Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wax On, Wax Off - NaNoWriMo

Using my word count goal to write this mythological fantasy novel wasn't as tough as I thought it would be. Sure I ran into times when it was hard to push into that 2,500 words, especially at the very start and in the middle of the novel.

For some reason, starting is always really rough for me. I usually find myself over thinking the opening scenes and finding it difficult to get the flow. In this case I had a great opening scene, right from the classic myth, but after that moment, I wasn’t sure how to tie the rest of the story into it tone-wise. Over thinking! I just wrote and forgot about tone. After the first day or two, I have found the novel's grove and just worked through to the goal pretty easily.

Things went great till around the middle of the novel. Everything seemed to be sagging, and because of the nature of the story (my characters were searching for clues on unexplored islands) I found the whole narrative to be meandering and not much fun to write. It got to be a real struggle for a while to hit the 2,500 word mark. This went on for about a week and a half (and I wonder if I'm going to have to do some serious editing of those lifeless scenes), and then I found a good antagonist to really stir up the pot.
The book moved at a better pace after that (I hit a few bumps but I ended up just plowing over them). In the end, the scope of the book got out of hand and I stopped at what was the first third of the story. It was novel length, but I had lost interest in the characters. I had just put them through a good solid quest, and it set things up for the second stage (and a new quest) but I didn't have the energy or desire to really go into it. I put the whole thing aside with the thought to revisit it later.

Still I had stuck mostly to my schedule. Even when it was difficult, I would hit that 2,500 word mark. On good days I would easily pass it and go over the 3000 word limit. I felt comfortable with the schedule and waited for NaNoWriMo. In the mean time I worked on some more short stories and edited some other things I had around. I found some interesting fragments of ideas...

As NaNoWriMo came around I revisited my writing schedule. I knew that 2,500 words a night wasn't going to cover it, but how much would I have to go? Time for some more math. The big difference was that November had an extra day weekend (outside of what I had originally calculated). Good news! Ok, so with five weekends, how would this work out?

I counted up the potential writing days. I had four full weeks (4 writing days) and a weekend (1 writing day); Total was 17 days. This broke down to 2942 words a day. I could do that. I had done it easily over the summer with the myth novel - the only exception being on days where it was tough. The good thing was that I had plenty of wiggle room, especially with free days on the weekends when I could play catch-up if I needed to.

So I went ambitious - 3000 words a day for 17 days and I'd have the novel and some to spare. That means that by Sunday the 9th I needed to hit 15000 words. I managed to do it (even with some unexpected delays in getting started and my scheduled writing days getting pushed around because of my day job). I feel pretty good about hitting my personal goal.

Have you ever come up with a word count goal for writing long fiction? Was my technique too scientific? Do word count goals work for you? Anyone else have issues with the starting and middles of novels?

No comments: