The Word Count Blues, Nanowrimo Edition

Last year, I blogged about daily word count, and how it doesn’t work for me as a motivational tool.

I also previously blogged about Nanowrimo, which I thought worked for me, as a one-time sprint of sorts, during which the normal rules of my own writing process did not apply.

I signed up for this year’s Nanowrimo in an effort to jumpstart my productivity. Numerous changes and events this year left me writing at less than my usual level, and — remembering 2011’s frantic yet successful sprint to finish a 50,300 word draft — I thought this would help.

I made one, critical, mistake. I let the contest rule me, instead of using the contest to help me.

After the first couple of relatively trouble-free days, things in my story vision took a new turn, as they do. That complicated things. Also, several interruptions from real life meant I would — horror of horrors — have to catch up later. I began to stress out.

When I saw that I had not reached my goal, I sat down with grim determination the next day — so motivated to pass that arbitrary finish line that my creativity died on the spot.

And it happened again, until I could not write at all.

I joked to my husband that I was in the basement on the computer typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” *

Several days into November, then, I changed my goal. I would not try to meet a target word count, nor would I look at others’ word counts as they sailed victoriously on. I would write to my own personal target — a certain dramatic scene, or a chapter, or plot development I was struggling with.

It’s all about the writing.

Now — half through November — I am way behind the word count for Nanowrimo, but I will not attempt to catch up. Since I stopped the obsessive counting, I recognize my writing again. I think I have a darn good story in the works.

Nanowrimo is a great idea. For those who respond to that kind of motivation, it can mean getting a novel on paper that otherwise would never have been written. It even worked for me once. But not this time.

And my Work in Progress is taking shape very well.

Wonder if I’ve learned my lesson this time?

*from The Shining

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