Word-count Doesn’t Matter

Many of us have spent the month pouring out words to make our 1,667 word daily goal for our NaNoWriMo novels. How many days did you hit the goal? How often did you write more, or less?

It doesn’t matter.

It also doesn’t matter if you wrote 50,000 words of something resembling a novel or 25,000 words of rough notes. Why? Because writing takes time, thought, and effort. Often, especially when we are starting, we are writing to ourselves; writing to discover.

Writing is an odd activity. It is both a craft and an art. You can follow a pattern or you can simply wing it with no idea what will show up on the page. Often the intent to write a novel doesn’t lead to one. Sometimes a short story will develop into a novel. Telling ourselves we will write a novel in November may be the wrong way to start.

Creativity Matters. Art Matters

What matters is the creative intention, and the art that sometimes results. The words will come later. I argue they’ll flow and word-count will soar. Writing takes long concentration, even when writing a popular thriller. There’s a deep craft to writing such stories well. We need creative concentration to produce anything of worth.

Often, the words building new stories come slowly because we’re discovering. We deliberate and make choices over each sentence. Is this part of the story? What is this character telling me about themselves? How is this world shaping itself with each description?

We need time to let the story bake. It’s like forming a dough and shaping it into a crust, then baking it. Once we have the shell, and the story is firm in our minds, we can then pour in the word filling.

Get to Know Your Story

Some NaNo participants spend October, and even part of September going through that early writing stage. I’ve found I’m not really an outliner, but I’m not a pantser either. Apparently I’m what’s called a plantser. I wrote a long series of notes about what my novel was about and what happened in it. I thought I was prepared for NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t. The story didn’t really move during the first two weeks. I wrote words, but I knew few of them would ever make it into the story. I stopped writing for a few days and thought about what I had written. I thought more about what I hadn’t.

During those two days my story-world changed drastically. A key non-POV character emerged as a secondary POV, and a plot line I had dropped suddenly became workable. Once those pieces fell into place, I knew the story—really knew it. I couldn’t have reached that point without writing the first 12,000 words. I wrote over 3,000 words every day for the next ten. I’m still writing above the 1,667 target because the words come easy now.

Give yourself time to let the story sink in. Think about the choices you’ve made. Listen to your characters. Observe your world. Follow the logic of your plot. Then let the words flow.

You might only have those 900 words, but they may tell you something. The words you haven’t found may be there between the lines. Read what you’ve written; soak in the words and let your creative intention consider them. No words you write are ever wasted words. Story matters more than word-count.

How has your NaNoWriMo gone?

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