Still, the longest completed work of mine remains that 10,000-ish word story. At this point, I'm estimating that the novel I'm working on, which I currently am calling "Adrift," will end up around 60,000 words. So by that measure I still have more than 50% of the work to go on the first draft. It's a daunting task, but I'm encouraged by the progress that I've made so far.
Thinking about the last two weeks' worth of writing, here are four things I've learned about my own creative process as a result of NaNoWriMo along with some comments on how other writers might look into the same aspects of their process.
- I have a limit. For me, this is about 4,000 words in a writing session. Once I've gotten that much written, which probably means about 3-4 hours straight of composing (along with the occasional Twitter break and suchlike), I'm done. I feel tired, I feel unfocused, and I don't want to write another word. Even if I'm in the middle of a key scene, I have to take a break. I suspect that most writers have some similar limits, though I also know there are some who can write many more words in a session. The important lesson here for me is that trying something like "The 3 Day Novel" probably isn't even worth considering for me. I'd be miserable when I was done. The other key takeaway for me is that I can't let myself fall too far behind in NaNoWriMo this year or any other because I'd only be up to so much "catching up."
- I work well when I have a plan. Yes, it's the famous "plotter" versus "pantser" discussion. I'm now firmly convinced that I'm a plotter. That doesn't mean that I don't end up going down paths I didn't originally expect in my writing. There have been several developments in my NaNo project that I either didn't expect or that presented themselves in an unplanned way (even if the development itself was planned). Granted, I've still got a lot further to go, but with my 2200 or so words of notes that I made in October (perfectly "legal" for NaNo) I feel much more confident about the path forward. The important thing for other writers here would be to be aware of what writing style works best for you. If you are sure you're a pantser, you probably aren't going to be happy plotting. If you're like me, and are sure you like plotting, don't go off willy-nilly into a long project and expect it to work out well.
- Having a support group is important to me. In fairness, I had already sort of learned this before NaNoWriMo, but it's become even more obvious during these last two weeks. There are people on Twitter who I have done multiple word-sprints with throughout the month to-date. We've frequently sought each other out to see if we were available to urge each other on. I've had some very productive sessions during these word-sprints.
- It's okay to not fill in all the blanks right away. I tend to write in a very linear fashion, starting at the beginning of the text and ending at the completion. Here, there have been several times it made sense for me to make a note about something I would want to research in more detail later and move on. These weren't things that had an impact on the plot where I would be likely to have a problem if my research led me to an unpleasant surprise, and it let me keep moving forward with the first draft. Would I advise doing this with a key plot point? No. But if it's a bit of period "texture" detail, I think it's just fine to make a note about what you want to research and move on.