For many writers, however, the beginning of December means something else entirely. It means looking back at the month of November with either a triumphant fist in the air or a gentle sigh of resignation as we assess our performance during National Novel Writing Month. This year was my second attempt, and I'm glad to say that I managed to slay the beast this time around; I surpassed my fifty thousand word goal and became a NaNoWriMo "winner" for the first time.
For those who may have missed the entry in which I outlined my participation, I'll start out by letting you know that I didn't actually work on a novel this past month. While I do have grand plans to become a novelist one day, for all intents and purposes I am currently a short fiction writer. As such, I went in waving the rebel flag and worked entirely on short stories, pumping out as many raw drafts as I could in one month to meet my word count goals. Using NaNo this way yielded some surprising results for me, changing my usual output significantly.
What Were My Goals and How Did I Meet Them?
Going into the month, I had some very specific goals. Obviously, I wanted to write at least fifty thousand words, but I also wanted to avoid burnout and experiment with my approach. To do so, I strayed from the typical formula, which says to shoot for around 1667 words per day. While this approach will get you to 50k with a reasonable daily work load, it also means that you have to commit to hitting that number every single day of the month, which is where that burnout comes in. Instead, I went in with a plan that would allow me to take weekends off (my weekends being Fridays and Saturdays) and still meet my goal. What this meant was that I would need to write at least 2500 words a day for the majority of November, though I tried to plan the month out with a blitzkrieg at the outset and a tapering off toward the end. For the most part, that's what I was able to do, though my targets for that first week turned out to be a little too ambitious. Here's the November calendar I used to plan and track my progress, which shows exactly how I ended up performing against those goals:
What Did I Learn?
I learned a few things during my NaNo experience that may inform the way I approach the writing process going forward. Chiefly, I learned that I do not like to turn off my inner editor for such long periods of time. I know that there are many writers out there who need to do this as a part of their every day process, but it produced very odd results for me. For one, the drafts that I produced were all enormous. I've written stories of all shapes and sizes, but the sweet spot that I usually aim for with a short is around five thousand words. As such, I was anticipating somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to ten stories in November. What I got was four, each weighing in at well over ten thousand words a piece. While I'm not opposed to writing longer pieces if that's how the story wants to be told, it's clear to me that this was a side effect of the way I wrote in November. These stories are going to need a much more intensive revision pass than I'm used to before I'm able to submit them anywhere.
I also learned that I'm capable of realizing goals like these if I shut up and stick to my guns, which is something that every writer needs to find out at some point if you're planning on making this a viable career. Not only was I able to hit that fifty thousand words, but I could have done a whole lot more if I'd really wanted to. If I had sacrificed all of those weekends that I took off, stayed home for Thanksgiving, and managed to stay healthy for the entire month instead of battling sickness toward the end, chances are I would have been able to add at least another twenty thousand words or so on top of my total. While I'm glad I took the approach that I did, it will be nice to have that knowledge tucked in my belt if I ever find myself facing any intimidating publishing deadlines one day.
Will I Do This Again?
That's the question, isn't it? Honestly, I don't know. For the most part, I enjoyed the experience, and I'm glad to have met my goals. However, I do think that I answered the questions I had going in, and since I'm not entirely crazy about the extra work I'll have to do to whip these stories into shape, I'm not sure that it's something I'll want to do again. That being said, depending on how things go for me between now and then, there's a decent chance that I'll have an actual novel to work on by next November. If that's the case, I might just have to dip my toes again. Either way, I don't regret having done it this year. It was loads of fun.
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? How did it go for you? Did you meet your goals? Leave a comment and let me know.
NOTE: The next entry in the speculative fiction tropes series will be posted later this month. I decided to push it back for the NaNo debriefing and another upcoming entry. My blog schedule is going to be a little wacky this month.