Monday, November 4, 2019

A Metrics Nerd Looks at NaNoWriMo

50K words in a month. That’s what NaNoWriMo tells us is a novel, that we can hammer out in November,
on a sugar high from our kids’ Halloween candy before it spoils. 

A chronic overwriter of a genre of books that skew shorter (Middle Grade, obviously) in a sub-genre that
skews long, I’m currently at 71.6K in my WIP/R&R. It’s probably pushing the limit, but that’s what I needed
to tell the story.

And yes, I signed up for NaNo, more for the public accountability and socializing with my online friends. 

That said, I’m O V E R word count as the sole metric for writing. 

Nerd Alert: I’m a management consultant/industrial engineer by trade.  That means the skills of my misspent
youth involved 80 hours a week studying and quantifying large organizations’ business processes and
examining/testing ways for them to reduce money and time spent to get the job done.

Like The Bobs from Office Space, except I’m better-looking. I’m also pretty sure most of my coworkers
have wondered at one point what planet I’m actually from. Oh well. 

Regardless, I hate bad metrics.  And any One Size Fits All metric across an entire operation is a bad one.
It’s a novel, not a pair of earrings. 

Word Count tries to be a One Size Fits All metric. It’s a great metric for a first draft. That’s really about it. 

My goals for November include: 

Finish the rest of the “Rewrite” part of the R&R
Metric: This is done when the story is told. I estimate another 5K words

Edit the document (Typos, dropped threads, missing plants… I have an ever-growing to-do checklist.
Metric: This is done when I’ve gone through all the pages, identified and made the edits. I estimate 300 pages.

Send the MS back out into the world
Metric: This is done… when the email is sent. 

Get through Thanksgiving alive (Local relatives are so accepting and kind that my computer will be joining me.)
Metric: Estimated five anecdotes about friends' cousins' hairdressers who self-published 2K-word
picture books in two weeks.

There are of course other operational processes (building my writer platform) such as being a Cybils panelist,
posting the 900 reviews in my WordPress drafts box, etc.  That’s another story for another day.

The elephant in the room (pink, winged, and shoots glitter out of its trunk if it’s in in one of my stories)
is that not all words written are created equal.  It’s OK for your first draft to be crap. Shannon Hale said
so, albeit less crassly (and thank you @jessiehgmetzger for the pretty graphic):

Above all, remember that Twitter humblebrag of 5K words written in a day (OK, I’ve done that but not regularly)
and stories of novels being written on a 3-day caffeine-or-worse bender held up like they’re the norm,
are only telling part of the story. 

“I spent years busting my butt” is just not a popular narrative in the writing community. We’re writers: We
know mundane and tedious will get you panned in a crit group. Same rule applies to telling your online
success story.  Set yourself apart from the mere mortal riffraff or perish, etc.

But, getting your crappy first draft down on paper is the first step, and having a group cheer you on as
your word count builds is a great way to keep yourself accountable. 

Just remember this is one piece of the puzzle. 

Oh, and I’m on NaNo if anyone wants to find me. In fact, please do so it looks like I do have friends.

Happy writing!

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