The Obligatory Post-NaNoWriMo Blog


Woo it’s over. Okay, it was over a week ago, but I really needed to take a breather. And now I can go back to slacking off and not writing for months on end.

Just kidding. NaNoWriMo may be done, but my book isn’t. Remember a month ago when I said I wasn’t going to do NaNo this year because I was working on the second draft of a novel I completed over a year ago? Well, I decided this second draft is actually going to be a complete rewrite, so what better time to do it?

They say it’s best to start with something new to do NaNoWriMo, and I can definitely see the reason behind that. The breakneck writing pace doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for ruminating on plot points that you just have to nail. You’re supposed to write with reckless abandon – that’s NaNo.

But writing a second draft was probably easier. And it may even have been cheating. Nah, it wasn’t cheating. The only hard and fast rule is that every word you write for NaNoWriMo must be written during the month of November. You can even include your plotting notes in your final word count if you feel like it.

I already had the basic idea for the story laid out. All it needed was some moving around and restructuring. And I’m still excited about the process, especially because this version of the story is so much better than the original.

I owe a great debt to my writing buddy who helped me get through it. She and I devoted ourselves to a day of writing 5,000 words about halfway through the month, and I don’t think I would have made it if not for her prodding. She actually had the worst of it, too. She started more than a week late and was working from a manuscript that was already 45,000 words in the making. Now that’s hard.

But I’m proud to say we both made it, and I’m also glad it’s over.

Two main thoughts occurred to me during this month.

First, I do best when I know where I’m going in the story. I advocate again and again for pre-writing. Summarize the next chapter or scene you’re going to write, and just write it. Whenever the word counts became daunting, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I had to remind myself to shut the hell up about word counts and just write the next scene. As long as I can make it through one more scene or chapter, I can check my word count, and see if I need to write another scene to make my goal for the day.

Second, writing 7,500 words in a day will really burn you out.

To illustrate what went wrong, check out my final graph:

NaNo2015

I have a fancy version like the one I showed in my previous post, too, but this will do just as fine a job.

See those plateaus? Yeah. Those sucked. At first, I think I was just getting lazy or was busy with extra things. I don’t remember anymore. So I wrote only one of the first six days. Then I started getting better, and finally I got on par with where I was supposed to be on day fifteen.

And then I went on vacation for a week and didn’t write a single word. Then came Thanksgiving, which didn’t really help, but wasn’t a huge hindrance. That was the only day after I got back that I didn’t write at all (though it did screw up my plans a little).

I ended up challenging my writing buddy to a 15k weekend, during the last weekend of NaNo where we’d write 15,000 words in three days. That was the only way I was going to win, and win I did.

I’ve learned a couple more lasting things as well. For instance, I don’t think I’m going to do NaNo again with a continuation of a story or a second draft. Next time, I’ll come up with a cast of characters, a setting, an inciting incident, and see where things go. Like I said before, NaNo doesn’t leave much room for considering plot points.

I also discovered that 2,500 words a day is a pretty comfortable pace. On all of those days that I wrote during NaNoWriMo, I didn’t write any less than 2,500 words. Okay, that’s a lie. I wrote only 1,600 on the last day, but that’s because that’s all I needed to write to win.

The point is I wouldn’t let myself sit down to write unless I had a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to it. I know I could have written 500 here or there, but that didn’t suit my process. I don’t have many scenes that dip below 1,000 words. And I can continue to do that and feel good about myself on days that I write because that feels like a productive day to me.

I’ve learned a lot more than just how to win NaNoWriMo two years in a row, by the way. But you’ll have to stick around and wait for my next post or three (I really have a lot to say on the subject. I’ll try to finish that draft soon and see how many posts it will be. Don’t rush me you’re not the boss of me!)

Ahem. See you next year, Wrimos.


About David Shank

David T. Shank is a writer, runner, and musician, in that order. His blog is hopefully an oasis among the vast ocean of negativity that is the Internet. He lives in Cleveland studying how to write good.

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