How I Won NaNoWriMo in 9 Days

So this is my NaNoWriMo word count progress chart:

Or at least, that’s what it was on Saturday after I hit 50k.

So statistics! We like statistics. Here’s how my nine day breakdown went:
Day 1: 5,731 words written, 5,731 total.
Day 2: 7,724 words written, 13,455 total.
Day 3: 5,150 words written, 18,605 total.
Day 4: 5,145 words written, 23,620 total.
Day 5: 5,130 words written, 28,750 total.
Day 6: 5,056 words written, 33,806 total.
Day 7: 5,002 words written, 38,808 total.
Day 8: 6,251 words written, 45,059 total.
Day 9: 5,237 words written, 50,296 total. 
Daily average: 5,588 words.
Now, I wasn’t originally planning on writing 5k a day. My goal on November first when I started NaNoing was 2k a day, which is my normal writing goal when I first draft in any other month. I know from experience that I can maintain 2k a day pretty consistently, and it would bring me to 60k at the end of the month, which was fine by me.

But on day one I blew way past 2k and hit 5k with relative ease. I was hyped on NaNo and excitement and everyone was sprinting and I thought, why the hell not? and I kept writing way past my goal.

Day two I still said my goal was 2k. Then I started writing and got really excited again and Emmy Neal challenged me to be ambitious after I was tired and I thought, fine fine I’ll do it and I wrote until my brain collapsed at close to 8k.

Day three I hit 5k again and it occurred to me that I could probably keep doing this 5k a day thing and finish even faster than I thought. And my NaNo graph was telling me that at this pace I’d finish on November 9th or 10th and the competitive part of me didn’t want to see my daily average output drop so…I didn’t let it drop.

By day five I was no longer in denial. I knew my new goal was 5k a day, and more than that, I wanted to finish the entire book before the end of the month—or even better, before Thanksgiving because Black Friday is Get Assassin’s Creed 4 day and all bets are off after that. So.

That’s my current goal, and with 50k in the pot, I’m more than halfway there.

Being that this is the fastest I’ve ever sped through 50,000 words, there are a couple things I did (and didn’t do) to move the process along:

  • I turned my MS into mad libs. Well, not really—I just used a lot of placeholders. I’ve never used them before, but I’ve had some of you wonderful readers recommend them to me, and boy am I glad because they saved me a lot of getting stuck in mid-sentence upon realizing I don’t know a minor character’s name. Or the name of a town. Or an object. Or just about any world building or character-oriented detail that I’ve yet to work out. Instead of pausing to figure it out, I inserted a big fat (NAME) or (TOWN) or whatever other placeholder fit the particular situation. I have a lot of blanks. A lot. But it’s ok, because those are the sort of details I can work out in future drafts. 

  • I committed writing sins. I told instead of showed. And used filter phrases like nobody’s business. And summarized in places that would probably be better served without summary. And named emotions. And probably broke plenty of other writing rules I’m not thinking of at the moment. And as I continue writing the 30-some-odd-k left of this WIP, I’ll continue to do so.

    Why? Because this is a first draft, and the point of the first draft isn’t to get it perfect, it’s to get it done. 

  • I deviated from my outline. I tend to look at my outline as more of a guide than a strict rulebook. So far at least, everything’s gone mostly as planned, but characters have thrown major curveballs my way and scenes have turned out entirely different than the way I imagined them, which is totally a-ok with me. They usually turn out better than I expected, anyway. 

  • I made notes as I went along. Lots of them. Mostly to correct things, sometimes to remind me to fix something while I revise in the future, sometimes to brainstorm future potential possibilities. Most of these notes won’t really be looked at until I start my second draft in the future, but they’ll serve as good reminders for elements that need adjusting or expanding later on. 

  • I wrote in spurts. This doesn’t work for everyone, of course, but I’ve found that I write best in thirty-minute spurts. With Write or Die, I can usually pound out 1,000 words in that timeframe (and oftentimes if I hit the end of the timer and haven’t reached 1k, I’ll keep going until I do). Then I’ll take a break and browse Twitter, or eat, or stretch, and come back for another round. Rinse and repeat. 

  • If I still had the energy, I wrote beyond my goal. It helps to be ahead for those days in the future when the writing isn’t being so nice. Or you’ve had a long day and you’re tired. Or you can’t find the time. Or you just really want a day off.

    If you have the time and the energy to keep going beyond your goal, go for it. You’ll be glad you did later. 

  • I slacked off on my reading. At the end of the day, after writing 5,000 words and staring at the screen for hours, I didn’t often feel like looking at more words. I’ve already met my reading challenge of the year, and once I finish writing I’ll be right back to my normal pace, but my reading output definitely slowed down, because I often needed a break from letter combinations.

And that is, in a nutshell, how I managed it. Now to get back to writing.

Note: If you want to read a really impressive story, check out Taryn Albright who hit 50k in three days. Yeah. You read that correctly. I bow to her wordage mastery.

Are you doing NaNo? How are you progressing? And if not, are you writing/editing/otherwise? 

Twitter-sized bites:
One writer shares her process for completing #NaNoWriMo in 9 days with tips for fast-drafting. (Click to tweet
Why committing writing sins and deviating from your outline are a-ok while fast-drafting. (Click to tweet)


Lauren said...

That is amazing. Congrats Ava! *sigh* I wish I had more time to write all day...or even part of the day. Right now I can only write for about an hour a day. Sure I can crank out over 1,000 words if I am lucky but I wish I could write more.

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Lauren! Finding the time is definitely the hardest part (second maybe only to actually forcing yourself to write when you do block out the time). Sometimes taking advantage of really short breaks (even five to ten minutes) scattered throughout the day can help on those days when it's really difficult to grab any time to write. Good luck!

Jen Donohue said...


In my experience, outlines are made to be broken. Typically. I still kind of use my main headings as an arrow to get me pointed and then blast off. But I'm at 20k, not 50!

Ava Jae said...

Thank you! And yes. I've been ignoring some of my guide posts entirely and rewriting a more accurate summary of what actually happened after the scene is over. There have been many deviations, heh.

Congrats on your 20k! Keep up the great work! :)

Jen Donohue said...

It's important to keep in mind what works for you as an individual, I think. We're all our own special snowflakes.

Thanks! ^^

Ava Jae said...

Couldn't agree more! What works for one writer is completely alien to another. Do what works for you! :)

Melissa Maygrove said...

Wow. Good for you!

You know, I started writing more blanks and notes to self and bracketed cliches and adverbs with my most recent scene, and I wrote a lot faster and got more word count than usual. I'll definitely do more of this in the future. ;)

RoweMatthew said...

But did you eat?

Ava Jae said...

I may or may not have devoured half of the Halloween stash.

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Melissa! And I agree—the blanks definitely help. Funny how much easier the words flow when you don't get caught up in little details. :)

Carla said...

Writing 5k words per day every day is really something! Congrats!

I'm doing NaNo, I'm almost halfway, and actually I don't have more than 2 hours a day to dedicate to writing, but I won't go faster anyway as I would not have the time to explore all the possibilities of the story otherwise. Moreover I prefer not to take shortcuts while writing, so that I don't have to rewrite a lot afterwards.
I must say the time I spend thinking about it (while performing other tasks) is almost more useful than the one I actually spend in writing it. That's when the great ideas come out. Writing is just something fun I do before going to sleep. :)
Consider that I started it on November 1st with just the first scene, the last one and the protagonist's name in mind. No outline. Now I definitely have a clear idea on how to continue and finish it. I'm really satisfied. ;)

Martin said...

Well done!

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Carla! I agree that the time you spend thinking about your WIP can be just as useful as the writing itself. I'd kind of expected to stick more to my outline than usual as I was (well, am) writing so quickly, but I found that a lot of ideas hit me while I was writing that changed my original plans more than a couple times. I had to adjust some of the summaries of my scenes post-writing, which I tend to find encouraging because it means the story is taking a life of it's own. :)

As for shortcuts, I'm pretty sure the only thing I would qualify as a shortcut is leaving the blanks. Everything else is pretty status quo for me as far as first-drafting goes, but I happen to enjoy revisions quite a bit. So there's that.

At any rate, congrats on your NaNo progress and I wish you all the best! ^_^

Ava Jae said...

Thank you! ^_^

Jo Malby said...

This is so impressive! Thank you for the great advice, useful and inspiring as always. I especially like using [BLANK] notes to avoid interrupting the creative flow but love your idea of 'writing in spurts' with a timer, she says, off to set said timer! I have disabilities that limit writing time so definitely going to try this. Thanks very much =)

Ava Jae said...

You're so welcome, Jo! Ever since I've started writing with a timer, I haven't been able to turn back (at least, not for first drafting). It definitely helps fight off writing fatigue as well as any other physical issues that prolonged writing can irritate. Good luck! :)

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