Three thing I learnt during Nanowrimo, with annotated graph

1. I can write 50,000 words in 3 days.

I didn’t think I could. That’s 16667 words a day for three days. My previous record for one day was 15,000, so there was no way I was writing 50K in 3 days, even thought I wanted to be done before I went to Hobart on the 4th (so I wouldn’t be fretting about lost writing time while down there). So my plan was to write as much as possible in the first 3 days and then hope I could make up the rest while travelling on the 4th.

Then things happened, I got to 18K and there were still a couple hours left in the day so why not do that extra bit?

1a. Starting at midnight on the 1st November remains a good idea, word-count-wise

It’s like a running jump start. (The first year I wrote at midnight on the 1st was in 2010. See graph below 🙂 )

1b. Writing 20,000 in one day fries your brain.

Don’t try this at home, boys and girls.

2. I can write to detailed outline, but it is a bad idea.

This was an important one beyond the can I/can’t I aspect. I realised years ago that the more I thought I knew where the story had to go, the more likely it was that the characters would have different plans. So, some idea of the end (this is fairly obvious in a murder mystery/crime story) and some vague ideas about things that might happen were what I usually started with. Except… OK this graphs show my Nanowrimo word counts for each year:

My first drafts are in the 35-50K range, so it’s probably obvious I’m writing multiple stories each November and that means there will be some point where I’ve finished writing one story and, um, have no idea for the next and yet I need to keep the word count up. So, I start with a couple of characters and a setting and see where it goes.

As you can imagine, having little or no idea where the story is going + writing a lot of words quickly = a really good idea. Seriously 🙂

My writing in the earlier years is mostly long lengths of dialogue with enough other stuff to hold it together. I knew what was happening next in the story and I was in a hurry to get there. Later writing, I didn’t know what was happening next so I had to think about it but to keep up the word count, I was typing as I thought of things, so I was spending more time “in the moment” and laying down description, narrative, all the stuff that is necessary in addition to dialogue. End result is a first draft that is closer to “finished” than earlier writing used to. So what happens with a detailed outline? I know what is happening and I am in a hurry to get there, so lots of dialogue heavy scenes and now a lot of other stuff. (Also, it was slower going. Was fighting to keep up to 1000 words per hour.)

4. Writing a sequel to a created-world (SF or F) novel is a good idea

Even if the sequel never gets written, because I found myself exploring that world in greater depth. In this particular story, there was a lot about the structure of the police/army, and how the city ran. I didn’t NEED this for the original story I wrote last year, but now that I know it, it’ll make the world building stronger.

Also, I have a new favourite character.

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