2013 marks my second year of completing a novel-length textual product.* I didn’t technically finish a novel, in the sense that I do not have a manuscript that is ready to be released into the world, but I did complete the structure on which a more polished story will one day hang, and I passed the word count that is generally considered to be novel-length.**
* I technically spewed out more words when I was freelancing in 2011 and the beginning of 2012, but that wasn’t fiction and wasn’t on my own projects so I’m not considering it part of my work count.
** I’m going off the NaNoWriMo rules, which count 50,000 words as the threshold for a novel. Other counts differ; for a final draft, I’m shooting for somewhere between 80-100,000 words.
Because I’m fascinated by how different people handle the writing process, I tracked my word count for the past two years and made some graphs showing my progress.
Words per week
I kind of stumbled into my 2012 project; you can see the spike in April where I wrote the first bit, then the long stretch of time when I left it alone before realizing that hey, there might be something there after all. Once I realized that I wanted to finish the story, I quickly got into the habit of writing at least 2000 words per week (mostly by writing on my lunch breaks).
In 2013, I started off knowing that I wanted to do a similar project, but my word count was lower per week and I finished later in the year. 2013 was a much rougher year for me personally. Some of the dips down to 0 were weeks when an illness/emergency/move/whatever meant that all my energy went into something other than writing. Those multi-week stretches at 0 are times when I didn’t have a working computer (my old desktop ate power supplies for breakfast).
The way I wrote in 2012 was definitely more fun, and I’ll try to get back in the habit of writing every day in 2014.
Word count over time
Here’s a cheerier chart. You can see how long I spent not paying attention to writing in 2012, and the sudden burst of effort towards the end of the year when my self-imposed deadline was looming. Starting earlier in 2013 paid off; despite my lower weekly word counts, I was still ahead of my 2012 progress until mid-October. I’ll be doing the same in 2014, with the benefit of an outline so I can write even faster.
Total word count
The story I wrote in 2012 was the only fiction project I was seriously tinkering with that year. In 2013, I wrote a smidge over 12,000 words on a just-for-fun side project, plus 4,000 words on the outline for the story I’ll be working on in 2014 (I didn’t track these projects in my weekly word count chart; that was just the novel-length textual product). So, despite the low weekly word counts and 10,000 words less in the tally at year’s end, I did surpass my word count from 2012. I also started this blog, but I’m only counting fiction in these totals.
Although it’s not apparent in the charts, my 2013 project is much, much closer to resembling an actual novel. It doesn’t have any scenes left unfinished, its plot is more or less functional, and I won’t have to completely hack it to bits in the editing process. The 2012 project was so rough that revising it will be less like polishing and more like selecting passages to recycle in a better story.
Now I lock my little proto-novels away in a drawer, where they can stew in their own juices for a while before I’m ready to start editing. Since I’ve proved to myself that I can write something 1) long enough to be considered a novel and 2) semi-coherent, I’m taking on a more ambitious project in 2014, with the goal of ending the year with something much closer to a final draft.