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Divas On Writing: Diva Lauren’s NaNoWriMo Wrap-up


So I’m going to be honest with you: I didn’t win NaNoWriMo. In fact my word count was around 30k. I worked really hard the first half of the month, and then those pesky authors I edit took up my remaining time in November. Didn’t they understand I was writing a book? I had a word count deadline to make! Didn’t they realize I NEEDED TO WRITE 2,000 words a day? Well, of course they did, but why would they care? They write books in their sleep, and me huffing and puffing through my book probably made them want to pat me on the head and say, “Oh look, she’s trying to be one of us. How cute.”

Plus they pay me and NaNoWriMo doesn’t, sooooo…

Fifty thousand words is very doable in a month, and I was really pleased with my progress for the first two weeks. I mean, 30k isn’t anything to sneeze at. But as the rest of the month went on, my priority became editing and my authors, not writing. (You see how awesome of an editor I am?) My achievable goal of 50k became a very blurry finish line miles away on the horizon. And I was left beating myself up about it.

So where did I go wrong? If I had more than half of my manuscript done, I could have balanced writing and editing, right? Sure. It’s been done so many times before. But my manuscript wasn’t half done.  I had 30k but it’s nowhere close to being done. Even if I reached the 50k goal, my book wouldn’t have been finished, and I would be, quite simply, where I am now: a big fat NaNoWriMo loser. But dammit, I would have made the word count! I kept on going back and adding more to the 30k, then deleting other things I wrote, and then adding more, taking out… repeat. I kept obsessing over how many words a day I could make and checking my stats on the NaNoWriMo site.  It was a vicious of spinning my wheels, counting words, and hating myself.

After sharing some of my self-loathing with the Divas, Diva Jen told me to read this post by Guy Bergstrom on his blog Red Pen of Doom. He talks about how your word count shouldn’t be your main focus when you’re writing. Bergstrom says:

“It’s a first draft. Word count doesn’t mean a thing.”

See, pretty simple First drafts usually are stinkers, and you’re going to tweak and change so much before you get a final word count. Concentrating on the numbers will only hold you back when you have other things to focus on. He also says: “Getting a great story is all you should care about for a first draft, and you can do that much faster if you stop worrying about pretty sentences and the color the velvet drapes in Chapter 27, where the villain tortures the sidekick in an abandoned Berlin disco club by blasting Celine Dion for 16 straight hours.”

So he’s basically saying, stop worrying about everything and just write. *Cough* Advice I have given many of my authors but fail to take myself.  I couldn’t help worrying about all kinds of things and forgot to just write it all down. Authors like to make manuscripts so pretty the first go around, editors included. It’s hard to let go of perfectionism when as an editor I’m trying to make an author’s work perfect from start to finish.

First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect, that’s why they’re called first for a reason.

What I learned from this year’s NaNoWriMo: It’s not for everyone. Sadly, I think it’s not really for me as a writer. I get the gist of it all, but as Bergstrom wrote in his post, the numbers shouldn’t be your main focus. That’s what a lot of authors can’t get past and end up not winning NaNoWriMo. I’m going to make more worthy goals like complete this scene with this character or figure out the ending before I get much farther in the book. I just need to write the blasted thing and stop dwelling on the word count. I became an editor/writer because I hated math, so why am I still counting?

How did you do with NaNoWriMo?


  1. Lauren, this is a good and worthy post, and not simply for quoting my silly blog.

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