Yesterday was Halloween. At our house, we are on the wrong side of a very busy road where the speed limit increases to 55 mph, so we don’t get trick or treaters. That means we really don’t bother with the holiday since the funnest part of it isn’t something we get to enjoy. I do miss hanging Halloween decorations, though, and putting together my graveyard scene for the front yard.
But I did get to celebrate something else yesterday. When 2015 was ending, I set myself a goal to write 350,000 words of new fiction in 2016. On October 31st I hit 350,008 words for the year.
Over the course of the year I’ve developed a pretty necessary need to write every day. That’s one of the positives about it, and why I still support folks who wish to do National Novel Writers Month this November (starting today in fact… get busy!). The key to being a successful writer I think is to keep writing and to write every day if possible. Setting the goal helped me achieve that, give me a motivation to get up early every day and get some words down before the day got busy. NaNoWriMo expects you to do a minimum of 1,667 words per day in the month of November, but my goal only required 959 words per day. It just made it 365 days instead of 30.
I’m an Excel nerd, so I made a spreadsheet to track my words per day. I tweaked it over the first couple of months until it showed me: words per story per day; total words per day; words per month; average per month; total words for the year; average words per day for the year; number of days “ahead” of the goal I was. It has multiple columns for each story, and at the end of each writing session I only had to add the current words for a particular work and the spreadsheet would automatically calculate how many more words it was than the previous count, then add that to a daily tally (in case I was working on more than one story on a given day). All the rest was math. But of course, I had to have a graph:
The blue column is total words each month, and the tiny orange columns are the averages words for each day of that month. I started out strong on January, and through July I was pretty consistent with my writing, falling into the 30,000 to 40,000 work category. June was a great month as I began to get ready for a vacation in August and I managed to put down 43,568 words before the end of the month as I worked on a couple of novel ideas I had. You can see the break in August very clearly, two weeks on the road when I could have written but didn’t, choosing instead to give my focus to my wife, the trip, driving around, having fun. And that’s OK… it was important to me, and I don’t regret the choice.
But when I got back, I decided what I really wanted to do was focus on the novel, Summer, that I had begun in late 2015 and added a little to in 2016 (I made the spreadsheet in such a way that anything that already had a word count could be added at that number without adding it to the yearly total… ie, I “primed” that story with it’s current word count when I put it in the spreadsheet). The comments I received after letting a few folks beta read when I had were so amazing that I had to work on it. The end of August was busy, and I sailed through September and posted my biggest writing month of the year, doing my own personal Nano that month with over 52,000 words. October was strong as well (third strongest of the year) though I slowed down a bit as the novel began to near the end.
Summer (the novel) is nearing completion of the first draft now. It’s going to be roughly 130,000 words, and I do like what I have. It’ll need some editing come winter, but I’ll put it aside for now and will enjoy what I’ve accomplished this year. I stretched myself, made writing a priority and made really great progress. Next year will be different. I’ll still try to write every day, still work on novels, but the goal will be: 52 finished short stories in 52 weeks.
Let’s just hope Hillary Clinton wins this never ending election. I can’t take another year like 2016 has been, that’s for sure, and that’s entirely because of the politics and the nastiness. But as long as I have my wife, my kids and my writing, it’ll all turn out OK (I hope!).
And go vote! Just not for that rich twit with the orange skin. I can’t BELIEVE anyone would vote for him, he’s everything Americans should hate, a money grubbing narcissist who was born wealthy and acts like that makes him better than the rest of us. That umpa loompa is the scariest thing I’ve seen during Halloween 2016.