Today is December 1.
That means NaNoWriMo is now over.
Over the past month, I’ve written some updates on my progress during this annual November challenge to write 50,000 words. Mostly anecdotal stuff, nothing special. More like pouring out some thoughts on my current state. Let me now take some time getting into the meat of what that month was like for me.
To do that, let’s start by looking at the statistics the NaNo-site’s spitting out for me. (Click on it for full-size view.)
I call that a win on every level. It’s a lot of words to write for someone who’s also working full-time. Not saying it couldn’t have been better, and looking at how the graph moves from day to day, you can see that most days were pretty slack (more detailed graphs later).
I didn’t, however, finish the actual story. Though, I got to the final part, which was not meant to go for too long anyways. I’m thinking I’m missing about 5,000 words to wrap it all up.
I went into this thing strong, but only had a small handful of decent days past that. Some days I had to force myself to even sit down—usually days I had to work for 12 hours outside in the ever-growing Canadian cold of a coming winter.
During the month, my local NaNo Group (organised through the NaNo Site) had several in-person write-ins, where they meet to eat, chat, and write together. But I didn’t make it out to many of them, since they mostly fell on work-days for me. They also hosted official online write-ins in the regional chat. For most of the month, I had the chat window open next to my writing app (Scrivener), so I would hang out with whoever happened to be there at the time.
They also had word wars—short timed events to write as much as you can until the time is up (usually 10 to 20 minutes long). You could also draw a random number (ranging from easy: 100-500 words, to hard: 400-1000, and cyborg: 1000-2000 or something like that), which then became your personal target for that word war. It’s meant to motivate and all that, but I found it to be irritating for myself. Usually, I would focus more on the time and current goal than the story, because that’s how my brain operates. So I quickly dropped those pre-set numbers, and participated only in the timed part, as a way of pacing myself between writing and breathing. They did those wars both in person as well as in the chat, so I could be part of it whether I went to the write-ins or not.
My daily word count is all over the map, but most days I wrote what I wrote in one sitting. Even on my days off, I put off writing until the late afternoon. Some days, I did really good and went way above that. Others, not so much. My lowest day was 140 words. I just didn’t want to that day, and I forced myself to at least start the next chapter with a few words.
Far as the story goes, it went up and down a lot. There were times I had no clue what I was doing, and I’m dreading the first read-through. Other times, it all fell into place, and the plot through the narrative felt strong and plausible. What I really started to love are my characters. The way they talk, act, their relationships. While the story will need a lot of tweaks, I feel good about my cast.
The Fast Start
After day 1, I sat at over 10,000 words. As I stated in the beginning, I wanted part 1 to be around that mark. So, I spend all of the first Sunday writing and finishing part 1. For that, I had an outline, a beginning, a vision, and a rough draft for the cast.
And then I kind of fucked it all up. Well, not all. I just missed a bunch of it—including an entire character! (Which, incidentally, got forgotten in part 3, again.) But I made notes where notes were needed to make sure to rewrite those parts.
Another issue I didn’t anticipate with this high word count on day one was the head-start giving me excuse to be lazy. If you look at the graphs at the end, you can see that my average was way above the suggested 1,667 words per day, even though I had some sluggish days in there, and half the time, I didn’t even meet that number. Though, I tried to tell myself not to rest on that high number from day one, I somehow did just that more often than not.
For my personal pacing, I believe that writing 10,000 words a day is too much. It’s doable. But not worth it, given the way my mind works. Maybe I can train myself to be less lazy, but I think I’d be better off the keep the daily number lower for the sake of balance.
Now, that being said, I did have a decent outline for those 10,000 words. And nothing but a rough concept for the rest—and by rough concept I mean a single picture of what and/or where in my head. Would I have been able to outline part 2 and 3 the same, maybe things would have been different.
Another thing to get better at.
The Bad, Bad Rest Of It
I already hinted at the mess the next 35,000 words ended up being. I got lazy. I got stuck. I have an entire scene of 1,100 words I’ll never use. It just sat there, making my numbers look good. I didn’t delete it because those words were words I did write, and during NaNo, you don’t delete. My total was high enough that, even with deleting those numbers, I would have still been above the goal, though (in a way, it was a motivator knowing that I need to out-write those fucked up words).
I changed course a few times throughout the story, and some of the twists bothered me. Going through it later, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of work to do to straighten this all out. But somewhere in the guts of this monster, a cool cyberpunk story’s hidden. And, like I said, the characters are cool.
I’m actually amazed that I did manage to write at least something every day. That is new for me. NaNo hands out badges on their site for milestones such as reaching 10,000 words. One of those badges was earned by updating one’s word count 30 days in a row—every day of the month. I wanted that. Not sure why, but I wanted it. And I didn’t want to cheat getting it—updating my word count without actually writing it. That was a huge help for me to sit down and write at least a sentence or two.
I kept my own spreadsheet during the month (resulting in the graphs below). The numbers there are the same as the ones on the site. Making sure those numbers stayed the same (I only entered total words every day, everything else in the spreadsheet was calculated, the same way the website works), I kept myself accountable not to cheat with my updates on the site.
The Final Push
I was sure I would hit 50,000 one week before the end. I was at over 40,000 already, so there was no stopping me now. But that Monday, November 23, I somehow got a jolt of writing power. I knew I had to work the next four days (my schedule just change from 12 hours to 9.5 hours, resulting an an extra day of work per week). And I knew that writing during workdays is often diminished, no matter how long or short those days were (getting up at 5AM really, really ruins my day). So, that last day off, I just wanted to get there.
And I did. Last post is about that, in fact. Banner and all to prove it.
Some strange things happened that day. First of all, by the time I hit 48k words, I finally couldn’t resist the urge to use zombies. Because, fucking zombies. No worries, it all makes sense, kind of.
Also, I hit the 50k mark with the heroes being surrounded and all hope is lost. Climax right at that mark. It was a great way to finish the challenge and stop for the night.
During the last days, week, really, I sat down and tried to finish the story as a whole. I didn’t. I finished most of the crazy stuff, let the characters breathe just long enough to hit them hard one more time before it all ends in a huge celestial fireball (spoiler?). I had a lot of loss of life during that time—some deserved, some tragic. Tears, rage, reflection. I’m actually happy with most of the stuff that happened during the final week.
I might share some excerpts as I go through an initial edit/revision.
Until then, you just have to wait to see what’s going on.
The tl;dr of the story would be something like, Cade Stern ends up in the underground of Terra Zero—an entire city orbiting the earth as massive mega structure space station, where she has little choice but to join a group of runners to free both her friend and theirs, by flying a high-risk mission to a secret research facility on the dark side of the moon. Once there, everything goes wrong, causing Cade to become part of a twisted experiment with an artificial intelligence, which becomes both friend and foe—and her only means to escape the facility and bring down the corporation behind a large conspiracy unfolding on Terra Zero. As she finds out that her own conflicted past is part of this whole mess, she manages to free her friends, find vindication, and manages to escape back to the station, where the military is already waiting to collect her.
I know, right!
Next, I take a break. For a few days. I’m excited to get back to it, though. Want to finish the damned story. I have this cool vision of the final scene in my head, and I can’t wait to get the story there. It’ll be big! Huge, even!
After that, put the whole thing aside for a while. Clear my head of it.
I have new idea for a story, for which I will mayhaps collaborate with a good friend of mine on concept and plot-structure. It’ll be a kind of science-based urban fantasy. More on that later as it develops.
I’m hoping to get to editing Terra Zero before spring ’16, but no promises.
Next year, I want to write Book 2, which will move from Cyberpunk to Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland (Spoiler: they land on the old earth and build a new life among the ashes and ruin of a dying planet). Figure it’s a neat gimmick to write each book as my NaNoWriMo project (and totally original, I’d guess). Book 3 would come in 2017, then, and will move the story to mankind’s new home: Terra Nova, which will move the genre to a more clean sci-fi instead of cyberpunk.
Here are the graphs showing off my numbers in nifty ways.
I collected my total word count, derived my daily count from that, got my average based on that, and put in the suggested average, as well as where I should be word-count-wise.
Think the graphs aren’t hard to understand, but visualize my daily progress well. Click on it for full-size view.