… or NOT to NaNo
By Jeff Salter
This week, we’re weighing in on the annual drive to produce a 50k word novel during November. Before I expound, let me set down some context:
I know many authors who hold down full time jobs, run a household, tend to kids, deal with a spouse, remain involved in community and/or church… and still manage to find time to write. For some of these, NaNo is a welcome haven because it gives some external “proof” – were it needed – to the family that “I need this time.”
I have the comparative advantage of being retired, my kids are grown, my spouse is busy with her own projects, and the external demands on my time/energy are manageable.
Some folks love this endeavor and look forward to it all year — a few even have a NaNo boot camp earlier in the year to prepare their writing chops.
I have admiration and genuine exhortation for those who do participate. Each year I hear success stories from someone who drafted a work during NaNo which later nabbed an agent, secured a contract, or won a contest. That’s terrific and I wish them well.
If NaNo does nothing more than provide a structure, some incentive, and peer accountability to the people who might otherwise strain for one or more of those… then it has my complete blessing.
How about Me?
Me? In the past two Novembers, I’ve been revising, editing, and proofing like crazy, on external deadlines — not at all conducive to whacking out 50k words on something new.
That said, I’ve proven to myself that I can crank out an average of some 3,000 words per day when I’m really hot on a first draft. And I’ve established that I can produce a medium length novel in 5-6 weeks, other things being equal. So, I’m content with my own benchmarks and my own schedule.
After I re-read my blog from October four years ago (on this very topic), I realized I’d pretty much said nearly everything I could think of on this topic. This older blog highlights some of my production in the two year period between mid-2009 and mid-2011. It would take too long to recapture my output between then and the end of 2013, but I did run a quick check of my production during the two years of 2014 & 2015.
In 2014, while also overhauling, editing, revising four older novels or novellas, I also produced three new novels (G&MM, NEBA, and SOC8). In 2015, while also overhauling, editing, revising two older novels, I also produced one new novel (SM) and three new novellas (1SF, PTMM, and NEP).
So in these two years, I’ve managed to create four new novels (79,600 words, 60,200 words, 51,000 words, and 44,500 words) … and three new novellas (39,000 words, 37,000 words, and 34,000 words). Of those seven new titles, four are already published and one is currently submitted.
If I totaled all that up and averaged it out over 24 months, perhaps no single month would be a 50k month. But maybe it would — because I also wrote nearly 30k words on a story which is about two-thirds complete. And I’ve also produced another three unfinished stories (ranging from 11k to 19k words), four others (ranging from 4300 to 7700 words), three more (ranging from 1100 to 1600 words) and numerous starts and concepts.
All of that is to say: my output jumps around and does not neatly fit into a single calendar month when all else is blocked out.
Here’s the link to my words of wisdom from October 2011:
What about you? Did you participate in NaNo this year? Have you ever participated? How did you do?
[JLS – # 256]