National Novel Writing Month is always held in November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. For the new author, it’s a daunting task. 50,000 words looks like Everest to somebody who has never put that many words together. It is, however, a very achievable goal.
50,000 words in 30 days breaks down to 1667 words per day. For some, even that seems mountainous. I “won” NaNoWriMo in 2009, the first and only year I participated. It was a challenge for me at that time because I tended to write in chunks of under 500 words. Even when I originally wrote Neanderthal Swan Song, I doubt I ever surpassed 1000 words in a given day. If I recall, the rewrite was written with a target of 1000 words per day, so NaNoWriMo’s target of 1667 words per day was still pretty daunting.
It isn’t. It’s very achievable. While that NaNoWriMo project stands as my second novel, it will never see the light of day unless it undergoes a thorough rewrite. Even then, it will have to change radically because it handles some subjects I’m uncomfortable with how they may be received. When I finished the last 17,000 words (for a total of just over 67,000) I continued at the same pace.
What I learned from NaNoWriMo in 2009 is that I am capable of decent daily word counts. With each of my subsequent novels, I have ramped up my expectation, ratcheting the target word count incrementally.
For this upcoming novel, working title Proxima Centauri, though that’s almost certainly going to change, I plan to target 2500 words per day. What helps is that when I’m in the zone, I write very fast. I can churn out upwards of 1200 words per hour. My friend David Gerrold, who is a pretty well established pro, mentioned to me that he occasionally hits 1000 words per hour, and he considers that to be blazing fast. So, by that measure, I write at a damn good clip.
There are two main reasons I don’t up my target to something like 5000 words per day. The first is my attention span can’t take that much in one day. The second is that writing fiction is not my only responsibility. I have clients who want their projects completed. The first reason is not a show-stopper. At one time, my attention span couldn’t produce 500 words in one day. My target is five times that now because I trained myself to do it. The second reason is something that isn’t going away any time soon. First, I need fiction to be able to pay the mortgage. More importantly, I like the work I do for my clients. I worked as an engineer for 20 years, and I need to feed that side of my mind, too.
To bring it on back to NaNoWriMo, I decided to use November to jump-start my stagnant writing. I haven’t done much since finishing A Darkling Nine. In fact, it took me over a year just to do the edits. I’m a momentum writer. If I’m actively writing, it’s habit and I produce at gangbusters rate. If I’m idle, I stay idle for a very long time. I want to finish the sequel to Rigel Kentaurus this year, so NaNoWriMo is the ideal fire under the butt to get that started. I won NaNoWriMo in 2009, so I have nothing to prove. I don’t care about the badge for 2015, all I care about is finishing the novel. That’s why I’m participating, but not documenting with everyone else.
I didn’t have time to start on November 1st, so I opened the files for the partial novel (about 4000 words) yesterday and discovered it had been over two years since I wrote them. Late last night, I started adding to the manuscript and got about 680 words down. That may not seem like much, but my history is that it usually takes me a few days to ramp up to my target word count. Since my target is well over NaNoWriMo pace, I’m not worried about it. The important thing is overcoming that “object at rest” momentum.
And by the way, I did write a non-fiction book earlier this year, so I haven’t been completely stagnant. That book, Content Marketing for the Technical Company, is currently being reviewed by a first reader/technical editor. Once I finish drafting this current novel, I’ll whip that non-fiction title into shape and publish it under the indie model. The target audience for the book is too small to be attractive to a traditional publisher.