Na No Wri Mo #3

It’s the third week of National Novel Writing Month, I’m 21,287 words in and I have hit a wall. Or to be more accurate, Sunday Football and other work got in the way over the weekend and now I’m struggling to find the motivation to return to my daily word count. To make matters worse I’m at the dreaded mid first draft hump.

It’s my experience that most novels that never get finished usually fall apart around 20,000-30,000 words. I have several aborted attempts at novels of about this size and I’ve heard countless tales from other writers echoing my own experience. I wonder, what is it about this number of words that cause us to fall off?

I think it’s because 20,000-30,000 words is a sufficient number of words to be into the story, but not enough for the story to come to a conclusion. We get lost, and unable to see the forest for the trees get frustrated and give up. 20,000 words is sufficient length to tell a story, but not enough for the story to be a novel.

By 20,000 words we are far enough in that we forget the story we intended to tell. The story has changed so much it no longer matches the outline, and there was never enough detail in the outline to begin with, so while the end may have already been thought up, getting there is still daunting. It’s at this point that starting a new story sounds better than finishing the one that’s currently causing so many headaches.

However, stopping means the novel will probably never get finished.  The only way forward is to keep writing.


One comment

  1. I sympathise no I don’t, I empathise. Sympathy is useless, empathy will kick your ass in a nice way! 20-30,000 words everything you say is true, they feel like a false summit, you’ve climbed a hell of a long way, your legs feel like jelly and instead of arriving as you hoped you realise you are not even half way up. (I use the analogy because I’m a climber but you may substitute your own metaphor) BUT the beauty is that perserverance in writing like climbing means this is where you get in the zone, where the characters take on their own life and take over the story; where in effect you become part of the mountain rather than a small speck toiling up it, Reaching the summit of a mountain is the biggest high that you can ever have, exhaustion, fear, doubt, everything is conquered and the world lies at your feet.

    Keep tapping away while muttering, despairing, hoping and possibly crying with frustration your characters will lap it all up and take you where they want to go. You can put anything you want in a first draft, it’s an exploration, the second draft is for all the mundane stuff like consistency, plot lines etc!!

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