Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2015 and Overall Writing

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-SquareWith November coming to a close yesterday, the 2015 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is now over. Think of it as a marathon. It’s not as if most writers will give up writing for the next 12 months, but rather as if the other months are training for this one. For some, the 50,000-word goal is a stretch, but in stretching for it, they manage more than they would have otherwise. For others, it’s a bump in the road onto greater adventures. They expect to do 100,000 words or more in November because 50,000 is a commonplace result. The number doesn’t matter as much as the goal and the chance to strive with other writers, encouraging them, and being encouraged by them, for a whole month. It’s also a way to meet local writers in your area. That’s what makes NaNo worth it.

I have been all of the above types in one year or another. My first NaNo I wrote, I believe, around 116,000 words to finish the first draft of Shafter. The book has changed a lot since that version, but without NaNo, it might never have come to be. I’ve had years when I started a second novel because I finished too quickly, (Beneath the Mask was one of those) and I’ve had years like this one where real life decided I didn’t deserve a month away and finishing came as a struggle.

This year, I completed NaNo with one day to spare after spending all but ten days, three in the beginning and seven at the very end, behind by as little as 31 words and as much as 3,100. My final word count came in at 50,889.

Now here’s the thing about NaNo: In a good year, I come out of NaNo with a clean draft that only requires normal editing. In a bad year, like this one, my first act after winning NaNo is to identify what isn’t going to carry on to the next draft (or even to the completion of this one).

Because I began this year without an outline, I had to craft it as I went, jotting down narrative summaries of the scenes I’d yet to get to. These summaries include dialogue, emotions, and events. They’re much like those novel synopses I used to believe were short stories (Shafter’s first rendition). Heck, they’re much like some of the old science fiction novels :). But they do not fit into my noveling style now, and especially not in this series. Therefore, my first act after winning NaNo was to cull about 7,700 of the words I wrote in November. Ugh. There are probably more hidden deeper that I will cull at the first edit pass, but these were the narrative blurbs of scenes I haven’t written yet (a “blurb” can sometimes be 800 or more words because I do detailed summaries). These included the end so technically I met the “completed” portion as well as the 50,000 words. I’d show you one of the blurbs, but because they’re not in the least bit obscure, they’re full of spoilers.

What does that mean besides the fact that I didn’t allow myself to wallow in my victory for more than a blink? Well, I have lots to write on this novel still. I figure there’s at least 15,000 words left before this part of the story is complete, and I may find the overall arc takes another book to address just as the first volume of The Steamship Chronicles is three books. This is the downside of not doing the preparations because I would otherwise have a solid idea of whether I can get to where I’m going within the range of the 50,000 to 60,000 words that these novels run. Of course, Book 4 came in at 58,000 in the raw draft, so they may be growing longer. I write to the length the story demands (each book has an internal arc and progress on an overall arc) because the stories are stronger without added filler or stripping secondary elements that readers enjoy.

Anyway, future plans:

1) Never start NaNo unprepared again (I’ve said this before ;)).
2) I will be finishing this book over the next couple of months. It may take me that long or longer because I’m also finishing another book. (It’s been a weird year.)
3) Enjoy the holidays because completing NaNo still means ending the year with a bang even if the book is not quite finished.

So, how about you? If you write, did you do NaNo and how do you feel about your progress, whatever number you were shooting for or achieved? If not, what is one thing you do to make the year feel complete as we race into the final weeks?

P.S. Writing the narrative blurbs can be easier than writing the story for me just as writing non-fiction like this is. I’m talking around the story rather than in it. I’m not focused on capturing every telling detail but just the moods, critical events, and things I might otherwise forget. It’s much slower for me to be absorbed into the actual event, seeing through the character’s eyes…though sometimes I can barely keep up. Non-fiction works the same because I’m talking about something that is. All the details are either known or clear, rather than coming into view in the moment. At least this is true for how I write, and yes, it made for a few moments of frustration during NaNo when I would write 800-1,000 words in a blog post then struggle with the 1,667 daily NaNo goal.

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