National Novel Writing Month: Final Check-In

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Kathleen is back this week to report how her NaNoWriMo went!

It’s been over a week since National Novel Writing Month 2017 ended—past time for me to give you my check-in #3 post*, which concludes this series.

First, some stats:

  • Total word count for November: 35,006
  • Total word count for NaNo novel: 28,087
  • Words added to and retained in the novel: 22,433
  • Daily word count average: 1,166
  • Last day my word count was on track to win: Day 12
  • Days I worked on the novel: 11 out of 30
  • Novel timeline progress: finished Day 4 and began Day 5…of 20
  • Current novel word count: 53,247
  • Projected novel word count: 95,000.

In sum, I didn’t win.

I suspected that might happen and wrote about it in check-in post #2, and while I do have to wonder whether acknowledging that possibility didn’t undermine me in some way…there were other things I started recognizing at that point that didn’t help either:

Getting stuck. My natural writing rhythm of spitting out 3-6k once every 3 or 4 days, then my subconscious needing time to puzzle out what would happen next. Wanting to publish the novel, and thus needing to compass my way through it instead of pantsing it (see check-in post #2). Mental health issues. Having my housemate and live-in NaNo buddy stalled on her novel and out of town the last week and a half of November. Being blindsided by the gift of a rambunctious puppy after Thanksgiving.

The cumulative effect of these obstacles, however, was my #1 problem: not prioritizing the novel and keeping my focus on it when not at the day job.

A lot of things worked against me in weeks 2 and 4, but not actively focusing on my novel during those weeks the way I did in weeks 1 and 3 definitely hurt me. On the odd weeks, I listened to music that made me think of my novel on my commute home. I’d get the current scene in my head and consider it from different angles, try out dialogue, consider emotional beats, and map the character and relationship arcs in my head and pinpoint where that scene fell in the big picture of the novel. I’d be edging towards home through rush hour traffic with full-on Writer Face (mine is often confused with Murder Face) while the energy and impetus to write built up in my blood and bones and consumed my focus. I’d get home, let out and feed the dog, sit down with both water and a sugary drink within arm’s reach, and start writing. Dinner, changing out of work clothes, and household chores all had to wait until the spirit left me for the night, signaling it was time to stop writing and return to life as a mundane. (It was always too soon. *sigh*)

During Week 1 I had all the support structures I needed to win NaNo (see check-in post #1). Weeks 2 through 4 those structures started falling away. When that started, I fell behind and couldn’t catch up.

Weekly stats:

  • Week 1: wrote 13,149 words in 4 days
  • Week 2: wrote 7,914 words in 3 days
  • Week 3: wrote 6,533 words in 3 days
  • Week 4: wrote 491 words in 1 day

Every week except the last, I had a 5k day (2 in week 1). I’m surprised, looking at this breakdown, that I wrote more in week 2 than in week 3. Looking at my NaNo word count breakdown by day, however, it’s easy to see my Week 2 slump actually began at the end of the week and carried through most of week 3.

These stats might not be as interesting to you as they are to me, and if that’s true I apologize. I’m realizing as I do the math and break things down for this post that it might be time to start tracking my daily word count via spreadsheet the way I used to. Seeing these stats is giving me a more accurate picture of my November writing progress than my memory presented. M.J. King found an interesting web site that’ll show your writing stats in a similar fashion to NaNo’s, but is available year-round, and shows them in a number of ways, for a number of projects. (Please encourage her to post about it! I’m strongly considering using it now…)

So yeah. Although I did well when all the support structures I mentioned in my Week 1 check-in post were in place, I didn’t manage to win NaNo this year. Given the amount of work I did on the novel in November, however, I am okay with that.

National Novel Writing Month isn’t for everyone, and from what I’ve learned about myself this go-round, the official challenge isn’t for me when it comes to writing novels I really care about. That said, the momentum and impetus to write that NaNoWriMo brings, the group support and camaraderie and energy it lends, and the ability to easily track one’s writing progress over a 30-day period, are all things I’ll happily borrow every November. Modified NaNo challenges are great! One year I decided to finish an incomplete short story every week, and I know of an author who does “National Novel Finishing Month”—she uses NaNo to finish a handful of her incomplete novels.

The best writing techniques to use are the ones that work for you. If that means doing the official NaNoWriMo challenge, go for it! If that means modifying the challenge, do it! If that means riding the momentum of thousands of authors hunkered down in the writing trenches to get words written or editing done, go with it! A writer is someone who writes; do whatever (healthily) helps you write more. As long as you’re making progress, you’re winning.

*This post has been brought to you by: Math!**

**…And word count geekery.

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