We’re barely into October, but I’m seeing a flurry of posts about NaNoWriMo already.
Well, that’s sensible. If you want to write 50,000 words in November, it’s probably about time to consider what form those words might take. Here’s a relevant post from Jane Friedman’s blog: Why You Should Write a Novella for NaNoWriMo 2021
That is, of course, more realistic. A novel is more than 50,000 words. For me, generally 50,000 is not quite half a novel; or if we’re talking Tuyo-series novels, possibly barely over a quarter of a novel. But no matter what you’re writing, 50,000 is better conceptualized as a novella rather than a novel.
And that’s a better way to think of NaNoWriMo for two reasons, it seems to me:
a) You shouldn’t feel that the goal is to write a full novel, but
b) You may find it helpful to consider the goal is to finish something.
Doesn’t it feel different to think about finishing a long novella than it does to think about writing part of a novel? That’s probably not a universal perception, but I can’t be alone in thinking that 50,000 words feels different when you’re aiming to produce a finished product than when it’s a fraction of a project.
Also, you might have time to both write and (roughly) polish a novella. Let me see, okay, 50,000 words would be 1667 words per day, which is to say, about five pages. A little more, probably. That is a doable number of words — I mean, not if you have two-year-old triplets, probably.
Novellas are also simpler to hold in your head, as a rule. One main plotline will do. Fewer characters to carry that plot. It’s interesting, because the linked post also declares that novellas tend to take place in one basic setting, cutting down on the amount of setting you need to write, but I don’t think that’s my perception. I’m thinking of the Murderbot novellas and the Penric novellas by LMB, and those aren’t at all fixed in one place.
Here’s the ending of the linked post:
Planning is key … I also recommend identifying a touchstone, a novella that’s exactly the sort of book you want to write—but different. A touchstone can keep you inspired even as it offers you the answers to so many questions about how to begin and end, how to develop scenes, and so forth. Your best teachers are always your favorite writers.
That does seem helpful. Going back to one specific work to see how the author handled things — compressing time; stepping across a long journey in two paragraphs; building backstory in a limited number of words; whatever — I think that is probably a sound idea.
I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo. As a rule, in the fall I’m taking a break from the various intensive writing projects of summer, plus gearing up for whatever project I have in mind for December. I don’t expect to participate this year either — though I won’t be taking a break. With any luck, I should be finishing this current Black Dog story Really Soon Now. Then I’ll need to write at least one more story in order to set up what I want to do in Silver Circle next year. I hope that by the end of November, not only is that finished, but all the stories will be revised and I’ll be asking for people to proofread the collection. So that is a project to finish, but not exactly a 50,000-words-in-a-month project.