30 days, 50,000 words, first draft of novel (nearly) finished.
I crossed the first finish line sometime just before noon today. In typical procrastinator fashion, there was some last minute cramming before the final. I wrote over 16,000 words over the last five days to get it done on time (probably no coincidence that the word 'coffee' shows up 92 times in the book). After my five day break in Arizona, I was doing a decent job at erasing the deficit and getting back on track. But then around the 33,000 word count, I stalled again. I was approaching the big scene in the book and I still hadn't figured out exactly what it was going to be.
When I started this novel, I basically had one scene and an opening line. That was it. Sure there were some vague ideas, but most of what ended up on the paper (screen) was created on the fly. As someone who tends to plan rather meticulously, this was a leap of faith. I took inspiration from the book "On Writing" by Stephen King (excellent book by the way). He mentioned that several of his books have been started with just one scene in mind, and that the story developed as he wrote. I don't know if I would do this again without at least a little outlining, but I think it was the perfect way to approach it for the first time. As I wrote, the story seemed to follow a natural path.
However, it certainly did not "write itself" as I have seen some describe the process. It was a struggle for 95% of the time, but there would be enough flashes of "This feels like the next logical step" to keep me moving forward.
Part of the goal of National Novel Writing Month is to give yourself a difficult enough of a deadline that you have to leave your inner critic and editor behind. There simply isn't enough time to make it perfect, so you're supposed to just get everything down on paper as fast as you can. Quantity over quality for now, and you can clean it up later.
I'd like to say that I was able to lock away my editor, but I was only partially successful. I wrote in fits and starts, struggled over lines, and hit the backspace button far too often. My one bit of success is that I have not gone back to read what I have written so far. Each day I would read the last couple of paragraphs to see where I left off, but I wouldn't go back any farther to do any corrections. So I only vaguely remember what I wrote a month ago.
The good news/bad news? I'm not done. When I was stalled at 33,000 words, I didn't think I had enough left to say to make it to the 50,000 word mark. But the turning point ended up being longer than expected, so I have a few more chapters to go until I reach "The End". I am hoping to get this done within the week.
The original plan was to walk away until the new year, but I may print it out and start the editing process when I am back home for Christmas. I am both excited and scared to read what I have written. I have a feeling the editing process will be a little painful, but I am also hoping to find some good bits among the rubble. There is a lot of work to be done, but hopefully I will end up with something I would like someone else to read. If not, I'm still glad I wrote it.
So I'd like to thank the academy...actually I would like to thank my friend Sean. He was the one who encouraged me to do this, and I am glad that he gave me the push. His motto for NaNoWriMo is "You don't have to like it, you just have to do it."
Well I did it. I didn't always like it, but I love that I did it.