24 November 2009

The end of National Novel Writing Month 2009

Yesterday afternoon, I typed the 81,164th and 81,165th word of the first draft of my new novel: “THE” and “END.” So ends this year’s National Novel Writing Month event, stopping for me on the twenty-third day.

(Actually, once I transferred the novel from WriteRoom—the word processor I use for first drafts—over to Microsoft Word, the word-count changed to around 80,750. MS Word uses different criteria for “words” than WriteRoom. Not that it matters; to my mind this is an “80,000 word” first draft.)

I moved faster on this book than last year’s NaNoWriMo project, although I had more free time in which to work. This, however, is the top limit of how fast I want to write a first draft: an average of 3,500 words per day. I feel for my own writing that I need to give myself breathing room between writing sessions, and not to make beating my own records a goal. Using discipline to write to the end of the first draft is important—that’s why I set deadlines and participate in NaNoWriMo in the first place—but simply making a word-count goal to go faster than before would eventually damage story effectiveness. Yes, first drafts are always weak, but they don’t have to be horrendous. And doing about 2,000 words a day, although slower than what I did this year, would also make me feel happy with my pace and dedication.

At this point, I have no distance from my newest work to judge its eventual fate. I won’t read over it for at least a few months, since I have some re-writes on my earlier books (including last year’s NaNoWriMo novel) to get done first. I have to get ready to hit the publisher and agent circuit with the polished books. I also want to write a few more stories in the Ahn-Tarqa setting to better help me understand the events that unfold in this novel; mounds of new data surfaced as I wrote the book, and I need to play around with them in isolated works to see how they operate.

So . . . after a break today from any sort of fiction writing (I never took off a single day during the past twenty-three days, and my mind is a touch fried), tomorrow I switch back into “editor” mode and tackle that huge stack of drafts of stories and novels.