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I completed NaNoWriMo 2021 – but my story’s not done

The last time I sat down at the blog it was to declare that I was going to attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in November. Since then I’ve written a lot, just not here. To be precise, I met the NaNo word goal a day early and finished the month with 51,553 words in my story, writing substantially on each of November’s thirty days.

It was a blast! The story has tumbled out. At times I feel like I’m reading it as it materializes in front of me. It will definitely need editing, but I think I was right about having an interesting plot, and my prose has not been as wretched as I feared it might be. I type fast and my natural tendency is to be wordy in both my speech and writing, so NaNo let me play to my strengths and pile up the words.

(There is a metaphor that makes the rounds in NaNo circles along the lines of, writing your book is like building a sandcastle. The first draft is digging up the sand to work with. Don’t worry about the quality yet, just get it out so you can shape it as you revise.)

Lessons learned include:

  • The targets and progress tracking were hugely motivating. This, plus talking with people about what I was doing, was the magic of NaNo.
  • I’d thought dialogue would be hard to write. Turns out it flows much better for me than descriptions of scenery.
  • Beginning with an outline that described 25+ chapters was essential. Once a good idea for a chapter was in place I was comfortable telling its story in detail.
  • Many of these ideas and plot points occurred when I was walking my dog and would tell her the story. Now if I get something juicy, I take care to dictate to my phone so there’s no risk of forgetting it.
  • I had success with an old digital typewriter (an AlphaSmart Neo) I’d had lying around. I wrote everything on there, transferring it to a computer later. The featurelessness of the Neo deterred me from editing, which kept my words flowing, and it entirely blocked me from getting distracted by the internet.

Despite having 50,000 words, I’m not done writing my story. I want to finish it, in part because I want to know how it ends! (I know the general ending, but want to know the details I’ll only think of while writing).

I’m guessing I’m three-quarters done with the story and I fear that if I take a day off, I’ll lose steam. So I’m going to continue writing, setting a target of averaging 1,000 words a day for the first half of December. That would take me to 67k, which might be enough.

I guess if I’m not done at that point, I’ll keep going. During NaNo I averaged 1,700 words per day. Sometimes that was difficult, and I relied on a few vacation days where I racked up several thousand. But averaging 1,000 per day feels sustainable.

Then I’ll take a little break before I come back and re-read what I’ve written. Editing will be a whole ‘nother ordeal. But that’s for later. For now, here’s to my story – it ended up drawing on many of my interests, experiences, and dreams, and it’s a weird little story no one else could have written, for better and for worse.

P.S.: I typically edit blog posts for a while without making them better. One lesson I hope I’ve learned from NaNo is to rein that tendency in. So this post gets merely a quick read-through.

One reply on “I completed NaNoWriMo 2021 – but my story’s not done”

Update: I broke 70,000 words on New Year’s Eve. Now I’m around 74k, guessing I need another 10k or so to finish – though I’ve said that before.

I’m going slow, which I blame on COVID-Omicron messing with routines (my family has had no in-person school or coworking space visits yet in 2022). At least I’m still going.

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