Fewer Words for More Story

At this precise moment in time I am really struggling with writing. It’s like I’m arm wrestling with it and my hand is so close to the table it’s inevitable that I will lose, but a part of me keeps on pushing, wants to win and will be damned if I’m going to give up and surrender to the loss.

I have less than 6,500 words to go before reaching the November target of 50,000 words, but I have the feeling that these words will be the hardest to write. Not because I’m so close to winning NaNoWriMo, but because I am so far away from completing the story and it seems that the NaNoWriMo milestone is almost insignificant in comparison.

I really wanted to write a novel in a month. I didn’t want to be left in the same position as last year – where I had a manuscript that took me a further 11 months to complete. I wanted to complete this story ready to edit in 2013 and feel a real sense of accomplishment. But, that isn’t going to happen this month and I’m so tired of keeping up that regular pace that I’m doubtful whether or not I can even attempt any more of it in December.

I feel disappointed.

There, that’s what it is. Disappointment. As much as it may be an extraordinary feat that I can write 50,000 words in 30 days that isn’t what I was aiming for. I am only a fifth of the way through my novel’s story which means that there is still so much to go, therefore reaching that target of 50k words suddenly seems so insignificant.

I have learnt a lot about my story in those words though. Most of them have consisted of me exploring the world I have created and getting to know my characters that little bit better – seeing them as real people rather than just words on a page. I’ve written my way through a whole lot of understanding about the ‘why’s ‘of the story and realised that my muse has now filled in a lot of the blanks that I didn’t have when I started writing. I’ve discovered facts about my characters that I could not have imagined when I invented them and they are now beginning to take charge of their own storyline, and sometimes steer it away from where I wanted it to go.

I guess my disappointment stems from the fact that this book is potential going to be just as much effort, if not more so, than the first attempt. I don’t know why I thought it would be easier. Although this year I’ve found my word count rising from between 2,000-4,000 words a day, rather than labouring over the minimum of 1,667. I’ve had no doubts that I could make it to the 50,000 word marker and still don’t, even though I’m currently struggling so much over each and every sentence. NaNoWriMo I can do. Write a full first draft in 30 days – I cannot. Not this year anyway.

So, yes, I’m disappointed. And this is getting in the way of my writing. Each time I sit down to add another scene I realise just how far away from the end I am, despite so many words already, and each one seems like it won’t get me any closer to the end given that I’m so far away from it already. The words have created an illusion of progress through their number and yet the story has not advanced enough for the number of words created.

Perhaps I need to change this. What I should do is alter my approach. A month ago I wrote a detailed plan of each chapter I wanted to write – thinking that perhaps each one would consist of around 2,000 words per chapter. This has not been true. Instead some have ended up being more than 7,000 words! This is what is holding me back from the story – those details that I am creating to pad out each chapter are drowning me in words rather than pushing me forward.

I need to push through. I need to write fewer words to tell more of the story. It sounds counter-productive but it might just work. I can go back and fill in the details later. For now, what I need is progress. And to achieve progress I need to write myself further ahead than I am. Fingers crossed. Here I go….

 

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8 responses to “Fewer Words for More Story

  1. Firstly….CONGRATULATIONS! Look how well you’ve done so far!!!! 🙂

    The thing about a Nano novel is that it’s draft Zero (as Chris Baty says) so it’s not even really a first draft. I’m a firm believer in that. It’s just the foundations of a novel, no matter how many words it ends up being at the end of November.

    Good luck Cat, don’t be so hard on yourself honey, you’ve done so well. This is where the real works starts 🙂

    Xx

    • Draft Zero – I like that. Not really considered it in that context before, but it actually takes a lot of pressure off.
      Am gonna carry on and win NaNo this year and focus on what happens next later…when my head is out of the numbers game and back in ‘real life’ lol!
      Well done to you too – for getting your novel finished, in addition to your short stories! Looking forward to how you got on with your Faber critique!
      Take Care, x

  2. Ouch. I know how ya feel, Cat. For me, I’m letting my impatience get the better of me. Like Neil said, its a marathon. You’ve cranked out a lot in the last few weeks. Geez–@45,000 words. Good for you! You learned so much in that short time that may have taken you ordinarily 6 months to a year to learn. Sounds like progress to me.

    I like your idea of skipping details. I do the same thing. My drafts are filled with high-lighted notes of “transition here,” “research so-and-so,” “more description here” and my favorite, “Something goes here. I’m not sure what it is, though.” Just keep going. You’ll get it all down.

    • Thanks Dan, you’re always a good one for spotting the positives out of my rambling posts. You’re right – I have learnt a lot this November so that IS progress.
      Glad I have you around to make me see the silver lining…x

  3. Being honest? I’m not convinced that it’s necessarily possible to tell a good novel-length story in 50,000 words.

    Remember the one I wrote last year? Somewhere between 70 and 80k words (and that took me around 6 weeks working almost full time on it) and you know how long it’s taken me to type it up and (nearly 18 months later) not to got near finishing editing it for the next draft.

    I think we need to think in terms of a marathon, rather than a sprint. And marathons take a lot of preparation (as you’ve done) and then continued long-term work.

    In a way, NaNoWriMo, while acting as an incentive to really get writing, may actually be acting as a disincentive for you.

    Or, in other words, take heart. If your story needs more words, then let it take that time and space. The story will take the number of words it needs. It may need 100k or more in the first run and then be edited down to 50k or 70k.

    Keep smiling. You’re doing an amazing job being a hard-working, creative writer.

    • Ah, the wise words of Neil. Thanks doll. You’re right as usual. I was never very good at marathons – not enough immediate gratification involved!
      Heart taken, I’m off to have a cup of tea to help with the smiling aspect of your advice.
      Thanks for the support, as always.
      Cat

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