Thursday, December 03, 2009

Post NANO Update

I don't know about the rest of you NaNo-ers, but I'm still tired. :) My final word count was 58,509 words, which I wrote in three weeks - I had two kids home from school the whole week of Thanksgiving, and I got zero computer time after that. So writing all those words in such a short amount of time took a lot of brain power, but I'm slowly recovering. :)

In the last couple weeks of NaNo, there were many threads/blog posts/conversations about its effectiveness. Many people were cursing the whole idea of NaNo. Lots knew that they were writing dreck and had nightmares about re-reading any of it. Some were finding NaNo helpful, though didn't know how much they'd written would be usable in the actual novel. And a very few got a lot out of it - like, they got a real novel out of it. I'm one of those very few.

Why did some get so much out of NaNo while others were tearing their hair out and screaming at whoever thought this whole thing up? Well, writing process has much to do with it - some write faster than others. The ability to deal with stress and a heavy workload also contributes. But I think there is one thing that really stands out: goals.

When you sat down to write for NaNo, what was your goal? To write 50,000 words? To write a novel? To kickstart your novel? I took a look at what writers were saying while under the NaNo influence, and sort of mapped out goals to outcome.

In most cases, if the goal was to write 50,000 words, the end result was dreck with lots and lots of unnecessary words/subplots/characters/etc. If the goal was to kickstart the novel, most writers ended up with pages and pages of unusable text, but had a really solid feel for the novel and were excited about sitting down to really write it. If the goal was to write a novel, most writers did that, even if they didn't get to 50,000 words.

My goal was this: by the end of November, I wanted to have a novel written, regardless of how many words I ended up with. It so happened that my novel was longer than that, and it's still not finished. But word count was not my first priority. The story was. I set a daily word count goal, and did my best to reach it - but, if I couldn't reach it, I did not sacrifice the story.

If you let the word count take priority, then that's what you're going to end up with. But if you let the story take priority, then you may or may not end up with 50,000 words, but you'll have a good story. The key is to take a look at how you work, and then tailor NaNo to your needs. That way you can get the most out of this truly grueling process.

I doubt I'll do NaNo again, but if I do, there are some things I know I need to have. I must have an outline, and character journals. Also, I need to have a solid first chapter - because, for me, everything flows downhill. Without those things, I would get nothing from NaNo. But with those things, I could get a novel, which would be my goal.

What was your goal? And what did you end up with?


Michelle Sussman said...

You were definitely the rock star on my NaNo friend list, but I was able to pull out 50K by the day before Thanksgiving.

My goal? To construct a story for the sequel to my first novel. I did introduce new characters, but the main characters were already fleshed out.

I'm happy with my results. Thrilled, even. It's not in good shape, but I have so much to work with. By Nov. 25th I had 50,000 words when at the start I had little more than a spark. I have great plotlines to consider. New characters to delve into.

Bottom line: I'm really excited to dig back into it in January.

This is my second time writing 50K in one month (only once with the official NaNo website). It works for me as a way to flesh out my book. Now I have to go back and stitch it all together. :)

Unknown said...

My goal was to start a novel. About halfway through, I realized that I was working on the wrong one. My heart was still tied to another WIP that I've been pounding slowly away on for almost a year. I talked about it with my critique group, and they were all in favor of me dropping the NaNo novel and starting up on the other WIP.

But I didn't.

And I'm so thankful that I didn't. The value of NaNo for me was in finishing something I started. I can now say "I've written a novel". Is it good? No. But I knew going in that it would be in poor shape at the end of the month. I'm still in the process of deciding if I want to go through the process of revising it.

I think there's value in NaNo whatever your goals are. The "50K only" people obviously may not have as cohesive a manuscript as those who went in with different goals. However, sometimes there's a lot of value in just moving the cursor to the right whether it's dreck, drivel, or beautiful prose. :)

Bish Denham said...

Good post Tabitha. I think using NaNo to kick-start a novel can be a good thing. And I agree, having an outline, knowledge of your characters, knowing about how you want the story to end are very helpful.

I think I might actually have something to work with. If nothing else it sure was a lot of fun to write, it just seemed to flow out of my finger tips and into the computer.

Tabitha said...

Yay Michelle!! :) I'm so glad you reached your goal. And an even bigger YAY because you want to keep working on it. Some writers never want to look at theirNaNo novel again. :)

Karen - that's great!! And that was a great goal to have. And I agree that there's value in NaNo no matter the quality of the end result. Some writers were saying how much they hated NaNo, and that they weren't getting anything out of it, and I thought that mostly had to do with mismatched expectations. Hence, this post. :) Thanks for sharing your experience!

Tabitha said...

Bish - that's great!Bish - that's great! Flowing words are about as good as it can get writing-wise. And I also think NaNo is great for kick-starting. A good friend of mine did that, and she has an amazing amount of material to work with.

Jennifer said...

Woohoo! Yay for reaching goals. :) Congrats.

My goal was to finish my first stab at a murder mystery (ha! puns!) with at least 79K, which I did. It was tons of fun pushing myself to meet goals and tons and tons of awesome to know that I really can meet "insane" goals if I push myself. Go NaNo!

Unknown said...

I think Bish hit the most important nail on the head. It was FUN!

Sherrie Petersen said...

58, 509??!! That's impressive!!

My goal was to finish my novel and I more or less did that. I haven't written "THE END" yet, but I'm on the last page, trying to make sure I've tied up the loose ends. I like that NaNo makes me focus more on writing and gives me an "excuse" to tell the family "Don't bother me, I'm writing!"

Merc said...

Great to hear you made your personal goal, Tabitha. :D

I wasn't doing NaNo this year, but somehow I still managed about 40k on various projects. The difference between this year and the previous times I've done NaNo is that I'm much happier with the end result.

I've been trying to focus on the project, not the raw WC, which inevitably turns out better for me. This is probably why I won't do NaNo again--it's great if it works for people but, while I've had fun and found it definitely helped prove I can finish a draft in years past, it's not quite right for me any more. I'm focusing on finishing, not the wc, and it's definitely more satisfying.


Tabitha said...

Jenna - love the pun! :) That's great you reached your goal. I think NaNo is great for pushing your boundaries and discovering just how much you're truly capable of. :)

Karen - she sure did. :)

Sherrie - that's great!! It always feels so good when we meet our goals. And I agree that NaNo is a great excuse to put up the Do Not Disturb sign. :)

Merc - I think you and everyone else here has proven my theory: If you focus on the project, then you're going to get something that's solid, if not perfect. I love that you looked at NaNo and were able to determine it's not for you anymore. Which is great! It means you know your process and know how you produce quality. Some writers never get that far.

PJ Hoover said...

I didn't do NaNo, but you totally had the right attitude. For me it would be about completion, not reaching a word count.