Some of the links in this article contain anti-high word count feelings. Click with caution, high word count Wrimos.
In the NaNo community, the term “overachiever” has come to mean those who exceed the 50,000 word goal in November. Some people who identify with this term go on to write a few thousand more, while others write a few hundred thousand more (with one or two going for the elusive million). With people writing so much, there are those with lower word counts who feel bad because their counts are smaller or call these high word counters out for cheating or whine because it’s only day eight and how are some people at 50k already? Why, just this week I got my first ever cheating accusation [anti-high word count] from a poster who’s known for making attacking posts. Three people in that thread have seen me write in person, so I’m just gonna let that roll off my back like a Swiss duck.
But has the anti-overachiever attitude always existed? Yes, but not quite in the same way.
I’ve been around NaNo since 2002 (as long as the forums existed), and I struggled for the first few years, writing over half the book in the last week my first year to win. The (admittedly far fewer then, though the word counter did go up only to 200,000 words) people with high word counts astounded me, but they were motivating. Maybe I could write that much one day.
There wasn’t a dedicated thread (that I can find, anyway) for people intentionally aiming above the 50k goal, no matter what their end goal, until 2008. Yes, there were threads for specific word count goals above 50k such as for those aiming for 100k, but there was no unified thread where anyone shooting for a goal over 50k was welcome. The 2009 thread is lost to the land of deleted webpages, but considering the 2010 thread is called Overachievers III, there’s a 2008 thread for those increasing their word goal (both started by tiakall), and I remember posting in such a thread in the first year I wrote far over 50k, it’s a safe bet a thread existed in 2009 as well, and the term overachiever appears to be a self-identified term adopted by the overachievers.
I can’t dig through the 2008 thread since the Wayback Machine didn’t archive it, but we can now safely say the term “overachiever” dates back to at least 2009. [Update: At least 2005, actually as syaffolee pointed out--jonzzing refers to the folks going for over 50k as overachievers. Of course, this term might not have been a commonly used term until 2009.]
Okay, enough about the past. Let’s go to the present.
The overachiever thread still exists and has grown by leaps and bounds as more people decide to go for more than 50k or for 50k in less than thirty days. A Wrimo who chooses to overachieve may be inspired by us or have a book that’s going to be long or have two ideas. And of course the whining about high word counts has increased, but that’s partly (mostly?) because of more people showing up to do NaNo. Maybe I’m just fortunate to only associate with awesome people, but I haven’t gotten any flack about writing a lot until this year when someone called me out specifically, linked earlier. Some of my other overachieving friends–no, most of them–have. And that’s saying a lot.
Lately there’s been talk about changing the term overachiever to something friendlier. Words have meaning, after all, and the term overachiever might imply that those aiming for 50k or under are underachieving. This isn’t the case at all. I haven’t seen a single overachiever make someone with a lower word count feel bad; all word counts are worthy because those are words that weren’t there before. And a few folks aiming for far above 50k (Zette, for one, who has written far over 50k a year for years) have rejected the term overachiever because of what it implies. But here’s the thing: the flack isn’t necessarily against the term overachiever itself. Some of us who exceed 50,000 words and therefore have to start wtih a high word count do post elsewhere. I do, though I post less as the month thanks to being busy with writing and non-NaNo things.
So what about a new name, as @mattkinsi and @chomskyrabbit were discussing last night on Twitter? It’s a well-intentioned debate, and Tiakall and Cosmam and Raquelin and Chomsky and Quix [related links on the overachiever term] have already beaten me to the post. But no matter what we call ourselves, we as a group (and honestly, just about anyone ahead of quota) will get negative reactions outside the overachiever thread. Changing the name won’t make a significant difference because such changes take time to make their way through and that change won’t affect the reactions from Wrimos who are behind or who don’t like the high word counts.
One thing to remember in all this: NaNo is what YOU make of it, no matter your word count. Someone else’s word count doesn’t make your word count any less valid or any less of an accomplishment.
And now I figure out how to work these 800+ words into my novel.