I can hear the people now…
“Did he make it? Did he get to 50,000 words?”
(Actually, the silence is deafening, but, no matter…)
Short answer: Yes!
Slightly longer answer: Yes, but it was touch and go for a while.
And the gratuitously long-winded answer:
Things were going along quite nicely during the first half of week three. Progress was slow, but at least progress was being made. The action in the story kicked into higher gear, which always helps–I tend to find it easier to turn action sequences into words than I do scenic settings–but there was one fly in the ointment looming ever larger. The emotional side of the story–of how Izzy and her father cope with the death of her mother–was becoming hopelessly derailed. I didn’t like the direction it was taking, and I didn’t have a clue how to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.
Towards the end of week three, things were coming to a head. I was stuck, and that’s not good when your deadline is fast approaching. The main problem was that I did what I was afraid I would do–I stopped writing. For several days on the trot, I barely made any progress and I was soon hopelessly behind the pace.
But this is where the value of NaNoWriMo really shows its worth. I know myself too well. At any other time, I would have let the novel languish right there, at about 32,000 words, and that’s where I would have still been today, two months later, if it was not for NaNoWriMo. Thing is, I had gotten this far and I didn’t want to fail–I had no excuse for failure, in fact. It wasn’t as though the story was a lost cause. I knew I could probably fix the relationship stuff in the second or third draft.
Crucially, I made a decision. I should forget about reconciling Izzy with the death of her mother and just get on with the main finishing the main plot-line of the story.
And it worked. I was a long way behind, but fortunately November has thirty days, and the two extra days beyond four weeks came in handy. It took several hours on each of those last few days, but I got it done. At midnight, November 30th, my final tally was 53,691, and for those who have never written a novel, or some other novel-length work, I can tell you, it felt really good to see it!
Now, the story wasn’t finished yet, but I was pleased to find that I was closer to the end than I thought I would be at this point, with the major climax of the novel completed. All that was left to write was a chapter setting up part two of the three part story. I have since added that final chapter, another 4,000 words or so, and while the closing scene–probably at the graveside of Izzy’s mother–will likely not be written until the end of the next draft, it is finished, warts and all 57,368 words.
So, would I recommend participating in NaNoWriMo?
If you believe you have a novel inside you just bursting to get out, the answer is an unqualified “Yes!” It is extremely cool to have a story outline that existed only in your own mind become a full-length work of fiction in just one month. If only I had the determination to write 50,000 words every month…
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll succeed every time, but it definitely improves the odds that you will, especially if you tell people what you are doing and go along to some of the locally scheduled NaNoWriMo events during the month. Peer pressure can be a wonderful incentive.
As for my newly minted first draft? Well, I fully intend to turn it into a second draft, and then a third, but after having listened to some feedback on my work so far, I realized that I really need to read some other middle-grade fantasy novels, so that I can better understand the style and subtleties of the genre. In the meantime, I have some more science fiction short stories to write, and then my first venture into self-publishing.
I suspect I shall be blogging about that too…
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