Well, I’ve come to the end of my novel-writing challenge. Not actually the end of writing the novel itself, but of reaching a certain target by a certain date, when the Greenbean Novel Fair results would be made known.
The last 9,000 words have been by far the hardest to write, my motivation and confidence sapping in equal measures. The only thing that got me through was a last-minute eureka! moment which helped me get back on track and will – I hope – continue to spur me on, as well as solving a few of the plotting problems that have been bogging me down. The week’s musical montage music was the Countdown clock:
I managed to get there, scraping in by what I can only describe as the skin of my teeth. There’s plenty of novel still to be written, but I have accumulated my hoped-for 70,000 words since the middle of October.
The word count goal I set myself was an error, as it happens. Rookie mistake. I had read somewhere that popular fiction (my book’s genre) tends to be anywhere between 70,000-120,000 words. I merrily leapt on the low end of that particular swingometer. Then last week, I read an article by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin – who knows a thing or two about publishing – explaining that while literary fiction starts from 70,000 words and romance novels are generally 55-85,000 words, commercial fiction is expected to be 90,000-120,000 words. More importantly, the book doesn’t feel finished at 70,000 words – there’s easily another 20,000 words in it at least.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it hadn’t been for the incentive of the Greenbean Novel Fair. I haven’t had a call from them. I wasn’t expecting one. I’m happy with this personal achievement as my book is in no way ready to be seen. And being an inevitably flawed, possible appalling first novel, I don’t know that I will ever be able to pitch it as something I can stand by. I’ll be proud of having finished it, but may have to accept that it needs to be put in a drawer forever on completion and viewed as a practice run. But I presume there are currently 12 thrilled writers out there who will soon be pitching their novels to industry professionals, and I wish them all the best with it. They’ve already accomplished something so, so hard in completing their books and winning over the judging panel.
I also wouldn’t have made such progress without NaNoWriMo, which really does encourage you to work to a schedule and a solid set of goals. Honestly, if you want somewhere to help you get started with a novel project, I would strongly recommend it.
When I started the NaNoWriMo challenge at the beginning of November, I posted this word count progress:
As of January 31, this is the loveliness I’ve got to report:
For a fledgling, inexperienced and extremely unwise writer, I’m over the moon with that result. I’m also pleased to be ending the period with a fresh burst of enthusiasm, having figured out a solution to my problems – until the next lot show up.
In my experience, the hardest part of writing is holding on to your conviction. If you have that, putting words on the page is enjoyable. Without it, it’s hard to see the point. So if I have any words of advice to impart on the matter, it would be to keep finding ways of making it fun instead of a slog.
Word count: 70,092 words. Mission sort-of-accomplished. As you were, internet.
Read the unexpected epilogue here