If I Were A NaNoWriMoer
I did not sign up for NaNoWriMo this year. I didn’t participate not because I don’t like NaNoWriMo, but because I knew that I wouldn’t win, and there was no point in pretending that I could. Participating wouldn’t have provided any additional motivation to write than I already possessed of my own volition. Wanting to write fifty thousand words wouldn’t magically permit me to rearrange my life and affairs to allow for the possibility of succeeding. There’s still the day job, and there’s still the family, and there’s still the attendant obligations of house and home. Writing is very important to me – but those things come first, before writing.
Still… as we close out the month of November, I thought it would be an interesting excercise to look back at the month, just as a hypothetical, and see what it would have looked like if I had signed up to NaNoWriMo.
The goal in NaNoWriMo, as you are no doubt aware, is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Technically speaking, you “win” by starting with word-one on day-one – no picking up a previously-started project and continuing with it into November – and reaching “The End” fifty-thousand-and-some-change words later, on or before November 30th. No self-editing; just plow on with the story you’ve got from start to finish. Some people nevertheless participate while bending the rules a little: putting down fifty-thousand-more words on a pre-existing project, or starting at the beginning but not saying “The End” after achieving the fifty thousand words, and continuing the work into December. Since NaNoWriMo is really more about the spirit of writing regularly and sticking to the story and reaching the end, these little betrayals of the rules are easily forgiven.
What does it take to write 50,000 words in 30 days? On average, that’s 1,667 words per day, over the course of the month: an ambitious daily target. If you miss a day, of course, you have to do even more to make up for lost ground.
So… how did I fare?
My total wordcount for November-to-date: 7,732 words. Hmm. Not impressive. That’s roughly 15% of the total goal for a successful NaNo. In days-spent-writing-terms, it’s as if I spent just over 4 Average-NaNo-Days writing, out of the 30 in the month. Well…. out of 29 days, actually, since today isn’t done and I haven’t had my writing time, yet, but that doesn’t change the math much. (I expect I might get in around or a little over 800 words this evening, which would make that about 17%, or roughly 5 days. )
The actual number of days this month on which I spent time writing was 13, or about 45% of the available days in the month. That means that on average, when I sat down to write, I produced about 595 words, which is pretty far short of the expected daily average you’d need to maintain to succeed at NaNo. At that rate, even if I had written every day in November, I’d still only have 17,843 words, which is a mere 36% of the total goal. (If I perform as expected today, that will be 14 days out of 30, or 47%, with an expected average of 609 words per writing day, which translates to 18,282 or 37% of a total NaNo goal.)
No matter how I slice it, I wouldn’t have succeeded at NaNoWriMo. To win, I would have to have written on substantially more days in the month, and written substantially more words each time I sat down to write.
One of these days, I hope to participate in NaNoWriMo – although in all honesty I expect that if and when I do, I’ll be one of the rule-benders, seeing as how I can’t conceive of writing a mere-fifty-thousand-word novel (in my mind, novels should be substantially longer), and seeing as how I’m a heavy-duty planner/outliner/architect who needs a metric tonne of background material before commencing with the actual first draft. But it won’t be a realistic goal until such a time as I am actually able to rearrange my life affairs to make substantial room for such an ambitious project. One of these days. But it was not to be this year. Forecasts for next year look fairly dim as well.
How about you? Did you NaNo? Did you win? Do you hope to particpate next year?