Story craft

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.

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