On overachieving and high word counts

There seems to be a case of overachieveritis at the NaNoWriMo forums this year. I’ve counted no fewer than four people aiming for a million words so far this year, and that’s not counting the word count goal of known overachiever Kateness, whose current goal is 500,000 words but could change. Where have all these overachievers come from? I took a look at these users’ profiles to see where they came from, and the results surprised me.

One of them is doing NaNo for the first time. That’s right. A first-time Wrimo doing a million words. Another has never won a NaNo before according to their profile. The other two have won all their NaNos before, though one is a second-timer.

I did notice that the Wrimo who has never finished a NaNo before did state that their goal is so high just to make sure they’d reach 50k. If that’s the case, why go for a million words and fail at that? It boggles the mind.

I think part of the reason for so many people going for a million words is the competition. People always want to be the best, even though there are no awards given out for best novel or longest novel. People get competitive and set goals like these, sometimes because they want to reach them themselves, sometimes just to see if someone else will take the bait. Whatever the case, I have a list of Wrimos on my desk, and I will be keeping track this year.

On the flip side, let’s take a look at people who overachieve but don’t go for a million words. I’m writing 150,000 words this year. This makes some people think I’m crazy, but some people also take this personally, including some friends of mine. Everyone works differently. Some people are fast writers and can write a thousand words or more in fifteen minutes. I am one of those people. Others have to pull teeth to write a thousand words in a day. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, that is okay. That’s your technique, and it’s a perfectly valid one. Just don’t take it personally when others operate differently. Don’t tell me I need to start applying warnings to posts about high word counts.

6 thoughts on “On overachieving and high word counts

  1. A million words??? Hmm. I went to Dragon*Con this year and a panel of authors suggested that “your first million words will be unpublishable,” which is vaguely similar to the advice given by a panel of agents who said that “your first book will be trash; write it, trash it, and move on.” Maybe these wrimos are trying to get their first million words written as fast as possible so they can get on with a publishable novel. I’m not sure that this plan will work, though. :-p

    Found you on the NaNo forums (“Who are you? Where are you?”) — I’m in Chickamauga, Georgia. Nice to meet a local!

    • @KeithRobinson Yes, a million words. I’ve never heard of the first million words being trash. That adds up to a lot of novels, and surely there’s something good in there. That’s up to twenty decent-length books, after all; no one wants to write that many books only to find out that all of them are terrible. To give you an idea, my first four NaNo novels were beyond redeemable. That’s right. It took me five NaNos to get something that was worth editing and then three more after that to find a second book worth editing. And yes, I’m still working on those.

      All you locals are coming out of nowhere. Why, when I was new, there were no locals, and I had to recruit people to do NaNo with me! Maybe it’s a sign of NaNo being more popular.

  2. “Don’t tell me I need to start applying warnings to posts about high word counts.”

    That may be part of the reason you’re too hot for Canton.

    Regardless of how strongly I may feel about it, I refuse to bump posts about watching my mouth about high word count and “cheaters.” (Quotation marks so that I don’t have to touch it with my hands.) You can’t reason with someone who has let his or her insecurity cloud their senses to the point of making baseless accusations and calls for censorship, so I don’t even bother.

    This year I may not click on the threads at all so that I don’t get my traditional NaNoWriMo ulcer either. 🙂

  3. I hesitantly said I’d go for the million last year, but that was before I did the math. The reasoning went kind of like this:
    1) Writing 50k in a month takes me a little less than an hour a day.
    2) In the years that I won at the 50k goal, I only had around an hour a day free.
    3) A million is “a lot more” than 50k.
    4) I now have “a lot more” time than an hour.
    5) Thus, I could totally write a million words. If not, the pressure of trying will at least get me a decent amount.

    I had ridiculous amounts of free time and had been running on virtually no creative juice for the previous two years, so I wanted something that would shock my system back into Writer Mode.

    .. Then I checked the calculator, blanched a really impressive shade of white (followed by blushing an even-more-impressive shade of pink) and dropped my goal down to 200k.

    A week into NaNo, I remembered that having two very-young puppies who want to be with mommy All The Time Or Else was not conducive to writing, nor was living with a very-clingy boyfriend. The thing that made me stop writing was when I realized that I was rewriting scenes I’d already written for my WIP (and that the new ones were nowhere near as good as the previous version). I ended up at around 30k instead of the 200k I was aiming for.

    This year, I’m heading into my 100k goal with an idea for a totally-new NaNovel (Blood Debt, expecting around 80k), the WIP mentioned above which needs to get finished before it devours my soul (Only Child, have around 100k left to write), two short stories (Kibble and Brimstone, expecting 10-15k, and Amber and Jade, expecting 10-20k) and the realization that my first NaNovel is salvageable if I rewrite it from a totally different perspective (Harvest, approximately 90k). I’m obviously not going to tackle all of that at once, no matter how much free time I have. I expect I’ll work on Blood Debt throughout the month while working on bits-and-pieces from the other works as rewards for milestones in Blood Debt. Trying to get K&B and A&J done in the first half of the month, and I’ll likely work on rewriting Harvest during the second half of the month. I’ll be surprised if I only hit 100k, but I want to aim for a goal that I can *definitely* reach this year, with enough material to do more if I have the time/will-power.

    • @Incandescent A couple of those people turned out to be joking when they bantered the million words around. They also probably didn’t realize how many words per day writing the million would take. Good luck to you! I thought about 200k and may reach it, but we’ll see.

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