Tuesday, December 6, 2016

NaNoWriMo Plus

Ho boy, what a month.

For those that maybe missed the memo, I spent the month of November (and the last ten days of October) participating in National Novel Writing Month 2016. The goal NaNoWriMo official goal is to write a 50,000 word novel (or, for most folks, 50,000 of a novel) during the month of November. This shakes out to writing about 1,667 words a day. Tough, but doable, provided you make the time to do the work.

I did things a little differently. In the course of working on Project 2016, it expanded into a trilogy. I decided to use NaNoWriMo to pin down a first draft for the first third of the project. (In case there's still confusion: Project 2016 is not only suddenly a trilogy; it's a trilogy that I started writing out of order. The whole process has been sorta a mess--glorious, but a mess.) Based on my outline, I knew that 50,000 words wouldn't complete the draft, so I gave myself a different goal and a different timeline. I started work around October 20 with the idea that it would take about 75,000 words to complete the draft.

I found out that I was wrong pretty quickly.

By November 10 or 11, it was pretty clear that 75,000 words was an underestimation. The trend for Project 2016 seems to continue to be "This is more story than I thought it would be." I refigured for 80,000--which put me at an average of 2000 words a day.

Actual image of me around November 15
Still doable. A bit much, when balanced with two day jobs and a few days of migraines that left me completely sidelined.

Beyond the issues of not-enough-hours-in-the-day, other difficulties presented themselves. I've written before about imposter syndrome and how I frequently feel like I'm not a writer--or in the least like I'm not a good one. Nothing brings those feelings of inadequacy to the fore like trying to put together a first draft on a deadline. 
First drafts are bad enough. They're messy and half-formed and full of cliches and redundancies and really repetitive body language (really, AJ, you're gonna shrug again? Can't think of anything else to do?). First drafts written under a time constraint--even a self-imposed one like NaNoWriMo--feel a little bit like falling down a flight of stairs. You're going to make it to the end goal eventually, but it's going to be ugly and a few things are going to be knocked out of place or broken. I spent most of my forty days of writing battling to keep from giving up, reminding myself that this story is worth telling. I didn't always believe myself, and there are some days where, when I look back on the work I did, it shows.
But I made it through--or close enough. I made it to the goal of 80,000 words at 12:05 AM on December 1, technically five minutes after the end of NaNoWriMo. I counted that as a victory, whatever the official timing might say. 
The problem was, 80,000 words didn't finish the draft either.
As a point of reference, Evin runs about 85,000 words, so it's not as though a story spinning out this long is unheard of for me. But it did feel like the finish line kept moving on me, and that got frustrating pretty quickly.
I finished the draft yesterday. In total, it's just over 85,000 words. Some of this won't make it to the next draft--I already know that one character and their scenes are going to be dropped, and I've got a few ideas on how to do some streamlining. But for now, I'm going to let it sit. I've got a couple of short projects to wrap up, and I want to outline the third book in the trilogy that is Project 2016.
The draft is longer than I thought. It took longer than I thought, and it's ugly and messy. But it's done, and that in and of itself is a victory.
Did any of you do NaNoWriMo this year? Did you meet your goals? Tell me about it in the comments.

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