We’re ten days into National Novel Writing Month—one-third of the way there—and after the first nine days, I’m at 15,000 words. My stats page on the NaNo website tells me at this rate I will finish on November 29, one day ahead of the deadline. I have 35,000 words to go.
I should be feeling pretty good about my chances to achieve the goal of writing a 50,000 word first draft in thirty days, right? There’s one slight problem. I’m about two-thirds of the way through my written outline. In short, I’m running out of story.
So what do I do now? Here are my choices:
- Keep going and I might get to 30,000 words.
- Think hard about potential new scenes or story lines and add these to the draft.
- Begin writing the ending first and see how many words I can generate and whether the resolution of the plot jogs any additional story strands I can pursue.
I am leaning toward a combination of #2 and #3. I have already written two completely new scenes that were not in my original written outline. I was pleased with one of these scenes and unhappy with the other. If not for the word count pressure of NaNo, I would not have written either one, but that is one of the benefits of putting myself through the process. It has forced me to employ the most intense type of creative focus. If I was merely slogging my way through a first draft, the word count wouldn’t concern me and I wouldn’t have challenged myself to think about all the story possibilities. Some of these won’t work and I will go back and cut them, but there are those little nuggets in there that I will keep and polish.
There’s nothing to lose when the word count rules the day. When I revisit the draft later on, I will keep what works and cut the rest. And when I reach that 50,000 words (or should I say if?) I will have discovered the core of my story. And in my desperate desire to maintain 1,667 words per day, I will unearth some precious jewels.
If you are doing NaNo, what challenges do you face? How are you coping?