[For anyone who's not an absolute theatre nerd, this tile is a reference to a song in the TV series Smash, Season 2 – which I liked a lot better than the first season, but still appreciate the first. This has nothing to do with the post, other than I thought the title was relevant and now I have that song stuck in my head. Oh well...]
To be perfectly honest, my first NaNoWriMo novel was a bit of a mess. I started with a vague idea and let my brain run totally wild. The original plot ended at 40,000 words and I had to come up with some kind of device to keep the story going for another 10,000 words in order to reach "The Goal". I also wrote it in first-person perspective, which is great if you want a bunch of rambling thoughts that do nothing other than increase your word count.
But I knew that the story was worth something, and planned on rewriting it in the future. A couple attempts were made in the past - there was one where I tried switching to third person perspective and another where I tried to see if I could make first person work, but both were abandoned after a few pages. Recently, however, I took some time off work, and since I couldn't go anywhere, I decided to take a crack at this story and see what could be done.
Maybe it was the past decade that the story had spent sitting in the back of my mind, but I finally managed to get a good working draft. 34,000 words were written in 16 days (15 if you consider that I took the second-last day off because I was approaching burn-out).
How did I manage to write so much in such a short period of time? I have 4 thoughts:
1) I already knew the plot of the story. I knew where the characters were going and the schedule of events, so there were no “what the hell happens now?” moments. As someone who tends to lose focus in the middle of the story, it was good to have a clear objective. Even those times when the story diverged from the path didn't trip me up, since they never strayed too far.
2) The characters and their world were already there. Although I still have work to do with refining and fleshing out the characters, I knew all their roles and how they fit into the story. Some new characters were created with the purpose of helping round out the world, but everyone had their role and purpose. And most of them had names before I started writing, which was a real time-saver (seriously, I could spend hours looking for the 'perfect' name).
3) If I got stuck, I left a breadcrumb. Instead of stopping to think about things and re-work the story, I left a note for future me to deal with, and then got on with the writing.
4) This is an important one, even if it's not as creative. See, I was a nerdy kid who used to do typing games when I was younger, so my typing speed is approx 80 wpm with 95% accuracy. This was a big help in reaching that word-count, because I was able to type more in less. Thanks, past-me, for being such a dork.
While the fourth one really helped, it was truly the work of the first three that allowed me to exploit that speed and keep going. If my brain doesn't know what's going on, it's not going to go fast, and it doesn't matter what my wpm is if all I'm doing is sitting and staring at a blank screen.