Guess who reached her goal of 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month today?

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For those who may not remember, I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time after finishing the first draft of my sci-fi novel, Lionhearted. I chose as my project a crossover fanfiction idea: a historically-impossible-but-alternate-universe-worthy story where Queen Victoria is forced to take refuge in the town of Cranford in the aftermath of an assassination plot.

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I plotted through the last two weeks of October and started writing bright and early on November 1…and I’ve had so much fun. I admit–and I’m laughing as I write this–I’ve paid very little attention to historical accuracy. If anyone thinks they’re gonna learn actual history from this story once I post it on my Archive of Our Own account, lemme disabuse you of that notion right here and now! On the other hand, it has been nice writing historical fiction after immersing myself in science fiction for a year. I’ve researched how long it takes to get from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle by royal carriage (a little over an hour), how far Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire is from the Cheshire town that Cranford is based on (a couple of hours, if I recall correctly?) and when the Metropolitan Police Force was established (in 1829, by none other than Sir Robert Peel!!!).

So yes, I’ve had lots of fun–lots of sappy, fluffy, highly-imaginative-and-speculative fun. And today, I hit the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words! 

Now, does this mean that The Queen in Cranford is finished? NOPE. I’ve got 50,196 words, but Victoria hasn’t even left London yet and the indomitable ladies of Cranford have no idea she’s coming. I’m still writing–happily, I might add–but I’ve got a long way to go before I’m reading to start posting it online…or adapting it into an original novel that, hopefully, will tie into Lionhearted and act as its sequel.

But the point is, I reached my goal. I met the challenge, I stuck it out even when I felt like the plot was snarling on me, and I learned a lot. It’s been a very enlightening experience, for three reasons:

1. I learned to focus on progress, not perfection.

NaNoWriMo forces you to just write. You’ve got a time limit–clock in 50,000 words before November 30–but if you’re like me, then you’re also well aware that the craziness of Thanksgiving Week won’t be conducive to quality writing time. So (if you’re me) you really want to finish up right BEFORE the holiday…which means you’ll have to turn off your Inner Editor.

(*cue horrified shriek from my Inner Editor, AKA the bane of my existence*)

The Inner Editor and I have a seething, hate-filled relationship–and it was nice to put her in her place for once. There were still several moments where I realized, “Okay, wait a sec, my plot needs a little shoring-up here…” but for the most part, the Editor in me sulked in a corner. She reared her ugly head for a few important scenes that I really did need to get right–but I did stay in charge.

2. I learned that 20 minutes of writing is better than 0.

With all that said about progress…I had a goal of 50,000 words before Thanksgiving Day, BUT I knew I’d run into several days where I wouldn’t have my usual writing time. Normally, I write for 3 hours every morning while my younger siblings have school. But when they had a few days off that meant our usual structure went out the window.

Enter what NaNo calls “Writing Sprints,” where you set the timer for a certain amount of time and just write. On those days, I set the website timer for 20 minutes and simply hammered out words until my time was up. I’m not used to doing that, guys–and yet the first day I did it, I got 900 words–and the second day, I got 1,200. They were rough spurts, but I still got the words down. And that was all that mattered.

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3. I learned that I am a Road-Goes-Ever-On-and-On Writer…and this is okay.

Yep, I made that up: I’m a Road-Goes-Ever-On-and-On Writer. If it weren’t borrowed from Tolkien I’d think about trademarking it a la Taylor Swift trademarking the phrase “Shake It Off.” 😉

What I mean, though, is that I just write long, character-driven stories. All my novels are like this. As I said earlier, I’m 50,000 words in but Victoria and the Cranford ladies haven’t even met yet. That’s because I live and breathe character development, political intrigue, meaningful conversations, and internal dialogue–all of which do move the plot forward, but at a much slower pace than a action-packed story.

I realized something the other day, though. I’m on my millionth re-read of The Fellowship of the Ring, and as I was following the hobbits through the Old Forest on the Shire’s edge, I thought: Tolkien spent this much time sending the hobbits through a forest of cranky old trees–and the whole ordeal really doesn’t affect the plot at all. But the ordeal does affect the hobbits. I probably shouldn’t worry about spending time building suspense here or writing an emotionally significant conversation there, because Tolkien would probably just nod approvingly at me over his pipe.

Of course, I recognize the need for cutting out clutter. I’ll start doing it with Lionhearted after the first of the year. But I think I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with having fun with my stories, and especially with my first draft. I can always iron a few things out as I go or, if it won’t mess me up in the long run, just wait to fix them later.

But for now…I think I’ll just write 🙂

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