The Final Stretch

It’s the final week of NaNoWriMo.

If November has been kind to you, you’re due to hit the fifty-thousand sometime between now and saturday, with an added nod to those of you that have already made your target. The obvious round of congratulations is in order for those that have or will hit their targets by month’s end, but you know what?

Everyone taking part deserves that. If you put your name up there, told other people that you were writing a novel, came to write-ins, updated your wordcount, or otherwise identified with the same struggle to write that so many other Wrimos went through, you deserve a congratulations. Owning up to the desire, being proud enough of your need to write that you shared the fact with others, those are powerful things.

Here’s the thing with National Novel Writing Month. If you’re writing, you don’t fail. You might write three thousand words, and not a word more. You may have written less, but actually thought about the event, and set aside time to write something toward it. Whether you did it for a day, or wrote for most or all of the thirty days, that’s something. You have more words than you would have done otherwise. You may not win NaNoWriMo, but not winning doesn’t preclude success.

If you know your story better, if you’ve ingrained better writing habits, if you’re more able to write a draft as a draft, if you achieved a personal best, or if you put your hand up and said “Yes, I am a writer”, those are all successes.

The story doesn’t end here. For one thing, the month isn’t over yet. Whatever your word count is, writing more from now until December is a good thing. It’s not futile, because even in these last days, you can make writing a habit. Even putting aside thirty minutes a day to write would be good, and if you manage to keep that routine beyond the week, then all the better.

Your writing may not be good. It could actually be terrible. Characters will do things that now seem against their character, there may be giant plot-holes, and who knows what else. You’re going to see a lot of events and choices that you made while writing that you no longer agree with, and guess what – that’s all part of the process. You’re not expected to get it right first time around – that’s just something the movies show. You know that bit where the character is at the typewriter, they type a few words, then scrunch the paper up into a ball until they have that perfect start? It’s not real.

Writing is like so many things, but a perfect run it isn’t. We get through it fatigued, with our pages messy, downright dirty at times. Our writing has scars, and mistakes, and flaws – the same as our characters ought to. When it comes time to look at your novel again, don’t expect a finished product. Expect a path through the story you want to tell, one that might not work. Expect things that don’t make sense. Expect that you will want to and have to make changes before you can read it without wondering what you were thinking.

Have you ever watched a terrible movie, or read an awful book, and thought “I know how to fix this.”

Now you get to prove it, except with your own idea.

Not right now though – for the rest of the month, write. Even if you hadn’t actually started, it’s never too late to start. We follow the guidelines of NaNoWriMo and start November 1st, but the real habits of success don’t start on arbitrary dates or with great circumstances – they always start Today, for whichever today makes you say NO MORE!

On December 1st, reward yourself. You’ve done something amazing, no matter how many words you’ve written. You can take a break, watch that movie or read that book or play that game that you were going to do once you’d finished. You’ll have earned that right.

2 thoughts on “The Final Stretch

  1. Reading the title and then reading your first line, my mind spontaneously broke out into “The Final Countdown” 😛

    I just passed the 30,000 mark and have come to terms with the fact that, while certainly not impossible, I just might not reach 50,000 by the end of the month. No matter – I think I’m still pretty happy about what I’ve done, even if 90% of it is crap. Yep, no matter.

    1. Fact: The Final Countdown makes everything better.

      Even 30,000 is pretty great. If that’s as far as I got in my first year, it would have still been amazing (and felt almost impossible) to me. As it stands, last year I reached 25K, and I still consider it a success as I learned a lot about the story I was writing, the setting it took place in, and turned what was a rough idea into something a lot more concrete.

      So yes, well done 🙂 Give it your best shot anyway.

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