#NaNoWriMo starts in about 24 hours.
I’ll give you a moment to freak out about that, then we can continue.
. . .
This will be my third year doing NaNoWriMo (you can see my profile (and add me as a buddy!) on my NaNoWriMo author page). The first year, I was working on Manifestation, which (as evidenced by the link I just slipped in there) is now a published novel. The second year I was working on the sequels, Contamination and Collapse. This year, I’m working on the sixth volume of Arcana Revived. And I’d like to talk a bit about word counts, including how my NaNoWriMo word counts have improved over the years and how each novel’s word count can shift drastically during revisions with expansions and cuts.
My first year, I was what NaNoWriMo refers to as a “rebel.” See, the “official” rules for NaNoWriMo say that you start writing on November 1st, finish by November 30th, and confine all your writing into that time period. But I had already started Manifestation in September of 2012. I ended up writing the required 50,000 words (actually, 53,552) during NaNoWriMo that year, but I wrote most of the novel during September, October, and a little bit of December. The first draft of Manifestation was 123,139 words, so it was definitely more than I had to write all in November in order to “win” NaNoWriMo.
My second year, I was a rebel again. I started Contamination early in 2013, and by the time NaNoWriMo arrived, I had about 40,000 words written. I ended up finishing the novel in the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo, writing another 80,000 words. Then, since it was still NaNo time, I dove straight into Volume Three, Collapse. I wrote about half of Collapse during NaNo, then finished it in December. All together, I wrote 141,151 words for NaNoWriMo 2013, about 80k on Contamination and 60k on Collapse. A vast improvement over my previous year. (Though I ended up with a bit of NaNoWriMo Burnout at the end).
This year, I’m starting (almost) from scratch. I’ve got 7100 words written on Volume Six, and the only reason I did those was because I’m writing this novel as part of my Rowan University Master’s in Writing Thesis Project. To meet class-imposed deadlines, I had to write the first three chapters. But I’ve been avoiding writing anything else until *checks clock* about 23 hours and 37 minutes from the time I’m writing this.
My “goal” this month is 150,000 words. Part of that is because I want to surpass last year’s 141k. And part of it is that I’m expecting this book to be the longest one yet, so I’m aiming high. It comes out to 5000 words per day, and my Writing Calendar (an idea I stole from Victoria Schwab) is set up with daily totals listed so I can keep track. If things go according to plan, this will be the first year I write a WHOLE novel (give or take that first 7100 words) all in November. No starting a month beforehand, no finishing in December. Just doing it all in one mad rush.
But aside from the number of words I’ll write in NaNoWriMo, there’s another thing I need to consider: how my word counts fluctuate during revisions.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King said that when he revises, he aims to cut unnecessary words (particularly adverbs) and to tighten up descriptions and prose. He says his formula is “Second Draft = First Draft -10%.” It’s a good bit of writing advice . . . that just does not match up with how I work at all.
See, the first draft of Manifestation was 123,139 words, but the next draft ballooned up to a whopping 139,023 words. Why? Well, for one thing, I was adding new scenes to fill in plot holes, flesh out minor characters who hadn’t gotten enough development, and build up certain themes and foreshadowing more. For another, I find that I tend to not be as descriptive as I should in a first draft (something I’ve mentioned on the blog recently). The same thing is happening with Contamination as I revise it now; the first draft was 123,559 words, and it’s currently sitting at 133,343 (and I have at least two more whole chapters to add to fill in some stuff that’s missing).
Now, I DO end up cutting later on. I cut about 60,000 words from Manifestation, added about another 20,000 back in with new scenes, and the final, published novel ended up sitting at 100,180 words (and a bit less than that, really, since that number includes the copyright page and the About the Author section). So draft three of Contamination will probably slim down, after I fatten it up during draft two. And Volume Six, despite my 150,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo, will probably end up smaller than that in the long run.
So, hopefully I can write 5000 words per day for all of NaNoWriMo, even if some of those words don’t make the final cut. And if, like last year, I finish the novel before November 30th . . . well, maybe I’ll start writing the seventh book (which will actually be Volume One of a new series, tentatively titled Arcana Revived: The Dark Ages).
I hope you’ll be joining me in writing like a crazy person, or at least in cheering me on and making sure I don’t completely lose my mind. Cause the madness starts in . . . *checks time* crap, 29 hours and 12 minutes.
Time to panic!
Createspace in paperback