#NaNoWriMo – Know Your Goals to Know If You Are Winning

The first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was the writer that NaNoWriMo was established to inspire.  I had struggled to write a long piece of fiction for some time and just wanted to write.  Getting 50,000 words of one story written seemed like a bigger goal than I could manage.  Sure, there was part of me that hoped I could turn it into something usable, but mostly, I wanted to unstick myself.  And it worked.  I wrote my 50,000 words and felt great that my story had a beginning, most of a middle, and an end.

After NaNoWriMo 2008, I started looking at how to edit what I had written and realized I had a lot of craft to learn if I wanted to write a readable novel.  I started taking workshops, meeting other writers,reading books with a writer’s eye, and pushing myself to learn the craft.  Since then, I have written some short fiction that I am very proud of.  I am still working on finishing a book length story, but I keep getting closer.

This year, my goal is a complete first draft of a middle grade novel.  And it is part of larger goals.  I want part of this story to be in good enough shape to have a professional comment on at a blue pencil session scheduled in April.  And I want the book ready for querying agents by August.  NaNoWriMo is a kick in the pants to get the first draft down, but I know I will have lots of work to do afterwards.

Because my goal is the completeness of the draft, I am not pushing myself to write as fast as I did in 2008.  I know that I can write 1500 words an hour if I am just getting words out.  But, if I don’t have a very good idea of what I am trying to write, the words may not lead me in the direction I want to go.  I can’t afford to spend a lot of time running along interesting but fruitless tangents.  I need to know where I am trying to lead my story.

Last week, I had kids home from school, I was sick, and I knew that some important elements of the story were missing.  I made a choice not to push on with writing and to think instead.  I edited and sent out a short story and I thought about my novel.

This afternoon, I sat down and fleshed out my outline.  I had previously broken the story into 20 chapters, plotted what needed to happen in each chapter, and written three chapters.  Today, I broke each chapter down into 3-5 scenes and wrote a little description of each scene into my manuscript as a place holder.  In the process, I learned more about the characters that the story requires. And, the story is growing in a cohesive fashion.  I also did a little research to help me develop two of the characters as I want to be able to write them in reasonable depth the first time I write about them.

The current status is that I am about 5,000 words behind where I should be if I were just trying to write 1,667 words a day, but I am a lot closer to a decent first draft than the numbers show.  Because I know my goal, I am able to decide how to pursue it and not merely rush headlong towards a high word count that includes a lot of words that will be cut on December 1.

My first NaNoWriMo, I  just wanted to “win” the 50,000 word challenge.  This year, NaNoWriMo is my excuse to focus on my novel over my short fiction, but 50,000 words isn’t my true goal.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, what is your true goal? And, is your current game plan sending you in the right direction.


About Kate Arms-Roberts


Posted on November 8, 2010, in This Writing Life. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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