The thing about writing a novel is, everyone starts at the exact same word count: 0.
Like the book itself, the process of writing a novel is not continuous. It moves in stages of varying degrees of confusion and excitement. At the beginning, once you get going, it’s hard to control yourself. You have a lot of ideas and are finally getting the chance to write them down.
You might write 5,000+ words in your first day or two, because it’s new. It’s exciting, and you have few other writing days to compare those first few to. You’re writing a book!!! The future is full of possibilities.
After about 15,000 words you start to slow down a little. You still write a little bit, consistently, but it’s lost its “novel” appeal (ha, ha). Your writing, while still important, generally moves down a little on your priority list. If you get some writing done today, great. If not, well, the world’s still spinning.
At 30,000 words, give or take a few thousand, WITHOUT FAIL, you will hit a wall. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done this a thousand times or this is your first attempt. The wall is there, it is invisible, but it is there. You will hit it, and you will hit it hard.
At this point you will either drag yourself over that wall, a few hundred words at a time, or your mind and body will scream at you to give up.
I’m telling you right now, do not stop. There are endless rainbows and unicorns on the other side of that wall. If you stop, you will never see them. It will feel like you are dragging your entire body across concrete only using your elbows. You will want to quit. It will not seem worth it.
But at 40,000 words, you will reach the top, and you will understand why everyone keeps telling you this literary insanity is worth it.
Don’t go too fast down the other side; you still have a long way to go. Take it slow. You’ll fly through the next 10,000 words whether you realize it or not.
At 50,000 words, you might be finished, and that’s amazing. But you might not be. That means, yes, you’ll have to go through this process all over again.
65,000. 80,000. Maybe even 100,000.
Some walls you’ll crash right through. Some you won’t. It’s unpredictable, but it is the most rewarding experience you’ll ever make yourself plow through.
I talk a lot in these posts about how I’ve been working on the same book for three years. That’s a completely true statement; I haven’t started a new story. But a few times, I have started over, pulling a few pieces from older fragments of drafts to start from.
Back in March or April, though, I started at 0. I had hit a different kind of barrier: a sudden, sharp realization that I was not telling the story from the right point of view. I was writing a story that needed a back story all its own, and even more importantly, that back story needed to be told from the perspective of a character I barely knew.
Just like starting a new novel, I began at 0. Some of you have watched me move through the above stages. I’ve done it twice now, having surpassed 100,000 words within the past week. I am coming up on 115,000 words, which means I’m moving slowly and steadily forward. Still.
I can feel it coming close to the end, though. How do I know? Because, unlike the normal pattern of flow-drag-flow, something else happens when you reach the end of your story. Your brain knows it’s coming, somehow. You can see it in front of you. And all you want to do, all day every day, is write until it’s done.
I have finally reached that point. All I want to do is write. The motivation, the excitement, it’s all there. I can feel it.
Unfortunately, it’s not the way it used to be (read: I am now an adult, no longer in high school, which is honest to goodness the last time I actually finished a book). I have other stuff I need to do. Work, school, you know, adult-y things. I have to stop myself, and save the rest for tomorrow.
But I mean it this time. I am so close it’s scary.
We’ll see where I am a week from now. Who knows. I may have already finished.
If you’ve been here, you understand how I feel.
Worth almost three and a half years, one hundred percent.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.