On October 8th, I posted a brave little proposal here. I had decided to enter National Novel Writing Month, but since I already had my November dates pretty well filled up with a book tour and two other trips, not to mention a holiday, I had decided to start in October and simply designate 30 days out of two months to do the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words of a novel.
So how have I done? Well, I was trying to finish a manuscript that was already at 67,000 words, but nowhere near finished. I've been able to declare 14 writing days so far, and I've produced 22,433 new words. That's not quite up to the goal of 1667 a day, but 1602 a day is pretty close. I'm pleased, especially since there are still 4 October days to go. BUT . . .BUT. . . I've been sitting here looking at what I have accomplished and where I want to go. And the hard truth is that there's no way I can stretch this book out for another 28,000 words. Not gonna happen!
My book manuscript now stands at 89,433 words. That's already long enough to be a book. And the story is wrapping itself up. I'm not really very good at plotting out a story line from start to finish before I start to write. I know there are a lot of writers who can do that, and I admire them, but I'm not one of them. I'm not completely happy being a "pantser" either. Pantsers just apply seat of pants to seat of chair and start writing without a clue as to where the story is headed. I tend to start with a pretty clear idea of what's going to happen and how the story will develop. But sometimes the characters surprise me and I find it's wiser to let them have their heads rather than force them into a preconceived mold.
That's what happened in this case. I started out with the idea that I was writing about a married couple, one from the South and one from the North during the Civil War. I knew what kind of troubles they would face. But what I didn't know was which character would prove to be the stronger of the two. Oh, I had an idea, but it turned out I was wrong. (No, I'm not going to reveal which one it is!) Let's just leave it at this -- that the story has already reached a dramatic crescendo and then resolved itself into a surprising but highly satisfactory result. To carry it on for another 28,000 words (that's like 14 more chapters!) would be an anti-climax to disappoint everyone, including me. There are details to wrap up, of course, and final resolutions of secondary story lines, but when a story has made its point, it's time to shut up.
"Damned Yankee" will end up being about 100,000 words -- long enough for a good juicy read but not so long that the reader will be mumbling, "OK, enough, already!"
I wish the very best of luck to all the people who are starting brand new books on Friday. This experience will be an exercise in self-discipline, agony, sore fingers, tired butts, and aching backs, but it's also an exciting way to discover that --yes, indeed, you DO have a story inside of you waiting to get out. Have fun, take it seriously, and produce something great. Just remember that there is more to writing than a word count. Listen to your story, to your characters, and let them guide you. I'll be rooting for you even if I'm not slogging along beside you.