This morning… Spent some time working on household budget issues with the ex one, spent some time organizing my work space, spent some time getting cleaned up for this afternoon’s appointments, and now I am writing a blog post? Gonna need a little more discipline to “win” NaNoWriMo!
But this is not entirely off topic. In fact, it is right on topic. I need to spend a few minutes thinking about my goals for November.
My original goal: write a 50,000-60,000 word novel by the end of November.
I had a great idea that started as a short story in April, then after one night of writing 4,500 words I realized that it wasn’t a short story, that it was probably a novella… At that point I realized I had something for NaNoWriMo and I threw the whole project on the shelf, so to speak, until about a month ago when I started scribbling some notes down in preparation.
About a week ago I started my serious prep work. One of the first things I did was, first in the preliminary notes and later using the NaNoWriMo template for Scrivener, was to set up an outline based on word counts with a target of about 55,000 words.
For the story I had in mind, this seemed about right. It seemed about the right length for the project and it hit the “win” mark for November.
That was about a week ago.
Stepping back a bit… My goal for NaNoWriMo this year was to sit down and have a finished draft by then end of the month. Not a great draft, but a finished one. This is something I’ve never done with a novel. I’ve written well over 50,000 words of a novel a couple times, but I’ve never actually finished a draft.
This is all I really wanted out of this experience. I made it my priority for a month, to have a finished rough draft. I know I am beating this like a rented mule, but it was really important to me when deciding whether or not to take the time to do this in 2012.
For a completed draft, I decided it was worth it.
Today, as I sat down and spent a few minutes working on my outline a little bit, incorporating a lot of the new ideas I’ve been working on, I realized that I was in trouble. This project is going to be significantly longer than 50,000 words.
Not having written an actual word of the draft yet, I may be wrong. Looking at those 4,500 words from last April, I know I am right. (PS: Totally rewriting those, so I am not cheating!)
I am a novice with the novel length word counts. I really wasn’t picturing what a 50,000 word novel would look like, and really, it’s barely out of the novella length. It is about the absolute minimum length for novel consideration. This morning I thought I’d do a couple internet searches to try to get a better idea of how long my book might be when comparing it to other novels.
The links are below and worth a look. Interesting. But what I found is that I am, at the low end, probably looking at 80,000 words for this guy, and possibly around 100K. Now the good news is, according to the bottom link, this is probably right in the sweet spot for this type of book. The bad news? That’s a lot of words to knock out by the end of November.
Now, obviously, this may really shake my goals up for NaNoWriMo. If I want to complete this draft by the end of November, then I have to drastically revise my daily targets. Or if I just want to hit 50,000 by the end of the month, I can keep the current targets and the rely on my own self discipline later on to finish this thing.
And that worries me. I can give a month to this draft. Can I give more? I am very afraid that if it goes back on the shelf, incomplete, on December 1, that it may be 10 years before it comes back down off the shelf. And that is a lot of work for not much. Potentially 30 days plus a week and a half of dedicated prep time that I may never get back.
Of course, that is the worse case scenario. And, of course, that is a lot of psyching myself out for having not written a word of the actual draft yet.
So the question is… Do I aim for 50K? Or do I am for completion?
Well, it is a pretty simple answer. I aim for completion while maintaining a bare minimum out put that keeps me working towards the 50K mark. I know the way I write that, if my prep work is solid, I will probably exceed the 1,667 word daily goal most days (hell, this post is nearly 2/3s of the way to the novel’s daily minimum).
However, I was planning on using those days with a high word count to take a couple days off here and there… And for sleeping. Sometimes. Maybe even hanging with the kids for a bit, if they trap me in a corner!
Really, I just need to dive in and do this and whatever happens, happens. If the worst case scenario happens and I have another incomplete draft of an unfinished novel sitting on the proverbial shelf collecting dust, well, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.
And who knows? Maybe it will be such a battle to hit 50K that I’ll laugh at these worries in a month, or maybe, as I get in towards the middle of the month, the pressure to exceed the “win” mark and to finish the book will push me through to the end.
We’ll see. It has been a long time since I’ve written fiction. Honestly, I really have a hard time predicting how this will go. And I know there will be a lot more challenges ahead than just banging out the word count.
One attitude that I’ve always pretty much had… Worrying about the draft’s word count is more a part of the early outlining and preparation process for me. Once I am writing, I just worry about the story. It will be the length it needs to be, on the first draft, at least, and I just need to trust the story as it develops.
Terrible approach to writing when one is working on essays for school, a great one when writing fiction.
So I am going to relax, keep the 1,667 word daily minimums to at least keep me writing almost every day and, hopefully, I can hit both my goals in November.
Word count is one of those things new writers worry about but deny worrying about because we’re not supposed to be worrying about it. According to Wikipedia’s entry on word count, the typical word count of a novel is at least 80,000 words. I’ve heard through the publishing world grapevine than most agents and editors will generally take a query for a first novel more seriously if the word count is between 80,000 and 100,000.
Instead of sleeping, I compiled in an Excel sheet novels I read growing up.
Word count for famous novels, in ascending order by number of words. Based on this list compiled by Nicole Humphrey Cook. (Thanks Nicole, and sorry for stealing; I wanted to see the list in order.) For average word counts based on genre, see this handy reference. Also, here’s another list I may swipe and add in here.
I sat down recently with several fiction editors and hammered out a more comprehensive list of suggested word counts by genre & sub-genre. As you read through this, keep in mind three important things: 1.) these are suggested word counts; rules get broken all the time; 2.) these suggested word counts will most often apply to debut writers; successfully published authors are the ones who end up breaking the rules, and 3.) if you are planning to e-publish only, and your book will never be printed out on actual paper, these guidelines aren't nearly as important.