NaNo Done! …ish


I’m proud to announce that I succeeded in writing 50,000 words of my new novel for National Novel Writing Month.

Hooray for me! 

What do I mean by that “ish” in the title?

Oh, you want me to talk about my writing?  I thought you’d never ask…

But first, a word for my writing friends out there.  If you started NaNo and are worried that you might not get to the 50K mark, take heart, you’re not alone.  Every year, more than 4 in 5 people who start NaNo don’t get all the way to the end.  And that is FINE.  If participating in NaNo inspired, encouraged, or even guilted you into writing more of your WIP than you otherwise would have this month, then you’re doing great!  And maybe next year, you’ll be in a better position to write, or have an idea that flows more smoothly, and you will crank those words out in nothing flat.  Keep trying!

Imagine that I’m the little engine behind you:

I think you can! 

I think you can! 

I think you can!

Are you heading up that hill?  Great!

Now back to me.

The writing part went fairly well until recently.  I was able to take some off work and focus totally on getting the new novel started for the first few days, and that made a huge difference.  (Which I talked about in my Day 5 post.)  But then there were days I couldn’t squeeze in any writing at all, due to work and other obligations. Plus I took five days for for a lovely vacation with a friend to Joshua Tree National Park and wine-tasting in Temecula, CA – yes, a real vacation!

That timing was fine, as long as I jammed on my writing days, which I mostly did.  Here’s my word count so far this month:

  • Day 1: 6772
  • Day 2: 2561
  • Day 3: 5103
  • Day 4: 7220
  • Day 5: 4580
  • Day 6: 4051
  • Day 7-15: 0
  • Day 16: 5440
  • Day 17: 5794
  • Day 18: 4323 ** Hit plot problem **
  • Day 19: 1608
  • Day 20: 0
  • Day 21: 232
  • Day 22: 5124 ** Hit 50K **
  • Day 23: 3543 (Thanksgiving)
  • Day 24: so far, 0

The plot problem I hit on Day 18 was an extension of what I mentioned back on Day 5.  At that point, I’d written 26K but wasn’t even halfway through the first page of my four-page outline.  I thought that maybe if I kept writing, this would…. I don’t know, smooth out?

Instead, by Day 18 I was over 45K and still not past the first page of the outline.  I estimate that writing through the whole outline would be at least 200K words.  So: no.   Okay, maybe I’m over-writing.  Maybe I’ll have to cut half of what I’ve written?

Nope, NOT going to work.  What I’m writing is pure “skeleton draft” — it’s only dialogue, a little bit of action, and the MC’s thoughts and feelings.  There is almost no description at all, no detail, no culture, no world-building.  These are people without any distinguishing physical characteristics having discussions in blank, featureless rooms, somewhere in some nondescript country.  My idea is that once I can get the story itself to work, I can add all those layers later, move the scenes to different locations as necessary, go back and add in the cultural detail that I didn’t realize until chapter 100 was going to be important, etc.  So yeah, I will have to add a ton of words, even if I can trim some of what I have.

I finally came to the realization that the only way to write the story I had in mind was to make it into a trilogy.

Yes, the dreaded T word.

Now, some of you might be thrilled to write a trilogy, or even a longer series.  Me?  I’m horrified by the idea.  Finishing ONE book and making sure the plot structure and pacing and clues and everything work well is hard enough.  But designing THREE interlocking books that have one long plot and character arc but also have to have three sub-arcs?  That is way more than three times harder.

I debated.  I cursed.  I tried poking my novel with sticks.   But I couldn’t see any other way to go.

I guess I’m writing a trilogy.

I know that some agents tell you to focus on book one and ignore the rest until you see whether book one sells.  That sounds insane to me.  In both my own writing and in critiquing my writing partners’ writing, there is always one more thing that comes up in the umpteenth revision of the last few chapters that means you have to go back and lay the groundwork for that change back in the early chapters.  Only what if you can’t, because you already published that book?  Ruh-roh, Raggy!

Clearly some writers of long series are able to deal with that, but I’ve still got my training wheels on over here, folks.  I am not taking risks like that.  Which means the plan is to write and revise (x10) the entire three-book series until it’s done before I start marketing book one.  Which also means that it will be that much longer before I have any book published.

Ugh.  Can you see why I’m divided on this?

To make it worse, I feel like I’ve lost focus, lost momentum.  When I decided to split the outline into three books, I realized that the chapters I was heading into had suddenly become the final chapters of book one.  Oops!  I hadn’t planned for a climactic scene here!  I hadn’t planned for a specific arc for book one that is now somehow resolving!  This is the obvious place to make the break before book two, but I’m just not feeling it.  Maybe it’s only post-winning-NaNo ennui.  SIGH.  Nothing to do but keep plugging away.

Thanks for listening to me rant about my writing and my NaNo experiences!  What about you out there in blogging land, how is your writing muse treating you today?  For those of you doing NaNo, how is it going?

After November 30, I’ll return to doing flash fiction challenges and be back to visit your sites more often.  In the meantime —

Good luck out there, everyone!




15 thoughts on “NaNo Done! …ish

  1. Congratulations on making it to the finish line!

    Loved reading your rant and I can so imagine the conundrum of a trilogy. Good luck with the series.

    I too would get back to blogging and life after November. Till that time, I am plugging the plot breaches and filling them with words 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Yes, the trilogy really is the Dirty T Word to me, after so many people kept telling me to make my last (still too long, still unfinished) novel into a trilogy. Just because you have too many words does NOT mean it will make a good a trilogy. I may have training wheels on, but I know that much.

      So did you finish NaNo already too? If you’re already revising and filling plot holes, that’s a good sign, right? Either way, good luck with the rest of your November writing!


      • Thanks a lot for wishing me luck. I got to the 50 k mark just in time, on the last day 😀

        I was working on my last year’s Nanowrimo book so this year the writing was tougher. It always is, when you have the limitations of an existing manuscript.

        The joys of a first draft! Next year, I am going to work on a brand new idea 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Congratulations on hitting the 50k mark — HOORAY! Having been struggling with revisions for the past year, I totally concur: writing brand new words for a brand new story is so refreshingly easy by comparison!


  2. Well done on reaching the word count. And excuse me if I chuckle, it’s not in taunt but in recognition. What you describe is exactly what happened to me when I wrote Feast Fables. With great reluctance I split it into 3 books. Then, in filling in the gaps between dialogue, setting outlines and stage directions, each book grew again. I was left with a trilogy with each book kicking in at 150k+ words.
    It was around then that I kicked the idea of going the usual publication route (my health problems weighed heavy in that decision) and decided to e-publish. But again, heavy health problems negated that. And so I set up crimsonprose, and its sister site, Feast Fables, and published in weekly instalments, just to get it out there.
    You’ll be pleased to hear there is a sequel to this . . . told in the post that’s due out at 6:00 pm UK time.
    And, again, well done.


    • Thank you so much, Crispina! I knew you would understand, although I didn’t realize your series was quite that long. Wow, that is impressive! But all your writing is so beautiful and epic, it deserves the length. I’ll wait to see if I can say the same about mine. I have a lot of “filing in the gaps” to do, even assuming I can wrangle this first story arc into submission. I have a much better idea on the arc for the second book, and the arc and climax for the third book is mostly what I had planned for the overall story. But this first one is really resisting getting itself into form, like some squirmy little toddler who doesn’t want to get dressed. (Ha ha, just realized I have a scene where the female main character from another country does the same thing, resisting getting into the restrictive clothing upper class women wear in this culture.) Ah well, I’ll just keep wrestling!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can recommend a book that could help you with the structure. I don’t know whether you’ve read it. Into The Woods. by John Yorke. He’s an English writer. I;m only now reading it (though I’ve read everything else I can find on structure), and already I’m able to unravel a couple of tangles I had in Feast Fables. Try it. It’s not horribly expensive on Amazon.
        BTW, where you find coincidences and synchronicity, there you also find a wizard solution. Or so I have found. Good luck

        Liked by 1 person

      • I ought to have said, that book isn’t so much about the ‘where’ of structure as the ‘why’ of structure; that’s how come it’s so helpful. And it’s not a ‘how-to’ book, more a ‘why we do’ book.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the recommendation, that book looks really interesting! I’ve been reading a lot of craft books on structure and character arc, and yet I still learn something new from each of them. Right now I’m reading “20 Master Plots” by Ronald Tobias. I’ve had it on my shelf for ages and never got around to it, but I’m finding that it’s much more interesting and useful than I thought it would be. It helps you figure out what specific kind of story you’re trying to tell, then narrows down all that vague, general advice you get elsewhere and says, okay, for this type of story, you want to focus on x, y, z and don’t worry so much about a, b, c. And it’s genre-neutral, as opposed to a lot of advice where they treat “fantasy” stories one way and “literary” stories another.


  3. “I guess I’m writing a trilogy.”

    This happened to me a few weeks ago, although the journey leading to the trilogy was a rather different one. It’s a daunting task but you’re already 50K in, which proves that you can do it!

    Oh, and congratulations on winning Nanowrimo 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the support! Yeah, “accidental trilogying” — there should be a vaccine or “book control” or something. 😀 I’m 60K on Book One, and zero on Books Two and Three, so… there’s a lot left to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done! Liked your honesty and the lessons taught to the rest of us. I experienced that same glut of early words and was working on a different format. Then I changed course and decided my other, more concrete projects needed attention and so I stopped my NANO effort. Your ‘T’ word lesson makes me wonder about my on the shelf project.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you thought it was a good idea before, it’s probably worth revisiting. What counts as a “glut” of words depends entirely on which words need to be there, after all. I’m working with a critique partner who has a initial glut in that she’s trying to put the backstory for the entire world in the first few chapters, and that’s just not working. But maybe what you have is the beginning of a longer story.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and good luck with your writing!


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