came up with two new characters who I'm excited to figure out more about. This mess of words is hardly a novel, but it's a lot of good material toward a novel, and I didn't have any of it a month ago.

I'll be letting these ideas percolate as the year winds down. I may start on some research and outlining, but most of that will come in the new year, when I intend to get back to work on this story in a major way. The NaNoWriMo site is set up for tracking word count goals at any time, and since I found the graphs there motivating, I may give myself another goal early in 2022.

I'm glad I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. The real goal of the event is the satisfaction of writing some words that wouldn't have been written otherwise. I've been happy to hear from many friends who also accomplished that success, regardless of whether they technically won. Congratulations to all of us!

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Elisa Shoenberger at Book Riot offers A Tiny History of Miniature Books: "I was over the moon when I found out that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a famous collector of miniature books, amassing 750 of them, some gifts from Eleanor Roosevelt.... He's not the only president to have engaged with little books. There was a miniature book for Theodore Roosevelt when he was campaigning, [book expert Anne] Bromer said. Many years later, President Gerald Ford worked with a printer in California, Bromer noted, to make two miniature books of his speeches, which he signed." (And don't miss the link to the 1832 miniature guide to birth control.)


Christopher Gronlund said...

That's a hefty word count, and to wrap up with days to spare is impressive! I always have something else going on when November rolls around, so I've never taken part. I know I could produce the word count on multiple projects, but I'm not sure I could hit 50K words in a month on one thing. So you get all my respect! (And I hope you're able to make sense of all you did and end up with something cool down the line from the mighty effort.)

Lisa Eckstein said...

Thanks, Christopher! It felt good to write a substantial amount for the first time in a while.

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