I broke 10,000 words on my book last night. Woot! 10, 894 to be precise. Unfortunately, we’re over halfway through the month, which means I should have written 30,000 words by now. And even more unfortunately, I forgot my book at home today so I can’t even finish the chapter I was working on last night. Harrumph.
I have written three chapters so far, the last of which is still missing some meat. There are seven chapters in this book, possibly eight, depending on how I decide to end it. If I do decide on eight chapters, the last will be more of a footnote than a proper chapter, so it doesn’t really count.
Since NaNoWriMo is about quantity over quality, let’s crunch some numbers. I’ve written nearly 11,ooo words in three chapters. The last chapter needs another thousand or two words to finish it. Let’s err on the side of plenty and say it needs another 2,500 words. That means there are approximately 4,500 words per chapter. The first two chapters were about that long as well. Adding seven chapters up, that puts me at a whopping 31,500 words total, which is far from the 50,000 words required to finish NaNoWriMo.
What this means is that I am writing a novella, not a novel. This story, while (I think) interesting, just doesn’t have enough plot to stretch it out to 50,000 words. Any more than 30K would just be unnecessary filler. There’s nothing wrong with short novels. For instance, Elie Wiesel’s critically acclaimed Night has 109 pages. For the sake of argument, an average book has 200-300 words per page. I’ve read that book and the font is big and widely spaced. Even at a generous average of 300 words per page, that’s only 32,700 words in the whole book.
One of my favorite books, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, has 158 pages. At 300 words per page, that’s 47,400 words. Even Solzhenitsyn wouldn’t have finished National Novel Writing Month with that book and I’m not sure that he wrote it in just a month. The point is, One Day doesn’t need any more words. Another 2,600 words would be superfluous. It is perfect as it is.
I could fudge it and add in an extra 20,000 words for no reason at all, just to finish, just to be a “winner,” but is there really any point in cheating? It’s not as if I get a book contract or money or even a prize if I complete the challenge. I’m doing this for me, not for any sort of web badge. There are people who claim to have finished on the very first day. How could you possibly write an entire novel, 50,000 words, in just over 21 hours? I think that’s cheating. The whole point is to challenge yourself to write, not to post something up there that is already written just to get a silly web badge and call yourself a winner.
Does it bother me that I might have a completed book by the end of the month, but that book won’t be long enough to qualify me as a “winner” of NaNoWriMo? Not really. I mean, it does irk me somewhat that I could have a completed novel from soup to nuts by the end of the month and still not qualify as a winner of the challenge, but the thing is, I could have a completed novel from soup to nuts by the end of the month. A completed novel, or a novella, as the case may be. I don’t have anything like that right now. I have a completed autobiography which is well over 50K words. I have completed short stories. I have this blog. But every single work of fiction in book form that I have started has remained unfinished.
I know exactly where this novella of mine will end up; I just don’t know exactly how it will get there. I’m winging it. It has already greatly changed since I wrote down character sketches many months ago. And the outline I wrote? Pfft, I have barely even looked at it. I know the destination and I’m a third of the way there. I just have to fill in the middle and I’ll be done. Done.
This Novel Writing Month thing is certainly a challenge. It’s far greater a challenge than I originally thought it would be. But I’m going to keep plugging away at it. If I don’t finish in time, if I don’t write 50,000 words, so be it. Regardless of what their goals are, mine is to finish this novella as close to the end of the month as possible. I have roughly 20,000 words to go.