Today is the end of Week 1 of National Novel Writing Month. I am taking this day off of contributing to my word count to greet my valued readers and give you the run down on my experience. For this project, I’m working outside of my favored genre of science fiction, and instead penning a historical animal fiction novel. Something like Johnny Tremain and Watership Down having a baby. This story has been in my head for a little while, wearing the generic title, “The Whale Book.” The first thing Nano gave me was the opportunity to choose a title.
Novel Title: Cetus Finalis
Description: Icelandic whaler Bjorn is shipwrecked on the Colonial American coast while sailing to Long Island shortly before the outbreak of the American Revolution. Unconscious and drowning, Bjorn is rescued by a young grey whale named Sylph. As Bjorn convalesces and reconstructs memories of how he survived his disaster, Sylph and her pod undertake a journey across the Atlantic in search of the mysteriously disappeared bulls of their species. The parallel fates of a shipwrecked whaler and a diminishing pod of whales are woven into the backdrop of the impending American Revolution and the powerful economic whaling forces by which it was financed.
The Numbers Game
NaNo Word Count Goal: 50,000 words in 30 days, constituting a complete novel (not 50 grand of flim flam).
Daily productivity averages to reach goal: 1,667 words/day for 30 days. Alternatively, 2,000 words/day for 25 days (so one may take the odd day off from sheer mental exhaustion, or flesh out characters, events, and themes without typing, and…oh…I don’t know…maybe even observe Thanksgiving.)
My current statistics for the first week (11/1/11 – 11/7/11)
Word Count: 8,181
Average Words Per Day: 1,169
Percentage of NaNo goal completed: 16%
Percentage of Nano time spent: 23%
Life In The Trenches
I may be a little behind schedule according to naked mathematics, but I’m making unprecedented progress. I’m trying to stay on an even keel, resist the temptation to pressure myself to write harder, especially so early in the month. Stress costs words. Each day is very demanding, I spend all of it inhabiting my characters and their world.
On day 2, I was called in for jury duty. I spent the day in the courthouse, participating in our jury selection process, and did not write a word. I was almost selected for the case, being called into an alternate seat (#14). I was then thanked for my service and excused by the prosecuting attorney, who clearly preferred someone else for the job. Suited me just fine, I had a book to write. (I still could not help wishing to be chosen as a juror. To experience first hand the legal process and participate in a way that is arguably more powerful than voting.) Nonetheless, I didn’t write a word on day 2, and it was an act of discipline to just let that go (“Stress costs words,”) and pick up sticks full steam on day 3. I also have not written anything today, day 7, because I needed a break and felt the need to report to my Internet peeps. The numerical reality is that I wrote those 8,181 words in 5 days, which is an average of 1,636 words/day, still a smidge shy of the 1667/day for 30 days, and a far cry from 2,000/day for 25. But I feel I’m going to pick up steam as the weeks roll on.
I’ve put every other writing project on hold, personal and professional, and work on nothing but Cetus Finalis. I never have to read back over something I’ve written or check my notes, because the whole story is fresh in my mind all the time. When I’m walking to work, or riding the bus across town to meet my Mom, I explore the characters, spy on them, listen to them talk to each other. Then I tell more story. I am thoroughly enjoying it, exhaustion be damned!
I want to get more out of Nano than simply the word dump. I took today off to reflect on how NaNo has affected the relationships I develop with my characters, and the way that I construct my storytelling when I don’t dwell on any of it for too long and just keep going. If I feel like backtracking and rewriting, I say to myself, “Rewrite later,” and push on through the tale. The experience is also very mentally taxing, but it brings its own rejuvenating store of satisfaction. The thinking, emoting, and writing drain me, but the creative experience itself gives energy back to me. Time to get back to work. See you next week.
Thanks for reading,