For many writers, November is NaNoWriMo, which means a month of highly productive writing, often resulting in 50,000 words or more in 30 days, a rather remarkable feat. I wanted to take a moment to congratulate everyone who successfully completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, and also to everyone who attempted it, but didn’t complete it. Writing words is (for me, at least) the hardest part.
I did not participate in NaNoWriMo this year. As I have explained, I think NaNoWriMo is extremely useful in teaching people how to write every day. I have learned that trick, however. Today is my 498th consecutive day of writing. That said, I used NaNoWriMo to jump start the second draft of my novel, in the hopes of breaking through the struggles I’ve had with it. Overall, I think I was successful.
I wrote just under 25,000 words in November. That’s half of what is expected for NaNoWriMo, but it is up 10,000 words from October. It brings my 2014 word count to 280,000 words. Here is what November looked like for me:
I spent a total of 21 hours 45 minutes writing in November, and averaged about 45 minutes per day. I mention this stat to once again emphasize the fact that large blocks of time are not required to write every day. Here is what my day-to-day time spent writing looked like in November:
Finally, here is what my year-to-date looks like (month-to-month) compared to last year. (This year is blue and 2013 is red. Note that my data for 2013 begins in March.)
With 25,000 words under my belt in November, and with my goal to get the second draft of my novel jump-started, one might think that I’ve written about a quarter of the novel in the month. The truth is, I have written far less.
Of those 25,000 words, only about 4,500 will make it into the second draft of my novel. But they are a crucial 4,500 words because I have finally found an opening that I think works. Those 4,500 words make up that opening.
With the first draft of the novel, I didn’t care much about how the story opened. I was focused on getting the story down so that I knew what story I was trying to tell. My first drafts are often like this: me telling myself the story. The second draft is where I tell readers the story. With short stories, this has become easier for me. But with the novel, it was extremely difficult.
Indeed to get to an open that finally worked for me, I took 33 attempts–meaning that I essentially wrote 33 different openings for the story before I found one that works. I didn’t write all of these in November. At the start of the month, I was on my 24th attempt to find the right beginning. By the end of the month I was on my 33rd attempt. But I think the month was a success. Those 30 days of searching, of trying and retrying, finally got me to a point where I found what I was looking for. The last two days of writing has produced what I think is a good opening to the novel, and I think that things will progress more quickly from here.
I have 3 weeks of vacation coming up shortly, and I am hopeful that I will make a substantial amount of progress on the novel draft during that time. It’s hard to estimate exactly how far I will get, but I think I can be somewhere past the one-third mark (about 30,000 words) before the end of the year. I feel much better about the novel now that I’ve found the right opening.
One question is whether or not the 20,000 words or so that aren’t going into the novel are wasted. It’s a fair question. My answer is absolutely not. For me all writing is useful. At the very least, it is practice, and writing something, looking at it, and making a determination of whether or not it will work for professional publication is honing my storytelling skill. Those words also provide an evolution to the story, and are useful tool for me to look back on and see what worked and what didn’t.
I woke up this morning eager to get started on the novel, and a little frustrated that I will have to wait until this evening to do it. But I am looking forward to it, and I think I have a really good story to tell now. I think December will be a productive month.