What Have I Learned?

So, today’s the 29th of 30 days in November, and NaNoWriMo 2015 is drawing to a close soon.  What have I learned?  How have I done?  And did I meet my goals?

Well, first let’s look at the metric most people judge NaNoWriMo success by – did you write 50,000 words?  With almost two days left, I can give you an unequivocal ‘No.’  I’m just a hair shy of 35,000 words, and I know that there’s no way, with my current skill level, I’ll be able to bang out 15,000 words in the next day and a half.  I certainly expect to break 40,000 before tomorrow night at midnight, and I am thrilled with that.

Seriously, 40,000 words with the month I’ve had?  I am over the moon with that progress.  Honestly, that’s more words than I’ve written combined in the last year.  Somewhat of a shameful confession for someone purporting to be a ‘professional author,’ but there you are.

But let’s look now at my stated goals for NaNoWriMo, as posted last month at the outset:

  1. Volume
  2. Persistence
  3. Perseverance
  4. Let It Suck

I’ve already covered 1. Volume, and I consider that a success, even though I’m not getting a badge from the NaNo website.  What about 2. Persistence?  This was my goal of continuing through the hard parts, even though they’re hard.  It was about not giving up on the project and putting it with the rest of my half begun and abandoned novels and stories (and there are a lot).

Well, I am still writing the same novel I started, and I am still every bit excited about it as I was in October, if not more so.  I’ve hit a few sections where I’ve thought, ‘Man, I have no idea how to write this scene,’ or ‘There’s no way I can do this part,’ and yet I’ve kept going.  I haven’t lost any steam yet.

So we’ll call goal 2 a success, so far.  There’s always the chance that it will turn on me, and I’ll be tempted to put it down again later, but this time it feels different.  This time, I don’t think I will.  So, success as far as I am concerned.

Goal 3. Perseverance: This was where I was adamant that I get over the hump of starting every day.  Not frittering away days navel-gazing and calling it ‘background’ for my writing.  How did I do? Well, let’s look at his handy chart that I’ve made of my daily progress.  NaNoWordsAs you can see, there are a few days with 0 words written.  But, there are only a few days with 0 words written.  In any given month of the last 18, that graph would have been almost inverted, with the majority of days at 0, and the minority up around 1-2,000 words.  And even at that, the five days I had no word counts, it’s not that I was just farting around.  I was either so busy I never saw my computer, or so sleep-deprived that when I did see it, I couldn’t focus on the screen.  So, despite not having a positive word count every day, I definitely consider this goal met.  I am thrilled.

Goal 4. Let It Suck – Oh yeah.  Let me tell you, as I told Di last night.  I love the story that is unfolding, I love the characters and the plot, and how it is going.  But the words on the page?  Yeah, those need to go.  They suck.  It’s not stopping me though.  I just keep going, I keep writing.  I am amazed and flabbergasted at this development.  I am thrilled.

So, how did we do on the goals?  I would call this year’s NaNoWriMo (my first) a resounding success.

But I’m not stopping here.  This novel wasn’t just an experiment for NaNo.  This is one that I have every desire to complete, polish for publication, and shop around to every possible publishing house until I find one interested in buying it and publishing it.

Now, before I let you go, let’s look at that chart above again, and one more, below.  What can I learn about my writing from these two charts?  From the first chart, my daily word counts are all over the place.  I’ve got 5 days with zero words, only seven when I wrote more than the desired 1,667 words, with the other 15 days all below the goal.  Granted, there were extenuating circumstances, like in-laws visiting for two weeks, a house full of even more relatives for three days, a major holiday, and so on.  But, every month is going to have (and has had!) it’s constant interruptions and distractions.  If I want to truly be a professional at this job, not only do I need to have a more consistent ability to work despite distraction, I also need to bring up the mean word count per day.  If you don’t count the 5 days I didn’t write, then my average daily word count is around 1556 words.  It’s higher than it’s been, all things considered, but it needs to be higher still.NaNoOverallYou can also see from the second chart that I was writing pretty much on track for the first two weeks, and then things tapered off fast.  Why?  Did I just run out of steam?  Not really.  I still had the desire to write.  But that was around when I started letting life get in the way of my writing.  And once I let up, it took an entire week to get myself started again, and even once I started up again, I haven’t gotten back to full speed yet.  The good news: Kidlets are on their way back to school after a break, extended family have gone home, in-laws are headed home in a few days, holiday run up has wound down.  In other words, life is getting back to normal.  At least for three weeks.

I look forward to getting back to a normal writing schedule again.

So, final thoughts?  I am very proud of and thrilled with my progress, but I can see where I still need to work on things.  This writing life is a constant work in progress.  So, let’s progress, shall we?

Here I Go,



About Matthew Shean

Matthew Shean is the author of several forthcoming novels and myriad short stories. He received his Ph.D. from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York, NY, and spent 20 years as a research scientist throughout the northeastern United States. He now lives in Long Island (against his will), with his loving family and disdainful cats.
This entry was posted in Blog Musings, Work-Life Balance and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What Have I Learned?

  1. buffyworsham says:

    Great article, NaNoWriMo inspired me to start a lot of other smaller-scale projects. I definitely think the pain of sucking was worth it.


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