Why I Quit NaNoWriMo at 42,000 Words

So, I quit Nanowrimo last week, after I'd reached 42,000 words. That's crazy, right? I mean, I had eight thousand words to go (have, I guess, since it's not midnight, yet), and I could certainly have made. I still could, in the nine hours I have left.

But I'm not going to.

It just hit me a few days ago, right before Thanksgiving, that I wasn't going to finish. The thing is, I started Nanowrimo to knock out a draft of the Next Book and I did that. In 42,000 words.

HAHAHAHAHA! you may be saying. "Jay, there's no way that you have a viable YA book in 42,000 words." You're right. But I wasn't writing a final draft, I was writing a first draft. And I'm a reviser, not a planner, so that means that what I actually got was 42,000 words of a possible path that the book might take. The actual draft of the book that's fit to show anyone (think two to three drafts from now) will be considerably longer, and will actually make sense.*

The second main reason that I quit is that I found myself being pulled to other projects. I'm almost done with a major revision of The Book, and I wanted to work on that a lot instead of working on my word count for Nano's sake. Unlike some of the people doing Nano,** I would like to have a career as a writer. I'm not just cranking out a novel in a month for the sake of having done it. I'm cranking one out in the hopes that I can get it published some day down the road. So me putting off work on a current project just to fill up a bar on the Nano-graph doesn't really make a lot of sense, and I didn't want to do it anymore.

So even though I won't finish Nano, and even though I have a TON of work to do on the Next Book, doing Nano was worth it and fun and I learned a lot. Like the following things:

1. I'm a fast writer, but not Nano fast. In order to complete Nano, you have to write a minimum of 1,667 words a day. I can do that. I can do more than that. But in order for me to have a draft that is a coherent as my writing normally is, I need to work slower. Maybe 1000 words a day, plus revision, maybe a little less.

2. I like the communal aspect of Nano. Our region had little write-ins once a week, and it was nice to sit in the Panera and listen to the sound of a hundred keys clicking.

3. I realized that, fast as I am in normal life, I spend a lot of time dawdling around tinkering with my writing instead of actually writing, and I should spend less time doing that.

4. Even going as fast 3,000 words a day, my characters can surprise me. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes not. But still, surprising.

5. Typing so much is not good for the wrists. Seriously, I'm OLD. sigh.

6. I am loving the idea for the Next Book. I am not loving the current climax of the Next Book or the ending, which right now is just...odd, but overall, I'm optimistic.

7. Nano is a crazy awesome idea. It's just unbelievable. People all over the world try to write a novel in a month? CRAZY! AWESOME!


* There are parts of the story that, right now? Not so much with the sense-making.

** SOME. I said "some."


Well, congratulations on the all hard work you put into it! I'll bet your wrists are thanking you for taking a little break. Sounds like you got some good stuff out of it and that's really the best you can hope for, isn't it?

Got a new song for you to write about when you run out of topics. Continuing my goal of sneaking more songs from the 1970s into your head so that you cannot escape them, I have another fun story song you should download for your iPod. Helen Reddy: Angie Baby. Great song. Standard kind of riff, typical vague lyrics but fun nonetheless. If you haven't heard it, just trust me on this, OK? If you hate it, I'll give you the $0.99 or $1.99 or whatever it cost to get it.

Congrats again on all the writing. I have no doubt you could have finished but if you got what you needed out of the contest, so much the better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 12:15:00 PM EST  

I've signed up for NaNo for the past several years and never got close to finishing. It's hard to imagine someone deciding to stop when they're so close but when you lay out your reasons, I completely see your point! So hurrah to you, even if you didn't get the winner badge. You won for your book, yah know? I also enjoy NaNo for the reasons you stated. I really didn't get as involved this year but it's such a great event.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 2:18:00 PM EST  

@ Stephanie -- It's funny because I didn't so much make the decision as the decision made me. Last Wednesday, I was writing and came to the end of the scene I was working on (it was a scene from the middle of the book--I'd already gotten to the "end" so to speak), and I just thought "okay, I'm done."

And I really thought about that, because I was pretty close, and I could have done another 8000 words (I had five days!), but they would have all been filler and crap, so I didn't.

Next year, I'm going to have to make sure I have a bigger idea. :) Why'd you do it this year?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:00:00 PM EST  

@ Anonymous: I will check the song out (it actually sounds familiar--I may have it already). But I'm so taking you up on that offer of money if I don't like it, man!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:01:00 PM EST  

Oh, you'll like the song. If there's one thing Anonymous knows, it's catchy music. Even music that doesn't seem catchy at first but then, a few days later, there you are, stuck with the song in your head.

In one of the multiverses, Anonymous is a successful songwriter/producer because he knows exactly how to write a catchy song. He's not so good with lyrics but really good with music.

At first, you're going to think "hmmmm, it's OK." Listen to it two or three times more. Then it'll be stuck with you forever. Plus, it has a wonderful story about a girl getting revenge upon a boy who hoped to take advantage of her. Little did he know what he was walking into.

Sample lyric to get you hooked:

The headlines read
That a boy disappeared
And everybody thinks he died.

C'mon, you just GOTTA know how that song goes, dontcha?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 11:25:00 AM EST  

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