Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event during which aspiring writers are challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This averages out to about 1700 words per day, which is kind of a lot--about 8 double-spaced pages. Every day. For a month.
Stephen King wrote in On Writing that he generally writes about 2000 words per day when he's working on a new project. I do love me some Stephen King (like, a lot), but he writes for a living, has been writing for decades, and is financially, shall we say, comfortable. I'm sure he still has days when the words don't come easy, but he admits that on other days, his work is done by 11 a.m.
Joe Average works a full-time job, gets most of his writing experience from emails to mom, and can't afford the luxury of taking a month's leave of absence. Trying to emulate a near-King output is a pretty steep challenge, and I heartily congratulate all who participated, whether they won (finished) or not.
I've never done NaNoWriMo, but I did my own version of it earlier this year. The real thing itself didn't work for me--the pressure, the competing, the deadline. One thing I've never really understood about it is the timing. November? Really? I suppose some people can make that long Thanksgiving weekend work for them, but to me adding more stress to the holiday season = blech. But I knew I had to do something to get myself to write.
Last year when I was deciding not to do NaNoWriMo, I was about 30,000 words into a WIP. I wasn't working regularly on it, just puttering around on it every now and then when I had some free time. I had just re-read On Writing, and in it King suggests that new writers start out at half-pace, 1000 words per day. I was inspired, motivated, terrified that I would wake up in a decade or two and realize that I was never going to achieve a dream I've had since I was six, out of sheer laziness.
The holidays were a mess--travel plans, cancelled travel plans, last-minute travel plans. I decided to start when I got home from New Year's in Florida, on January 7th. A New Year's Resolution, if you will. Nonstop NoWriMo to the finish line!
I logged my wordcount on a Google calendar, and made notes for the days when I was supposed to hit the next big 10,000 mark. I won't lie, I was shooting for 100,000 words--pure speculation that that was how long my story would take. I didn't have a detailed outline, and I hit a few roadbumps when I would have to figure out a major plot point before I could continue. There were days when I did nothing at all, and days when I tripled my goal. And on April 28th, 2010, at 94,975 words, I finished the first draft of the first novel I ever actually completed.
This probably wouldn't have happened if it weren't for a number of factors. My husband was working in Florida most of the time from October until May, which freed up a lot of my extra time. A good friend moved temporarily to Asia, which also created more openings in my schedule, and another friend who'd become more of a burden than a friend was no longer around. It was a perfect storm of empty free time at just the right moment in my life.
Seven months later, I am still working on revisions. I'm sticking with this WIP, because I believe in its potential, but it had a lot of flaws that needed to be worked out. It's getting closer. You'd better believe I'm doing the detailed outline beforehand next time. I finally took the big step of seeking out some critique partners, which is terrifying and incredibly rewarding. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be ready to start querying sometime early next year.
NaNoWriMo winners, congrats. As I'm sure most of you know, your work is just beginning.