I finished my first draft of my young adult epic fantasy debut, and it feels incredible. It has been in progress for 5+ years between world-building, character development, plotting, and actually writing the thing. NaNoWriMo made it possible for me to finally finish the draft, and I’m left thinking: What now?
It’s the third week of National Novel Writing Month, and I’m 32000 words in with a finished draft. I still need another 18000 words. Editing is not very conducive to reaching high word counts in a single session. I could consider finishing the novel an accomplishment and plan on starting a new project next year, or I can start a short story for the remainder of the month.
I feel more inclined to do the latter as I’ve been sitting on a story for what feels like ages now and haven’t had the time to start. Exciting stuff planned!
The third week ended with a bang for me, but that doesn’t mean it was all rainbows and butterflies. (always wanted to use that cliché) In this week’s article, I’m covering what went wrong, what went right, and what’s next!
What Went Wrong:
After completing last week’s article on fighting burnout, I was ready for this third week of writing. I made it over the hump, I overcame my burnout, and things looked good until I couldn’t sleep Sunday night. I was tossing and turning and over the moon with how enjoyable the new Call of Duty Zombies is. It’s a pleasure to play, and I wanted to play more of it. It was practically all I could think about.
Anyway, Monday morning came along, and I had maybe two or three hours of sleep. Absolutely exhausted. Still, I had to write to maintain my NaNoWriMo progress. Sitting in front of my computer as I always do, I found no words were coming to mind. All I could think about was how tired I was. My momentum was crumbling around me.
As the day rolled along, I had a couple of creative moments as a second wind would hit. I added more words to my story before my mind would check out again. After about 5 hours of staring at the screen, I had written a total of 722 words!
I was 1000 words less than my daily goal and put behind the pace needed to finish on time. However, one bad day isn’t a big deal. Everyone gets them. On top of Monday being poor on my word count, Tuesday was only slightly better—only reaching 1100 words. At this point, I am more than a day behind. How could I catch up?
What Went Right:
Wednesday was absolutely magical for my writing. I was hit with a wave of motivation, especially once I realized I was starting my last numbered chapter of the whole novel. What? Writing a book comes to an end? I just wanted to know how my characters take down the big bad and accomplished their goals.
All the threads that I have spent years weaving were coming together, and it was exciting. I was a man possessed by my character and spent the whole day typing away. Of course, I had a couple of breaks here and there.
Until this point, I had an average daily word count of 1600 words with a high of just over 2000. On Wednesday, the 18th, I had a new personal record for words written in a single day: 3334.
My story was moving right along, character arcs were ending, and Helana defeated the final “boss.” Everything I built over the past five years wrapped up. And I couldn’t have been more proud.
You see, I have this terrible habit of starting these massive projects with tons of potential but rarely do I see them through to completion. It gets hard, and I give up, put it on the side burner, and forget about it. And I almost gave up on this project numerous times—always wondering if I’m the right author to tell the story. The truth is, I am the only person who can tell this story. It has my blood, sweat, and tears. Each character is a piece of myself, and because of that, if another author had the same plot and ideas, it would never be the same.
What I Learned:
Writing a novel is hard. My uneducated past self used to think an author would type a ton of words, and a masterpiece would be born. The first draft was the perfect novel, and it was ready to be read by the public. However, that is so far from the truth. That is a fantasy, dream world that never happens.
People will most commonly start a novel, thinking it’s a get rich quick scheme, or their idea will make them the next J. K. Rowling. They get to the blank page and are instantly met with an overwhelming feeling of cluelessness. The page lays empty with endless possibilities.
Eventually, you get an idea and start typing. It’s the best story in the world until you read it and realize that a third grader could better tell the story. Here the road splits; You think your writing sucks and give up, You try to edit until it’s perfect and never get anywhere, or you keep slogging through.
I went through every stage of that process. I even gave up a couple of times to focus on school or work. Though, I always kept coming back, trying to progress my story. I learned that with perseverance and dedication, it is possible to see the end of your story. Celebrate good times!
However, there is still a ton of work and editing to do. Now that the story is complete, it’s easier to see what it is missing.
Now that my first draft is complete, I plan to let it sit for the rest of the month before I begin editing it. I want to come back with fresh eyes and an open mind because I know many parts need to be fixed, improved, removed and added. There are a ton of steps I need to complete before it is ready to publish.
That being said, be on the lookout for sneak peeks and updates while I move through the process. I’ll be sure to share everything that happens on this blog, dedicating whole articles to the completion and publication of my novel.
For the rest of NaNoWriMo, I will work on a short story that is a prequel to my work in progress. I don’t yet have a sales pitch for this story. Still, it follows my main character’s mother on her mission to uncover enemy secrets while learning to work as a team.
As I work more on the plotting, I will state the premise more engagingly. The main purpose of the story is to explore relationships and how working together can make a daunting task seem manageable.
NaNoWriMo is a third of the way complete. We have one more week to finish up our stories and reach our 50k words. The best advice I can give is to keep pushing. Allow the story to take you places you wouldn’t expect and see what happens.
Sometimes, you can plot all you want, but your characters may have another plan. All you can do at that point is to be flexible and see where it takes you. Persist, and you, too, will see your finished novel.
Let me know how your NaNo is going in the comments below. Let’s lift each other and push through the final week. We are almost there!
C. D. Baron
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