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Posted by on Dec 2, 2010 in Thoughts on Writing | 1 comment

What 32,371 Words Taught Me About Myself

32,371. Kind of a strange, random number, right? While that may be, it’s also the number of words I completed during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year.

Since the one-month writing goal was 50,000 words, I guess you could say I “lost” or “failed.” Oddly enough – given my over-competitive streak – I don’t feel that way about it.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo this year and fell short of the 50,000 word mark, you shouldn’t feel like a failure or a loser either…

What I learned during the month of November is more valuable than a half-finished, hastily-written manuscript will ever be – to me, at least. I suspect, when you take the time to really consider the previous month, you’ll feel the same way about your writing as well.

Fiction Writer’s Wake-up Call

As a full-time freelance writer and editor, I stay busy pretty well all the time. Some days, my cat walking between me and the computer, yelling “break time!” is the only thing that forces me to relax for a few minutes – or until her attention span wanders to a shadow and she jumps off the desk to kill it. It’s very cute, actually…except when I’m under a tight deadline. This means I have zero time to work on my fiction writing goals on a daily basis.

Truly, y’all, some days I’d just be happy if I could fit in a nap…

But since so many of my friends were participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I thought I’d give it a whirl. Why not, right? Sleep and hair brushing are overrated anyway. Hitting the elusive and arbitrary goal of 50,000 words was always a long-shot for me, but stranger things have happened.

Creating Time for Fiction

Here’s the thing that shocked me: Even though I carved time out of my day – most of ‘em – for writing, nothing suffered. Sure, I didn’t watch as much television as I might have otherwise watched, but my business didn’t crumble. My husband didn’t divorce me. My house didn’t fall apart around me.

In fact, the only change is that I wrote 32,371 words on a novel I might not have written for months, left to my own devices.

Of course, it can’t be all rainbows and bubble gum smiles, so I’ll admit I did run into one massive problem. (Nope, not the mini-kitchen flood that happened on Thanksgiving night) My brain and my muse are on opposite schedules.

I think this could be revenge for all the real crime TV I make them watch…

You see, my muse doesn’t go into overdrive until late evening. I’ve always been a night owl, so that makes sense, but lately my brain has decided to go on strike around midnight. So, while the muse is ready to play, the brain makes the fingers forget how to move across a keyboard.

Breaking Down the Lessons of NaNoWriMo

Back to those precious 32,371 words of pure awesome that my muse and brain did collaborate on.

  • 32,371 words is 1,070 words per day. That only takes me maybe an hour to write…if that
  • I didn’t write every day because of work and brain rebellion
  • Those 32,371 words came from 20 days of writing (probably only 15, but I don’t want to over-inflate my stats here)
  • 32,371 words over 20 days is 1,618 words per day (2,158 words per day with the more accurate 15 days)

I’ll stop geeking out about the numbers now.

The real point of all this is that those 32,371 non-winning words taught me that, even during my busy months – and November was busy, y’all – I should be able to keep plugging away at my novels. In fact, I should be able to knock out the first draft of any of my novels in 3-4 months. (2 months when I’m writing series/category romance since they’re much shorter)

And you know what, y’all? Now that I know this, I’m going to do it.

Okay, but the actual goal will be 30,000 words per month. 32,371 is a strange, random number when I think about it.

Until the muse returns…


© 2010 – 2013, Sydney Katt. All rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  1. Good for you on the writing! I like this little creative nonfiction essay – I really like your perspective on your accomplishment and the brain vs muse battle!

    Good luck writing Sydney Katt! ;-p

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