Last November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the second time. I hit my 50,000 word target, also the second time I’d accomplished that. I went there, and got the t-shirt (I always get the t-shirt, and I always buy it in October, as motivation). May 2014 was the month I decided that I was going to become a serious
writer, and NaNo was just a step on that path. I’d done it before, so I knew I could do it again.
Halfway through the month, though, I realized that in my position, aging and with no real prospects that made a career in writing a likelihood, I needed to do something radical, or the dream of writing for a living was never going to come true. I needed to put a lot of words on the page in a very short period of time. I had to suck hard and fail fast.
Since I was in the process of doing a 50k month, what if I tried to pull off a NaNo every month for a year? I didn’t know if such a thing was possible. The NaNo graveyard is filled with the bodies of those who couldn’t do it for a month, and I was going to try to make a whole year of it? Me, who am one of the laziest people on earth? Who’s hardly ever finished anything in his life? Who’s never written more than 200,000 words in a year before? But I had to try.
As of today, every month since last November, I’ve written 50,000 words.
This post is the celebration of that accomplishment. I thought it would be fun to look at some statistics, because they are cool, and maybe they’ll be helpful to someone else trying to ratchet up their level of production.
- Total words in the twelve months: 616,137. These are almost all words of new fiction. I did not count blog posts, or most of the essays I wrote, the tens of thousands of words of Facebook arguments, letters to friends and family, journal writing, etc. I believe the total writing for the last year is close to a million words, though I have no way to count. I log my fiction numbers every day.
- Best month: July (60,885)
- Worst month: April (50,o15)
- Number of months I cracked 50k before the last day: 2 (June and July)
- Average words on the first day of the month: 1253
- Average words on the last day of the month: 2115
- Novels completed: 4 (only one of them from scratch)
- Short Stories completed: 18
- Days with no writing at all: 1 That’s right. One day. And that was intentional; I had a big lead in August, and I was fried, and I tried taking a day where I didn’t write, to see if that helped. It was a disaster, and I never tried it again.
- Days under 500 words written: 5, including the one day “off”. This includes the 125 words I’m the proudest of, which came in a leaking tent in the middle of a thunderstorm with an iPad battery on 5%. That was in July. I wrote 60,000 words in July.
- Days under 1000 words written: 22. Sixteen of those are before May. I’ve written 1000 words or more every day since the day off at the end of August. When I started, I considered 500 words to be the bare minimum for a day; now it’s 1000 words.
- Days over 2000 words written: 85. I had a four-day streak over 2k in July.
- Days over 3000 words written: 12. I had four in July, and seven months never cracked 3000 on any day.
- Best day: December 12, 6020. I had only two other days over 4000.
- Biggest deficit to overcome: 3242 on April 21. April sucked. I have a spreadsheet that tracks my pace-to-complete, kind of like the NaNo website does.
- Biggest lead over pace: July 27, 10,297 words. July was awesome.
- Miscellany: There were three months, April, May, and October (this month) where I was behind pace every single day until I caught up on the last day of the month. There was one month, August, where I was ahead every day. My biggest average day was the 12th–thanks to that one day in December–and my smallest average day was the 1st, by almost 200 words. There were only two months where I wrote above pace on the first day. I played from behind almost every month.
- Average words per hour increased from 1300 in November to over 1700 today. I track this, too.
- Two of the stories I wrote in this period have been published by someone other than me. One of the novels is currently under request by agents (no offers yet).
And yes, absolutely, I’m going to do it again.
If you’re thinking, “I couldn’t do that, there just isn’t enough time in my day,” you’re possibly right. But you might not be. I have eight children. I run a branch of a mortgage company, teach school five days a week, sing opera (yes, for money) (not very much money), and played the Wizard of Oz in a local stage production. I appeared in a webseries. I traveled. I went camping (see above, 125-word day, in the leaky tent). I did all the holidays you do. I just decided I wouldn’t go to bed without writing my words that day. Honestly, it was that simple. And I never did, not once, all year.
It was very, very hard. February, March, April, I thought for sure I wasn’t going to make it. October has been a slog–I don’t like a thing I’m writing right now. There were dozens of days when I got to 10pm (after getting up at 5:30) and thought, “I still have to write for an hour” and thought I couldn’t make myself do it. Where I was literally falling asleep on my keyboard.
This isn’t to brag; it’s to say, I thought I couldn’t do it, either, and I was wrong. I could do it. I could do it through Christmas. I could write on New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. I wrote on a Mac, a PC, an iPad, and my phone. I scratched out 700 words in movie theaters, waiting for the shows to start. I wrote in a tent. In the car on the freeway. In the bathroom (lot of words there) (did I mention the eight children?). Backstage at the play (I wrote a 4600 word short entirely backstage of the Wizard). At conferences. In my classrooms. I wrote in my office, at my dinner table, in every room in my house and my office. About the only place I did not write was at church. Everywhere else, I had the tools with me, and I used them when I found a spare second.
Here’s a piece of advice: don’t wait for the muses to come. They’re shy. Sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard and start typing, even if it’s gibberish. Some days, the muses never come at all, and some days they do, and the truth is, reading back, I can’t tell which words were on which day. But the words are there, either way. Yeah, a lot of them are crap. I doubt I have 400,000 usable words out of the 600k I wrote. But that’s okay, too.
Tomorrow, NaNo starts again. I’ve got the shirt.
See you in a year.