3951 Words and Counting…

Post 21 of 31
NaNoWriMo just isn’t going my way at the moment. One week in, and I’ve only written 3951 words of my novel. This means I’m approximately 7,700 words behind schedule.Now, it’s not like I’ve been slacking off. I’ve been writing. A lot.

In fact, I’ve probably clocked in close to 10k words in the last week… the problem is, it just hasn’t all been on my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m still heavily revising Winter Wilder, ripping out huge chunks and filling in the empty spaces. My main fear is if I let myself get sucked into my NaNoWriMo novel, I’ll lose momentum on Winter Wilder, and that’s the last thing I want right now.

Another problem: I’m still not satisfied with the outline for my NaNoWriMo novel. A lot of my total word count this week has gone to lengthy outlines, character sheets, and backstory (none of which technically “counts” towards my NaNoWriMo word count.)

When I started writing it on November 1st, I had a plan. I was just going to use the original outline that I drafted way back in 2003. It had a few rough spots here and there, but I figured I’d work through those points as I went along.

So I began writing. And a nagging feeling was telling me that I was headed down a 50k word path of misery. I always listen to my intuition, so I stopped and considered what my gut was telling me. And I realized the old outline just wasn’t any good. None of it. I had to rethink the entire story from scratch, or else I’d be forcing myself to muddle through a draft that would be completely useless.

In some ways, this was freeing, To let go of all these old ideas of what I thought “should” happen, all this useless backstory that simply bogged down my plot, all these cliches and meandering side-plots that had nothing to do with the main story,

I brainstormed with my friend, Will (who originally created the character I’m writing about), on the phone for an hour and we came up with a bunch of fresh new ideas, which got me inspired and excited to start anew with the book.

So I spent the next couple days drafting a new outline, and even writing the first 3 chapters (which is what the aforementioned 3951 words consist of).

I sent what I had to Will and he called me with some feedback, which was very sound. In my eagerness to get the story of the ground, my first chapter gave too much information away, and took away a lot of the mystery. We spoke at length about how my NaNoWriMo novel should really be a mystery story more than anything. The puzzles that the protagonist solves in his adventure should be something the reader can be figuring out along the way as well. More ideas and brainstorms tumbled forth and I took plenty of notes from our conversation with fresh inspiration.

Now I’m working on a third outline that I think will be the winner. But every day I work on the outline is a day I don’t spend writing the actual book. Another conundrum: if it is to be a mystery adventure, I have to make sure the mystery is completely in place ahead of time… that all the clues make sense, that all the puzzles have solutions. I can’t just dive in willy-nilly. It has to be air tight. Or else I’m going to write myself into a corner.

So I’ve decided that even if my word count doesn’t go up as high as I’d like in these first couple weeks, as long as I continue to create a solid outline and work on it as a concept, I’ll be succeeding. Once it’s all in place, I think I can power through the writing and maybe even reach my goal! (That’s my optimistic intent.)

But, ultimately, NaNoWriMo isn’t about “winning” for me. It’s about being motivated, making and sharing progress, and learning new lessons in writing as you go along. The “goal” does indeed motivate me, but the end word count is less important to me than the journey I take to get there.

This article was written by Tania