24K – and I’m not talkin’ about gold


Image by shaylamyst via Flickr

Twenty-four-thousand words.  That’s what I need to generate in the next twelve hours (or less) if I’m going to hit the magic 50-thousand-word mark for National Novel Writing Month. Even if I ignore all else – laundry, children, groceries, errands, meals, choir practice – or happen across one of those Atanik armbands from Stargate SG-1 that give the wearer superhuman speed and dexterity, odds are 50K isn’t going to happen.

And I’m okay with that.

I’ll squeeze in another 4-5K before midnight, which will put me at around 30-thousand words. And that is 30-thousand more than I had 30 days ago.

Anyone else out there who is attempting NaNoWriMo and not feeling very optimistic about your chances for success tonight, do remember this:  if you consider yourself a writer, and you are writing, then you have won.

I’m not advising you to quit right now. Not at all. Do what you can before midnight. And then on December first, open the document, or pick up your pen, and keep going. Participating in NaNoWriMo is as much about building a writing habit as getting the start of a novel.

I’m willing to bet that if you believed in your idea enough to attempt NaNoWriMo in the first place, then your idea – your story – is important enough that you’re not going to let the turn of a calendar page or the ticking of a clock keep you from finishing it.

When I confessed to struggling with my own story, a friend said, “Well, does it have to be 50-thousand words? Maybe it’s really a novella and only needs to be about 30-thousand.”

In my case, no, the story isn’t a novella. It won’t be done at 50-thousand words either. I suspect closer to 75-thousand when all is said and done. But think about your story:  do you have a novella? Or could it even be a short story?  50K is the NaNo goal, but maybe you can say all that needs to be said in 15K.  So keep working on that first draft, and fine-tune it later.

(By the way – does anyone else find it ironic that we sometimes nickname this venture “NaNo” when there’s nothing small about it?)

I still believe in  my characters and their digitized lives, and they have a story to tell. I’m convinced that the scope of their story requires a little more patience and deliberate thought than I can give it in a mere 30 days.  But I’ve at least learned that.

During the course of November and telling my couple’s story,  I started to fear I’d grown too misogynistic to write romance…that I just don’t believe in it enough or maybe that I believe in it too much and anything I write doesn’t do it justice. As I wrote in a guest blog for my Northwest Ohio NaNo Buddy, Feliza Casano, I can’t wrap my writer’s head around certain kinds of romances – as much as I enjoy reading them and may desire to write them, I don’t seem to be wired correctly.

I like my heroes to be real. They have graying hair, labor-intensive non-romantic jobs (or no job), and genuine fears. The hero of my NaNo novel has a disability. At the moment, it’s the proverbial gun on the mantel that Anton Chekhov says you should use by Act III if you introduce it in Act I – I’m working on making it work. But my point is, Real isn’t always pretty…but when it works, it’s beautiful. It appeals to the hopeful romantic in all of us. It’s a very delicate balancing act. I have to use grains of sand – not bricks – to balance the scale that is Real on one side, and Romantic on the other.

Also, I know of some NaNoWriMo participants who take shortcuts or play “fast and loose” with the word count just to hit 50K.  For example, I might consider including any blogging about NaNo toward the word count. I know of people who have done it, and I thought about it too. But in my mind and for my intentions, it defeats the purpose. I’d rather fail to meet the benchmark honestly. And since I plan to keep the manuscript around and continue working on it, what is the point of adding ten-thousand words of “fake” content that I’d have to go back and cut out anyway?

When the clock switches over to 12:01 a.m. and it becomes December 1st, your manuscript will not vanish in a cloud of sparkly fairy dust. It will not cease to exist. You may be someone who took on NaNoWriMo as a dare or a lark and have no intention of pursuing writing beyond November. That’s all good. Congratulations on sticking it out this long! Seriously!  But if you are a Writer, believe in yourself and your abilities, not the clock and the calendar. Believe in your characters and listen to what they have to say. They won’t stop talking at 12:01 a.m. So don’t stop writing.

Kudos and a peppermint mocha salute to all of my NWO NaNites who hit 50K!


13 thoughts on “24K – and I’m not talkin’ about gold

  1. snagglewordz says:

    Reblogged this on Snagglewordz and commented:
    Elizabeth may not be “talkin’ about gold,” but her words are golden. A truly inspirational post for all us dedicated writers…

  2. Fantastic post! You hit the nail right on the head: it’s about writing. You have more words now than you started out with. That’s easy for me to say when I’m only about 3K words from the 50K goal — but my book isn’t “done” yet either. I don’t even feel like I’m halfway done yet. But I have a much fuller idea of where my story is going, and NaNoWriMo helped me really flesh out one of my characters.

    • Aren’t you glad you dove into the NaNoWriMo pool? Congratulations on a bigger, better “vision” for your story! Please do keep me posted. I love hearing about other people’s projects!


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