Saturday, November 24, 2012

NaNoWriMo - To Hell with the Word Count

Last year, when I first attempted NaNoWriMo, I drank the Kool-aid and then vomited up 20,000 words before I realized it wasn't good.  I wrote until I got writer's high - writer's nirvana, as one of my friends calls it - and I kept writing.  I'm surprised there aren't rainbows and butterflies in those chapters...actually, maybe there are.

I was more than a little depressed about the wasted effort (mommies of three-year-olds don't have a minute to waste).  I stopped writing for about six weeks and questioned my ability as a writer.  Uncool.

This year I vowed to do NaNoWriMo again, but by my terms.  I decided not to get caught up in the word count.  I planned to write one quality chapter at a time and edit after writing a few - because this is the process that works for me.  I would use the hype of the month to keep me moving - and to give my family a relatively concrete reason to give me blocks of time to write (which they have). 

Something happened yesterday as I approached 30,000 words...I became obsessed with the word count.  And my Muse sprinted away.

I was writing just to add numbers to the awesome graph on the NaNo site.  But my plot was murky. My chapters weren't contained units.  The the last sentence of the last few chapters sucked - and yet I kept writing. 

Today I refuse to add new chapters until I fix the three or four chapters that aren't good.  To hell with the word count - it doesn't mean a thing if it's not quality work. 

If I do nothing but fix these chapters before the end of the month, it's a win.  And I will have proven to myself that I can write half of a quality novel in a month, a pace I would love to keep up over the next year.

To those of you racing to the finish line, carry on.  I'm dropping out but am still cheering you on.

28 comments:

  1. GO T!!!

    As a long time NaNo failure :) I agree that there is some kind of sadistic pleasure in forcing the word ticker up and up.

    Like you I do it on my terms and whatever I get I get. If I get 20 words - great if I get 20K great. Because 20 words of fabulous are worth more than 50K of dreck.

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    1. I definitely had a little OCD flare-up with the graph thingy - it's very gratifying to see it go up. And we are not failures - we are winners. :)

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  2. I'm not doing NANO, but I am doing my own version of discipline. (the idea of NANO is good, but I don't write that way, either). I've been making myself keep a WC and writing everyday as much as I can (if it doesn't get hijacked by life). I write chapter by chapter as my intent was to get at least a good outline and enough words to work with a mentor in the early part of next year. I'm working on a suspense/mystery now.

    I like your idea of bringing out the quality in what is there in what you've produced. WC does tend to grab us by the throat on occasion, and most Muses don't like that.

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    1. Awesome you have a mentor to work with! My goal with this sounds the same as you - to maintain discipline with writing.

      My story is historical fiction - but I normally write dark comedies. I thought this one was going to end up like that too, but I was surprised how fun it was to write it straight.

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  3. I failed too. Much worse than you did. I basically got around ten thousand words written this month. BUT--they're ten thousand edited/clean words that shouldn't need much changing. I have the best first chapter I've ever written. AND the whole book is plotted out--I know what each chapter needs to be and I know all the back story. I'm usually a pantster--so I feel very organized and on-track with this book even though, on paper, I've barely gotten anything done.

    Don't worry about the wordcount. Thirty-thousand good words is an AWESOME accomplishment. Go back and edit your chapters before moving on and then take as long as you need to finish. I still guarantee that, while most people are re-writing huge chunks of their Nano project, you'll be querying yours. :)

    Good luck with it and give yourself a pat on the back for getting so much done!!

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    1. Your comment made me feel really good about my choice.

      You obviously didn't fail if you wrote your best first chapter - that's huge.

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  4. Tonja, this is the single biggest thing that bugs me about NaNo. Word count over quality writing. I would love to see the whole thing reworked so that each writer picked a goal that was meaningful for them. For some, it might be word count. For others it might be the development of the story arc, the characters, quality writing, a completed revision, or a POV makeover.

    I'm glad you've gotten back on track, writing the way that comes naturally to you!

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    1. I absolutely agree about reworking it. The young writer's program is like that at least for word count.

      I'm going to give myself a couple of days off because I need it.

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  5. Good for you! I beat NaNo two years ago, but this past June when I attempted BuNo, I missed by 5000 words. And I wasn't worried about it, even when writing. I wanted to get the structure and flow right the first time.
    So don't worry about it. It motivated you to write, but take your time to do it right.

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    1. I think it's fun to participate for sure. I'm pretty happy about my decision to stop and go into edit mode. My story is historical - I need to do some research for the middle part, which is why I was getting stuck I think. Can't rush that.

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  6. That's pretty much why I don't participate in NaNo. For me, writing isn't about getting it done as fast as I can. It's about the craft of writing. I really do love beautiful, quality words. Sounds like you're getting both done, so good for you. :))

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    1. I agree it's not about doing it quickly, but it is great to achieve a goal - if it's attainable and it make sense. 30,000 is a great goal for me.

      And your writing is beautiful.

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  7. I also agree that it's better for you to go at your own pace. You've already accomplished so much, and I applaud you for stepping back to do things right.
    Julie

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  8. Good for you. Just do what you NEED to do to carry on.

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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    1. I needed a couple of days off too, so I took it. :)

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  9. I was JUST talking about this with a friend yesterday -- quality trumps quantity every time. At the end of the day, it's about having chapters you're proud of, and if NaNo can help with that, then it's awesome in that regard alone! :)

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    1. I like the motivation of goals, and I get the value of writing without editing. But I think it's not good for me to pile chapters on top of weak chapters.

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  10. I'm not doing NaNo, but I think you're plan is a great idea - you may not hit the 50K by fixing existing chapters, but you'll be so much happier with what you have done, and more enthusiastic about completing the project after NaNo ends!

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    1. No, I'm definitely going to be around 30,000. I feel good about stopping when I needed to.

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  11. 30K is still a great word count. Great plan to do what is comfortable with your style.

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  12. My parents have forbidden me from doing NaNo unfortunately. I'm glad of what you have accomplished with this!

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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    1. Wow. I'm not I would be successful at forbidding my kids to do anything. :)

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  13. I've done NaNo in the past. I won't do it again. The stress of a daily word count is the last thing I need right now. :)

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    1. I think I will do it again, but my way. Maybe I'll do more next year. I found the word count goal to be motivating. If I hadn't hit a couple of rough chapters, I'd still be doing it.

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  14. I think we have to do what works for us, so I'm glad you're listening to yourself. For me, whether it's NaNo or not, I like to write all the way through before I edit, though I will jot down notes in the WIP's notebook to refer to them at the end. So I'm mentally editing, I guess, but not actually doing the editing, because, for me, it might change when I go back and read what I wrote, anyway.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  15. You go girl! Do what makes you a happy writer. I wish you all the best with the rest of your writing.

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