Epistolary #6: 50k Words and I’m Barely Halfway Through My Novel (Yes, A NaNoWriMo Post)

I’m alive!

Yeah, it’s been nearly two months since I set foot in this little book blog of mine all because I decided to take another shot at NaNoWriMo. I’ve grumbled about this before and I’ll grumble again but my first serious attempt at NaNoWrimo/writing a novel didn’t end as well as I’d like. Took me ages to even get to 50k words (the default goal). Back then my writing process was so all over the place that a single scene could take me days, even weeks, to finish because I had no idea what was going to happen next. When I realized that I was literally just writing in circles, I had to call it quits.

It wasn’t easy breaking up with my first WIP. I had spent nearly a year writing and it just felt like I flushed all that work down the drain. I considered salvaging it but, alas, the story was barely hanging by a thread in the first place. Rewriting it would have done me more harm than good. It’s hard to save a story that had little to offer in the first place. But! I did end up using the magic system that I oh so meticulously crafted in my current WIP. The thing still needs a lot of work but it’s something to tinker with.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a little self-indulgent personal blog about my experience with NaNoWriMo this year and how ’17’s failure taught me more about my writing process and preferences.

Before

I skipped last year’s NaNoWriMo because at the time I had just recently come to terms with my current WIP’s hopelessness. If I remember correctly, I was still trying to keep that novel alive but was rapidly losing steam. When NaNoWriMo ’18 started, it was already too late for me to come up with a whole new novel. And as I learned in my first WIP, I’m not in any way a pantser type of gal. I can’t just write a story without at least some semblance of a plan. Why I thought I could come up with an entire story with not even the bare bones of a plot but a phantom of what I assumed was a plot (it wasn’t; just a sort of developed morsel of a concept), I’ll never know. Honestly, when I started my WIP in ’17, I didn’t even know the names of my main characters until I had to write them down.

Anyway. I watched in envy as my writer friends laughed and cried and cried some more in their NaNoWriMo struggles last year and vowed to spend the rest of the year preparing my next WIP. The early months of this year I spent reading about writing, learning as much as I could about the craft. Most of the stuff I learned years ago but they were worth revisiting. A good chunk though were stuff I didn’t really realize I didn’t know until then. To tell you the truth, my Book Talk series was borne through the need to really understand just how complex and complicated novel writing is. Most of the books I talked about in that series were ones that, in my opinion, failed to incorporate a certain story element or did it too clumsily. Which is why I went so hard on that Book Talk about themes. I hadn’t realized how crucial that story element was in bringing it all together.

I started actually brainstorming my next WIP in June. I had a general idea what I wanted to write but still I was surprised at what I ended up with. Of course, I can’t really go into that much detail about it just yet since it’s still a half-formed thing that can fall apart if it gets spooked but I will say that it’s completely different from my first WIP. I narrowed down the scope of the story but kept a murder as an inciting incident. This time around I actually know my three main characters and I even have their character arcs planned. The story world is sort of different now but I recycled the magic system in my first WIP.

I spent the next few months leading up to NaNoWriMo working on the details of my WIP. I may not have been as thorough as I originally planned but I had enough to have something to outline. Honestly, compared to my first WIP which I focused on the wrong details, this new WIP had a solid base.

During

It’s mindblowing how fast a month can go by when you’re running on a deadline. Seriously, it was like I skipped November altogether. I remember nothing but needing to write at least 1.6k words a day. Miraculously, I did just that. Mostly.

Turns out it’s so much easier to write when you actually know what you want to achieve in a given scene or chapter. That outline of mine may not be much but it gave me a sense of direction at the very least. Sure, my WIP’s first draft is absolutely horrid and I’ll have to rewrite and redo basically everything but it’s nice to have the story laid out like this. I wouldn’t know what my WIP lacks until I actually put it on a page. And my story lacks A LOT of things.

There really isn’t much to say here since every day for the entire month was mostly the same. I’d try to get as much writing done during the day only to fail and force myself to punch out a decent amount of words late in the evening. As I was writing, I changed a couple of things in my story, certain character details and plot stuff, but, overall, I stuck to my plan rather well.

When I reached 50k words, I actually didn’t even realize it. I don’t know why but I expected some sort of change to happen, something to signal this particular milestone in my novel. At the beginning of the month, 50k words seemed impossible. Once I got to writing though, I was able to see that goal as the arbitrary number that it actually is. Nothing particularly profound happens when you hit that number of words; you just have 50k words written down.

However, even though that’s the case, I’d be ridiculously cynical if I didn’t acknowledge it as the accomplishment that it is. I mean, 50k words in one month? That’s something, y’know? Two years ago, it took me about three to four months to hit that number. So even though I may not like the words I’ve written so far, they are leading me in the right direction.

NaNoWriMo isn’t for everybody but for me personally it helped me get my foot out the door. Sure, I could’ve started my novel any time of the year but NaNoWriMo gave me an incentive to start writing and keep writing. Speaking of.

After

It’s been about a week since NaNoWriMo ended. I unintentionally spent a couple of days not even looking at my WIP and just spending the day on myself. After spending the entire month frantically writing my novel, I nearly forgot what it’s like not to have a deadline looming over me, ready to snap me up if I let my guard down.

The pressure to write a certain number of words per day is off but I still really want to finish my first draft soon. Currently, I’m still at the early parts of Act 2 but I’m hoping to maybe see this story to the end before 2020. Is it too lofty a goal? Maybe. But I’m amped up now and ready to write.

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