Archives for category: Word count

One thing I know to be true is that life never turns out the way you expect it to. We wake up thinking our day is going to go a certain way, and sometimes it does, but more often there are those moments when the unexpected strikes.

The unexpected can be good, just ask anyone who had a “surprise” baby if they would send them back. It could be something small like a box filled with Hershey’s kisses sent by a friend who gifts you the opportunity to say that you got kisses from the UPS man you have a secret crush on. Or it could be discovering that your car has had barbecue sauce poured all over it because somebody doesn’t seem to understand that when you park on the city street and cars move around you it sometimes looks like you took two spaces when you didn’t actually. Good or bad, it’s not about what kind of “unexpected” it is, it’s about how we face those challenges. Do we laugh? Do we complain? Are we grateful? Do we cry? Or do we just keep going?

This month has not been unfolding as expected at all. Over the past few weeks I have gone on seemingly endless trips to stores (consuming and spending money are very nearly my least favorite things to do) to stock up on supplies for my rural desert life. Mattress buying, dentist and doctors appointments, a worrying medical condition in an extended family member, one flat tire (astutely spotted by my 3-year-old who is also excellent at spotting spiders, Ikea and Mule deer), cleaning, packing, teaching my lovely teenage girls at church and then saying goodbye over and over again.

In the midst of all of this, I was getting up between 3-5am to get my word count everyday. As always, there were days when the writing was quite painful and I just wasn’t happy about where it was going but, I kept doing it because I needed something to anchor myself in these stressful and surprising times. I wanted one good thing that I knew I could count on everyday. And what I unearthed from my imagination was perhaps the most unexpected of all, adventures, people, chases, and secrets I didn’t even know were there.

Not only did I “win” NaNoWriMo this year, but I finished a day early and 1,416 words over my 50,000.

About mid-month I began to worry because I knew that I wouldn’t be finished with my Novel at 50,000 words but, I was pleased to discover that according to the NaNoWriMo rules:

You will still win if you reach 50k but have not yet completed your novel. 


I did it! I am halfway through my second novel and once I’m settled into my little house in Texas, I’ll return to finishing my final draft of my first. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. I’m really excited about this second book. I promise to share it with you . . . someday.

The very same day I won NaNoWriMo another unexpected event occurred. It was literally the day before Michael was supposed to fly home and our family would be reunited after 7 months apart. I noticed there was something not quite right about The Boy. The next day as Michael was getting off his plane and collecting his luggage The Boy and I were at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado being told that he needed surgery and we wouldn’t be moving to Texas two days later, as expected. There was a moment when I almost cried but instead I shrugged and was grateful that all of this happened before we moved to a place where the nearest children’s hospital would be four hours away. It was a blessing with perfect comic timing. So, Michael came, took all of my stuff and the dogs and he left me and The Boy behind. Sounds like a country song, right? Well, I’m writing a country song of my own, “Michael, we’re coming after you . . . just as soon as the doctor gives The Boy a clean bill of health.” It’s not very catchy.

All of this made me realize that life is made up of the unexpected and you should never put aside the things that are important to you simply because there is too much going on. It is those very things that keep you sane when the unexpected arises.

Life isn’t a chain of unexpected events, it is a chain of salvaged moments filled with the things and the people you love.

Finish Line by andrew_mo
Finish Line, a photo by andrew_mo on Flickr.

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo.

But, just like any good race or contest, my victory is riddled with scandal. The numbers don’t quite add up and when it comes down to technicalities, I cheated a little bit.

You see one of the requirements for being a NaNoWriMo participant is that you have to start your novel from scratch on November 1st. According to the NaNoWriMo website, this is why:

This sounds like a dumb, arbitrary rule, we know. But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You’ll care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you’ll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.

Outlines and plot notes are very much encouraged, and can be started months ahead of the actual novel-writing adventure. Previously written prose, though, is punishable by death.

I broke this rule with reckless abandon. I had already written 89,722 words over the course of 4 years. But, (I will continue with my cavalier attitude, it is all I have left.) I may not have started my novel on November 1st but I did write 50,000 additional words and finish said novel in 30 days.

My goal was to reach 139,722 words and I surpassed that by reaching 146,068 words. The numbers did get a bit muddled. The daily tally I kept only had me reaching 51,548 words while the document word count claimed I reached 56,346. It’s safe to assume that the actual number is somewhere in the middle. Either way, I did it.

And here is what I won:

It’s impressive, I know. But wait, there’s more. I can also print a fantastic NaNoWriMo winners certificate to hang on the wall next to my College diploma.

Oh, and I can now say that I have written a book. That’s pretty fantastic.

A special thanks to: You, for reading my blog and cheering me on. The incredible virus that has been running rampant through our household causing me to be quarantined in my apartment for practically the entire month. Steven Burns and his puppy Blue, for entertaining my sick little boy. Michael, for never complaining when he had to make dinner again. The schnauzers, for attacking the dust bunnies before they grew large enough to eat us all. Dan, for telling me about NaNoWriMo. And finally, my Uncle Aaron, for being the first person to tell me that I could grow up to be a writer, if I wanted to.

I received some helpful feedback on word count yesterday.  Apparently my goal of 139, 722 words (approximately  500+ published pages) is just too long and most publishers (if not all) just won’t want to touch it, for a variety of reasons, here is the link I was referred to.

The person who offered this helpful information was worried I would be discouraged.  I am not.

Here’s the thing, not everything I write is gold.  I know, I’m shocked and appalled too.  Quite a bit of it is rubbish, actually. The battle to be a writer begins with a blank page and some days it’s all I can do to fill that blank page.  But, once I do, creating something useable is easy.  Some of my original 89,722 word count is really terrible.  But, I don’t delete it because it has important details I need to work into another part of my story.  Details that I may just forget about if they aren’t taunting me from their less than comfortable home.

When I’m finished, I imagine my manuscript will be closer to 100,000 words long.

For my 50,000 words in 30 days challenge I have to average 1,667 words a day.

So far, so good.  I wrote 2,014 words yesterday.

So, now I have a question for you.  Should I post an excerpt of my writing?  My fear is that I am the novelist version of one of those hopefuls trying out on American Idol who truly believes that they are an amazing singer, when they obviously aren’t.  But, if that’s the case, I probably wouldn’t believe criticism anyway, so I have nothing to lose.