NaNoWriMo After-Action Report

Well, by the grace of God and with the help of a stalwart wife unafraid to lock me in the basement, I’ve managed to “beat” the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge for the first time, at least from a wordcount perspective. The goal for the month-long challenge is to complete the first draft of a novel, or 50,000 words minimum. It had been my goal to go beyond that minimum by at least double, clocking in at 100,000 words and completing the rough draft of a novel set in the Four Horsemen Universe. In the end, I managed 70,279 words, and much of that was in the 8 days following Thanksgiving. It’s been quite a journey, to say the least!

However, when November 1st rolled around, I was still in the midst of outlining. I’ve gotten much better over the years at planning out critical plot points and twists, but the journey between those points is often a nebulous area for me, prone to much head-scratching and hours spent doing anything but putting in keystrokes or penstrokes. So, November 1st became November 2nd, and 3rd, and before I knew it, we were four days into the month and still nothing written other than what was in the outline. At that point, I decided I had to just get to it and continue the outline while drafting.

Then life interfered, as it always does. And while I was getting words down, it was a trickle of what I knew I was capable of. 1,500 words one day, 400 the next, 3,300 the following, and so on. By the time Thanksgiving got here, my wordcount was sitting at 8,527. Just barely past the opening scenes of Jackie Warren’s novel adventure, and nowhere near the inciting incident. That made for a very frustrating experience, especially as I was hearing about the successes going on with the people in both of my writers’ groups. I wasn’t envious of them. I was kicking myself for not living up to that potential, for letting them down. This, I think, is one of the best parts of being in a group of writers with just as much drive as you. Their accomplishments spur you on. At least, that’s the case for me.

Thanksgiving happened, and it was then I decided to just pull back from the writing for a day, to rest and be thankful for all God’s blessed me with, from my family and friends and colleagues to the desire to write and the opportunities that have been set before me. I also took time to reflect on those who are nowhere near as blessed as I am, who suffer many more afflictions or life stresses and go on to produce so much.

And then on Black Friday, while many were out killing each other over factory-second TVs and game consoles, I went down to the basement, set up a writing spot, and got to work. In that one day, I wrote 9,183 words, more than I’d produced the entire month. I’ve done 10k days in the past, but they were rare. And I’m tired of them being rare, so the push was on! And from Black Friday to Friday the 30th, a total of 61,752 words were produced. They’re rough words, but they’re words on digital paper, waiting to be torn apart, reassembled, and polished up in the editing phase, which will begin shortly.

The point of this post is to show that it is certainly possible to produce a fair amount in a relatively short amount of time. Now, I wish I’d been more consistent with this throughout the month. The words produced would probably be of a higher quality if I’d spread this out over the entire month rather than the last week of the challenge, and I’d have reached my goal of having the entire novel done by the end of the month if I’d been putting in, say, 4,000 per day rather than 7,500 a day in a frantic final push. But, I know now what I’m capable of doing when I have five solid hours of writing to do per day, and a basement with nothing else to do other than write.

So, yes, once more: I am very thankful for the people in both my writing groups for giving me the encouragement needed to push on through with the draft, not just during November but in the weeks before and the weeks to come. And since this particular manuscript is set in the Four Horsemen Universe, special thanks to Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for creating such a badass place to house a group of characters I hope people find cool and fun to follow.

I have no idea on the ultimate fate of this novel, as I sort of decided to put the cart before the horse and whip up this draft before the story was even looked at or approved. But, hey, it’s too cool a universe to not want to write in it. I haven’t been this excited about a shared world experience since back when I was writing Star Wars and Warhammer 40K fanfiction, so I couldn’t help but dive right in.

In any event, back to the basement dungeon I go, to finish the draft, figure out what needs to be done with the editing, and then get a proposal written up. As mentioned earlier, this novel features the character Jackie Warren and her Justin Timers from the short story “Return to Sender” in the Tales From the Lyon’s Den anthology published back in October. If you enjoyed the story and characters and have something you’d like to know more about or see more of, now’s the time to let me know! The carcass of a rough draft has yet to be opened up in an editing autopsy, so many things could change.

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