Spoiler alert: I win.
If there is just one takeaway from this, it is that not only did I survive my first NaNoWriMo experience, I also passed that scary fifty thousand word threshold.
For anybody who has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, please allow me to get you caught up. ‘NaNoWriMo’ is the official (and fun) acronym for the National Novel Writing Month, which itself is a misnomer, as people don’t just partake in this within the USA, but the world over (including a little backwater we like to call ‘Australia’). The aim is to write a 50,000 word novel within thirty days. Breaking this down is a daily target of 1,667 words (and just 1,657 on the final day… they’re not asking for 50,010 words).
NaNoWriMo is something that I have considered participating in for a number of years, now. But at the end of the day, I shied away from it, absolutely convinced that I could not possibly write 50,000 words in the space of a month. If we were to take a look at October, for instance, which was a prolific month for me, I wrote around 19,000 words… less than half of the target. I am writing this on 10 December (though because of internet magic, you won’t see this until 13 December), where so far, I have written 6,867 words—all things being equal, that would have me at 21,288 words by the end of the month. And I can all but guarantee I won’t be making it that far.
But with an idea in mind for a story, and said story being one that I want to tell, I thought I would take a break from my main work in progress (Till Death Do Us Party, for those of you unaware), and give it a go.
And give it a go, I did. I still didn’t think I would (or could) make it anywhere near the 50,000 word target, but I thought it would serve as some motivation, get me something resembling a skeleton to build from. But over the course of the month, something happened: I wrote 52,593 words. I hardly smashed the target, but a win’s a win, and I’m taking it.
I started this challenge—as I tend to—with a massive start, consisting of zero words on the first day. This automatically set me behind, with 1,667 words to catch up on. When day 2 rolled around, I did my damndest to catch up, with 3,157 words. It wasn’t quite enough, but put things in reach, enabling me to close the gap on day 3, with 2003 words written.
Naturally, I fell behind again, but managed to reach the target on day 8. Which I somehow maintained, through ups and downs, until day, where I lost the lead. A mad scramble saw me not only crack the target, but push past the 50,000 words mark on day 29. Day 30 was icing on the cake.
After writing 52,593 words for NaNoWriMo, did I manage to finish my draft? No. Did I come close? Well… reasonably. At this current point in December, I have added 2,487 words to it (if I was writing it at this rate during November, then my NaNoWriMo total would be closer to 7.5 thousand words). At the time of writing, I think I have about seven chapters remaining, from a total of 25 chapters.
So, is the draft any good? No. That’s not me being humble; the draft is a steaming pile of crap. Pumping out more than 1,667 words a day is not going to result in anybody’s best work (at least when they also need to worry about work and their family). But that’s what the drafting process is for. When it comes time for editing, there will be massive overhauls.
But that’s okay, I was only looking for a skeleton. And I got most of one, and I’m working away on the rest (not literally now; I’m writing this instead).
And to me, this is the magic of the (inter)National Novel Writing Month. It pushes you, it drives you to write as much as you can over thirty short days. If you win it, great; if you lose, fine—regardless, you’ll have something to show for it, even if it is just part of a very, very rough draft. But that, my friend, is what editing is for. At least you will then have something to edit.