Between the end of Halloween and 12:01 a.m. Dec. 1, I wrote 49,969, not counting the several thousand I wrote for work or texting my friends. Those words went toward the first draft of a novel that honestly came out of nowhere.
In November, I challenged myself to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a worldwide program where writers put 50,000 words down on paper in 30 days. The word count comes from the minimum generally recognized by publishing houses for a novel.
While technically, at the first minute of December, I was 31 words short of that goal, I still consider this a win. Within the first five minutes of the new month, I was at 50,022 words. My brain considers days are: from when I go to sleep to when I go to sleep again, and by that measure, it was written in 30 days. One weekend, I somehow managed to write 11,000 words in three days. I have very little idea of how that happened. I didn’t update my word count for the first five days, but after that I managed to daily and I ended up with a 25-day writing streak.
Really, that’s the true goal of NaNoWriMo. The word count is how you “win,” but the overall goal is to just get in a cycle of writing on a regular basis and to just sit down and do it. I know for me, I get so caught up in knowing what I’m writing, that I never feel like I’m ready to just sit down and write it. Is it healthy to write every day? No, probably not, but over the course of November, I didn’t really feel like I was sitting down and forcing myself to write.
I’ve written over 25,000 words for one piece twice before. With both, I spent weeks to months planning what I would write before doing it. During last year’s NaNoWriMo, I had everything outlined to where I knew exactly what would happen in each chapter. I thought it would keep me from needing to overly edit the draft to make sure the story was cohesive. However, the draft never got finished. I reached my climax and decided that I was tired of it. It wasn’t exciting.
This year, I didn’t have a real plan. Until the last week of October, I had no clue what I wanted to write. I had a few ideas I’d been bouncing around with for several years, but none were really sticking out to me as something I was passionate about.
However, I spent a couple days workshopping in order to figure out something to write. What did I come up with? A fictionalized version of the Black Plague told through the perspective of a young prince going through knight training.
I had very little outlined when I first started writing. A vague idea of the conflict and a couple scenes. I did a proper outline for the first chapter, but after that it was all a general idea.
Now, basically every electronic I use has a Google search history that includes “Middle Ages kingdom name generator,” and “symptoms of the bubonic plague.” Writers’ search histories are usually pretty odd out of context.
Basically, as I added words I decided what would come next. On several occasions I sat down to write and thought “What is this chapter going to be?”
In the end, I hit my goal, but I still don’t have a complete first draft.
Even though 50,000 seemed like a lot, as I got into the story, it became pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to be enough.
I reached the climax of my story and was wrapping it up in the first few minutes of December. However, I have some large time jumps in there that I want to fill in some and I need to write my resolution.
Even though I’ve added less than 50 words since making goal, the story is still sitting with me. After 25 days straight of writing, I decided that I deserved a week break. However, most likely while you’re reading this, I’m back at my laptop trying to figure out the test my protagonist needs to pass in order to earn his knighthood.
Michael Shine can be reached at email@example.com.