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NaNoWriMo and views on word count

Despite National Novel Writing Month being a self-challenge, a lot of people find themselves intimidated by the word counts of others. Yes, some people really do finish the challenge of 50,000 words in a single day. This is my eighth year of the writing madness, and I’ve watched it happen, despite having never taken on the book in a day challenge myself.

However, this year I did write 20,000 words on the first day. The original goal was 10,000 words, but when I hit that goal at 3:00pm, I decided to aim for 15,000 words. When I hit that at a write-in later that night, 20,000 words suddenly seemed very doable, and I made that goal with 30 minutes to go.

Of course, some NaNoers, especially new WriMos or those who are struggling to get their daily 1667 words in, look upon those with extremely high word counts with mixed feelings. Some are astonished that someone could write so many words. Others are suspicious. Yet others go so far to call the high word counters cheaters, despite the code of conduct saying to ignore cheaters and trolls.

I’ve written 32377 words so far in my NaNo novel, which puts me almost exactly halfway to my personal goal of 66666 words for the month. The forum messages and the private messages are coming in. Did I start before the first? Did I cheat? How did I get my high word count? (Okay, it doesn’t help matters much that I am apparently the top poster on the forums and therefore my name is almost everywhere. Still.)

I’d write back and explain how I did it: the word wars, the huge day one and tapering down since for the sake of my wrists, and just plain sitting down and write. Honestly, there’s no point in cheating at NaNo. You know how in high school, the teachers would tell you that cheating on something means that you’re cheating yourself in the long run? NaNo’s the same way. The prize is a certificate and an icon, along with what you wrote. You can print them out and add them to the collection of certificates that you got in elementary school, but how many people consider a certificate a real prize, anyway? It puts more emphasis on the fact that your real prize is what you wrote. Why else would you take the time out of your life for a creative endeavor in the first place?

Now, some messages to various types of WriMos.

To the people are hovering right on target: you’re not an underachiever. Stop saying that. Just because someone’s word count is higher than yours doesn’t mean that yours isn’t worthy. Now get back to writing so you can stay on track. Better yet, stop reading this and go write for fifteen minutes. I’ll still be here.

To the people who are behind: You’re not an underachiever either. You may be behind, but you have an entire month ahead of you to catch up. Take this from someone who wrote half her novel in the last five days. It’ll take some butt in chair, hands on keyboard, but you can do it. And we’ll all be cheering for you along the way. Now stop reading this and go write for 15 minutes.

To the people who are ahead: Keep writing! Remember that some people would love to have your word count right now, so try to give them some love along the way. Don’t abuse your cushion too much, or it may be taken away.

To the people whose word counts are higher than mine: Overachiever. No, just kidding. But I am very much in awe.

(Incidentally, I got an IM reflecting “OMG, you’re at 30k already?” while writing this entry. What do you know?)

4 replies on “NaNoWriMo and views on word count”

This was the first time I did a write-in and I was so surprised by how many words I got typed for the day. My personal best has always been about 2500-3500 a day, but Nov. 1, I was one of those few that stayed up till midnight and wrote, so I brought in about 9,000 words. I’m going to do a write in again at the end of this week. Write-ins really help. Happy Writing!!

Write-ins really do help. I’m glad you find them useful. Starting at midnight is also useful, especially because you can convince yourself that you didn’t write and then write your goal again. Happy writing to you too!

I appreciate that you wrote this because honestly, I get really down when I see that someone’s got half their novel written on the second day. I definitely feel like an underachiever. I know that writing a novel is something I really want to do – in fact, I think I may want to become an author, but I feel like when I can’t even get a NaNo done, how am I supposed to make a career out of this?

Anyway, sorry for dumping my little insecurities on you. I really just wanted to say thanks for the post, it was uplifting!

I remember feeling that way too during my first NaNo (the year I wrote half the book in five days), but you know what? The feeling does pass. It’s not a competition against other people. It’s a self-challenge. Sometimes you just have to step away from those high word counts (which is hard, I know!) and remember that 1)it’s your word count that matters and 2)this is a first draft. As far as making a career of it, I have no real advice in that area as I’m still working on that myself. Now go write! *grin*

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