50,000 Words

The past two years, I attempted NaNoWriMo. Last year, in searching for how people actually write 50,000-word novels in a span of thirty days, or one month, and succeed. Some, though I assume they’ve cheated, reach the count anywhere between less than a day and three days.

I learned a lot of professional writers hate, or at least despise, NaNoWriMo because it focuses on the number of words written, not the mechanics of the art. A lot of writers see it as an insult to the industry, and many more publishers see it as the worst time of the year.

I won’t be participating this year. I write quite frequently on this forum-based RPG. I’ve six diverse characters with their own little quirks, and they all have dynamic lives and personalities, and it really is amazing. If you don’t know what an RPG is in the forum-based sense, or even in the written sense, it’s basically Sims for writers: You develop your character via an application, personality surveys, and by simply playing them out through the writing. I like the groups with the limits, because otherwise I run into times where I give 400-word tags1 and receive only 50- to 100-word tags in return, which makes me feel cheated.

I’m only part of one (I didn’t fit in/like it anywhere else), and the minimum word count requirement is 300 words, which is a nice minimum. However, I rarely meet it, because I don’t pay attention to word count like I always do with NaNoWriMo. My tags are typed up in Google Docs (I like how it automates the ellipses), then pasted into the thread as a tag. I know how to check the word count, but I tend to write more when I’m not constantly watching the word count (another reason Google Docs is brilliant for this).

Eventually, I get carried away and do more.

My average word count is around 500 words.

I tend to have problems refraining from writing above anywhere around 600 to 800 words, and I try to wrap it up to a place I can actually stop, which puts me around 900 to 1000.

Perhaps the 50,000-word count is not the enemy when it comes to NaNoWriMo, but the actual idea of word counting instead that makes people feel like they’ve failed, or whatever it is that they feel.

  1. You “tag” someone to post, and each reply is a “tag” back.

Sorry, but comments are closed on this post.

Comments on this post

Coryl o'Reilly’s gravatar

I think Nano is good for one thing: Getting out a first draft. Now, 50K isn’t enough for a first draft in most genres. In some, it’s far under (like romance and fantasy). But if someone’s attempting just a regular, literary novel and not genre fiction, 50K is a great place to start. I know a lot of writers, myself included, are haunted by the idea of a first draft. They want to get it right, so they take their time and edit while they write. But it’s bad, because they eventually come to a place where they can’t edit anymore, but they’re scared to keep writing in case the words are bad.

Nano is for the writers who can bust out a story without outlining it, and who need that public pressure/accountability to get their words down. I don’t think it’s about the word count, since 50K isn’t enough to be a novel these days. It’s a nice minimum to aim for to get you on the track to finishing the first draft.

Nanowrimo doesn’t work for me–I’ve attempted it a few times now–because of the idea of starting a new manuscript and doing it all in one month. I can’t write that way, nor can I write every day and reach a word quota. I’m experimenting the next two months with writing five days a week instead of seven, and seeing how that will go.

I definitely agree that word-counting can be detrimental to the writing process. I know personally that I have to remove the word count at the bottom of Microsoft Word. But I’m going against that in the next two months, because I’m not pressuring myself to write every day and fill a word quota every day. Only five days a week. 😛

I know that I can’t have the word count visible at the bottom of the page. I’m trying to finish my novel before September, and the word count goals I have set are here to be checked after I’ve gotten the day’s writing done. Word counts are important, but they’re only important after the writing. It doesn’t matter how much you write as long as there’s writing being done.

Robin’s gravatar

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but I agree that the word count requirement is ridiculous. I think it would take away from someone’s ability to write what they truly want/mean.

Amy’s gravatar

I think NaNoWriMo is a great way to motivate yourself to actually write something / get going with something, but the word counts can cause people to do silly things like add extra words for no reason. I think it’s also bad to force creativity to that extent, especially if you’re having a bad day and trying to force a few thousand words.

I participated in NaNoWriMo twice but never got past the first couple of days. I’m thinking of having a go this year, but don’t want to fully obey the word counts.

Hope you’re enjoying the writing you’re doing – that’s what’s most important!
xx

Agent Q’s gravatar

I never heard of NaNoWriMo, let alone participate in it. I can see the flaws of setting an arbitrary word count as a goal. I wonder if this was established based on the notion that number trumps content? I’m just under the impression that they set an arbitrary goal as a guide…you know, to push people into elaborating on their ideas? Just my hunch.

Sara’s gravatar

I liked what Coryl said, “It doesn’t matter how much you write as long as there’s writing being done.”