Nanowrimo 2013: Final Update

Yes, I realize this is not Monday, when my previous Nanowrimo updates have taken place. But as I am starting Reverb13, I’ve opted to post my final thoughts now, and start that new blogging project later today.

To begin with, the big news: at about 7:00 PM last night I successfully completed the entire first draft of the novel within the 30 days! (Actually within 29 days, if you consider the fact I didn’t do any writing on Thanksgiving Day.) If you’ve been following along here on blog, you know that this is a first for me, after meeting the 50,000 words requirement several different times now. The word count total for my complete rough draft is 70, 294 words. 14,000 of those in the last two days, which is a record for me in any type of writing.

A few other notes before I get into how it feels to have done this:

-I missed the final write-in. The weather was terrible icy-slop, and perhaps nobody showed, I don’t know. But I was looking forward to that final session of library writing in that wonderfully plain and quiet board room. I’d already gotten to 50,000 words, but that would have just made the write-in experience even more rewarding.

-As I mentioned, I only skipped Thanksgiving Day. That’s the fewest days I’ve ever skipped during Nanowrimo, and in fact some years I did in fact write on Thanksgiving. On average, I have skipped three days total each Nano, but not this time.

-I had three different writing days during which I achieved 7,000 words or more. Before this year, I had never written that many words in a day before. My average was, (and is) about 2000 words a day during Nano.

So how does it feel over all to have both won the word count and achieved a full first draft? Both rewarding and unusual. It feels good to have accomplished that personal challenge; I can forever say I once wrote a novel in 30 days. But in order to do so, I had to adopt an approach unfamiliar to me in many ways, and at times it was stressful.

That is to say, more than any other piece of long fiction, I pantsed my way through it. Other than a one page outline, and single paragraph character descriptions, (both of which I diverged from a bit), I had no plan. I can see see the creative advantage to jumping into writing something totally cold, and have even used it when writing some short fiction. But I don’t know if I have the constitution to approach a novel like this on a regular basis. I won’t say “never”, but I will say I had to abandon my comfortable method many times. For some that’s worthy in it’s own right. For me, it is circumstantial.

For example, I think some of the short cuts I had to take, and some of the uber-linear approaches to “scene-scene-scene” I had to employ in order to save time this month can work quite well with a cozy mystery like the one I wrote for this challenge. Seeing if I could light a fire under myself and tighten plot creation, (something with which I often struggle) is one of the reasons I chose to do this in general. It is also one of the reasons I chose a mystery, because I think it can accommodate such plotting. I certainly learned something.

But for the magical-realist, quasi-fantasy, partially spiritual literary fiction I usually write? I’m not so sure. My sense is that when writing those sorts of novels, I need a bit more elbow room, a bit few guns pointed at my head, and a bit more planning headed into it. Again, I won’t say I’d never try it again, but now that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, I’m not sure the benefit beyond that outweigh the stresses of this method.

So would I try to write a whole plot within 30 days again? Perhaps. Would it be anything other than mystery? Action and adventure perhaps. But something like Flowers to Dionysus or Novel 2? I have to say at the moment, I doubt it.

And what about another mystery, outside of Nano? Again, I don’t know. I think if I outlined a mystery, with all of it’s required conventions and clues and foreshadowing and mechanisms, I might just drive myself crazy with my at time overly-meticulous, perfectionist nature. It seems a mystery has potential for me only under a short and sweet deadline, when I have no time to worry about details.

As for this mystery though, it feels more solid than I would have expected about two weeks ago. Several plot holes I worried about were filled in as I wrote. Solutions presented themselves. Sometimes it required me to go back and retro-fit an earlier scene, but it worked far more often than I thought it would. All by way of saying that this finished draft, which started out as a mere personal challenge may, unlike most of my previous Nano projects, have a life outside of Nano.

I’ll at least read it once in a few months, to see how it holds up. Let a few interested friends read it. Possibly conduct a revision or two. If it remains solid, I may either use it as a guinea pig to test the mechanics of self-publishing, (using a pseudonym), or test those of querying agents, (also using a pseudonym, should it be selected.)  This novel could be interesting to me enough to make the try, but not so close to my heart that I would be devastated if nobody bought it.

In any event, I find that being totally done in only 30 days has presented a certain disorientation. It’s exciting to have this whole new world and set of characters already fully “birthed” after just a month. (That hasn’t happened in previous Nano attempts for me.) But at the same time, I’m still adjusting to my “relationship” with them in a sense. It’s a whirlwind romance, and I’m used to long, casual courtships.

Regardless, I have achieved a personal writing goal, and produced more fiction in a shorter amount of time than ever before, (as far as I can determine.) That made the experience worth it, whether or not I do more with this one and whether or not I do anything like this again.

How’d your Nanowrimo go?


  1. Wow, congratulations! I find it especially incredible to hear that you “pansted” a mystery. I’m not sure I would be able to do that.

    • Thanks. There were times I myself wasn’t sure I’d be able to do that!

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