See all my NaNo 2017 posts.
Last week I talked about how the National Novel Writing Month challenge (NaNo) had worked for me. The true chaos of it stood out as the main theme. I also mentioned maybe shifting some of Traps and Treachery into the previous book, which is amusing, I later realized, because I either shifted some of Life and Law forward to Steam and Shadows or put some of Steam into Traps already (the part that I would then be pushing back). I think it’s the first, but haven’t checked yet. Either way, discovering the best break point for these novels is clearly a complicated step.
As you can tell from the picture, I did, indeed, succeed at NaNo once again (my fifteenth time, not seventeenth, as I originally said last week. I swear I can count), and though it turns out I’ve written more than I thought, my NaNo accounts for almost half of my writing for the whole year. I say this so you’ll understand what I talk about next is not in any way dissing NaNo or recommending you don’t participate, but…
There is a downside to word-count-driven challenges whether you are trying for 2,000 words a day, 15,000 in a week, or 50,000 in a month. The focus can shift from the story to the words. That number becomes all important, and it’s easy to lose sight of the real goal.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I completed my NaNo goal on the 28th…thinking and not writing a single word more on my manuscript. If the last scene had actually turned out to be the end, as I’d expected it to be, this wouldn’t be a matter of concern, but no, the chaos of my November had to continue with one more scene tucking its way in before the summary epilogue, if there even turns out to be one instead of more scenes.
So, I’ve met my word count goal. I marshalled all of my energies and pushed hard to keep this one tradition going when so many have fallen by the wayside this year. But what does that really mean?
It’s an arbitrary amount with no direct ties to reality. Though The Steamship Chronicles series runs short compared to my Seeds Among the Stars or Uncommon Lords and Ladies series, there’s not a one among the published four, and existing fifth and unfinished sixth, that are exactly 50,000 on the dot.
Even more, I’ve never won NaNo with that amount simply because their word count system differs from both Scrivener and Word. I always put in a cushion to ensure that difference doesn’t cost me the win. I validated with 50,249 words this year and ended up with 50,230 after their counting system ran. The worst I’ve ever lost is 200 words, so I was pretty safe. However, as the NaNo site is quick to remind you, this progress, while very real and significant, has no value in and of itself.
There is something called the post-NaNo slump. I used to think it was just me until I talked to some more NaNo participants and found it much more widespread. Whether I won on day five or day thirty, whether I wrote barely over 50,000 or 120,000 in the month as I used to do, once I validate my NaNo win, I fall into a dazed retreat. Often, I don’t write in December at all, though I may very well do editing or other writing tasks, but when I leave a novel hanging, that’s not the best plan.
So, if you do experience a slump after the big push (whether you made the requisite word goal or not), know that the slump is not that unusual. At the same time, keep in mind you’re not done with the project. Either you still have scenes to add (as I do), or it’s time to start planning the next steps in your novel’s journey.
The usual ones are an edit pass cleanup followed by critiques or beta reads. Then you have various submission and publication paths to decide among. That first rough draft, or as I call it, raw draft, is only the first step. So celebrate the victory in progress or challenge won and pat yourself on the back, but don’t just put your manuscript on a shelf to gather dust. Finish it if necessary, make it shine, then share your work with the world.
Here’s to continued writing progress this year and beyond. I guess I better put writing more words back on my weekly goal sheet, eh? How are you doing in the post-NaNo world?
My final day’s stats for the curious among you:
The current length of Traps and Treachery is 90,505…a wee bit higher than the 75k I was shooting for.