I finished the first draft of my novel yesterday. It ultimately clocked in at 59,722 words.
My feelings right now are still pretty mixed. While the first draft is done, the novel itself isn’t actually done. So that weight is still there.
On the one hand, like I’ve said, I’m proud of having done this thing. Actually drafting a story like this from beginning to end was something that I had convinced myself was impossible for me to do. I believed that for a long time.
On the other hand, what I have now is a garbage pile of words that I kind of want to set on fire. I’m told this is a normal headspace to be in. I kind of never want to see this project again. Although I’ve told this story from start to finish, it’s missing a lot of things. I know that the first pass revision is going to involve extensively rewriting the whole thing, and it’ll basically feel like writing an entirely new story. Maybe. I mean, I guess I don’t know that, but that’s what it feels like from this myopic emotional distance.
Here’s some of the stuff I do know:
I hit 50,000 words this morning! (50,270 if you want to be exact)
Some people have told me that the feeling accompanying this achievement is excited elation, with light beaming down from the heavens as champagne fountains pop all around you, covering you with drunken glitteriness. I mostly thought, “Well, that happened.”
Not to say that I’m not happy with it – I definitely am! Hitting this major milestone has proven several things to myself and has (hopefully) permanently silenced a very specific jerkbrain litany that used to work really well against me. I am proud of myself.
My last two words written today were not ‘the’ and ‘end.’ I think I still have a good several thousand words to go before the climax is wrapped up and this draft is good and finished. I’m almost there though, and it’s going to happen by the end of this month. And then I’ll break out the champagne.
For now, I’ll go pour myself a less bubbly drink and take the rest of the day off (and do some Tgiving prep for tomorrow). I’ll savor this moment. And then I’ll see you back at the keys tomorrow.
Week three check-in time!
This week has gone by with much more ease than the previous one. Which is not to say that it is easy. It’s still definitely work. But I’ve managed to put some systems into place that have been helpful in making it not feel so much like a struggle.
The main change-up that I did for my workflow is implementing a modified Pomodoro Technique to break down how I was writing. This was something that was suggested under the “Week Three Tips” section of No Plot, No Problem as a way to put in some 6,000 word days to make up for any word deficit that was accumulated by the end of week two. Instead of doing that, I worked the system into my usual writing routine.
Week two check-in, and actually at the two week mark. Week two is the notoriously difficult week. When enthusiasm wanes and you’re left with a bit of a slog. A disastrous half-conceived plot. Characters that once raced to get things done, now going through the motions aimlessly. Disenchantment with the whole thing.
It’s been harder and harder to not listen to the inner editor (aka brain weasels, aka jerkbrain). I kept thinking about how terrible my writing was and how boring it was. I still didn’t know how some key pieces were going to work. I had lost faith in the process. Everything just felt wrong. I found myself glancing at the word count every page and then every paragraph and then every sentence. Did I hit the goal yet? Could I stop for the day? Disheartening to say the least.
In No Plot, No Problem, Chris Baty points out that this is the week to remind yourself, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” But even when I told myself that, I just had a hard time getting words out on the page. It was like pulling teeth, but slower and without anesthesia.
But I still did it.
Week one NaNoWriMo check-in! Well, sort of. It’s only been five days at this point. Week one is fun because everyone’s energy is high, the community is strong, and the enthusiasm is boundless. Watching everyone hit the goals and cheer each other on is so great. Affirms that good things can still happen in internet communities. I’m involved in a few Discord servers for people who are participating, and the advice and encouragement being so easily and freely given is gratifying (and if I’m going to be sentimental about it, heart-warming) to see.
The biggest tips I’ve seen floating around about week one are basically thus:
Tomorrow is NaNoWriMo! I don’t really have any specific words of wisdom or anything. I’m in this as much as anyone else. But I am super pumped that there’s such a good crew of people doing this with me. The clacking of mechanical keyboards will be furious and deafening.
Remember, there is no trying. Just doing.
“Use this month to make words that you would not have made otherwise.”
– Howard Tayler, Writing Excuses 12.44
Here’s the novelist agreement from No Plot, No Problem and Chris Baty himself. Read it, take it to heart, sign it. And then tomorrow, we write!
November is coming up, and you know what that means. Turkey, holiday travel, obligatory family gatherings, and the flu (get your flu shot – they are available now! /end PSA). But also, NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH! Generally and affectionately called NaNoWriMo (which I pronounce nah-no-ree-mo, but have been informed that it’s pronounced nah-no-rye-mo).
NaNoWriMo is a huge writing event that lasts the entire month of November. The goal? To write 50,000 words, roughly 200 pages, in one month. That breaks down to 1,667 words daily for thirty days. Originally, the words were supposed to make up a novel, but now people use the event more loosely to just mean writing. The point is to inspire creation and creativity and to provide a supportive community to help people accomplish that word count goal, building good habits along the way. After all, the hardest part of anything is just the starting of it, and this way, the internet can hold you accountable. There are robust online forums, weekly pep talks by famous published authors, and physical regional events. So if you see a group of people intensely clacking away on laptops in a silent group in your library or local coffee shop, you might be able to guess what’s going on. Many NaNoWriMo winners go on to publish, including authors like Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus), Hugh Howey (Wool), and Marissa Meyer (Cinder) [affiliate links].