First of all, why 50,000 words—
Even so I came across a few recognizable titles that are novels near 50,000 words:
In 2010, my husband Jay bought me an illuminated keyboard for my laptop—a noble gesture and romantic gift—as soon as they were available for the PC: My children all shared a single room, and would sit with them, typing in the dark, until after they fell asleep.
Such working ahead was critical because my worst days were only 300-800, and the last three days of the month were always a flurry of putting everything aside to find out what happens to my characters (and reach that 50,000).
So that’s the 50,000 words.
Next is the phrase “on a new work of fiction.”
You’re really not supposed to use this race of “literary abandon” as the chance to round out and finish the 50,000 words you wrote last year, even if that would, in theory, give you one “complete” 100,000-word book.
This is because you’re too invested by that point to “let” the work be horrible.
There is a famous truism in the writing world that says you have to write a manky first-draft. (Actually the original phrase from Anne Lamott is “shitty first draft,” but I first presented this information as a speech, and found another word to play it safe. Now I’m kind of in love with “manky” both as a word and as a concept, so I’ve continued to hang onto it.)
You have to do this (write horribly) because you have to write a first-draft, and if you’re not prepared ahead of time for it to be *horrible* you will despair (and likely give up) before you’re three days or three pages in. You will try to make every word count, or fit perfectly from GO, and you will make yourself into an anxious wreck before anything useful can take root.
This could be why I talk so much about personal growth, self-awareness or self-improvement: this is the orientation writers work from. Our goal is to find problems before someone else does. We are our own first critics. Our own first defense.
But we are not (the best of us) trying to be our own saviors. There is a point at which we take this baby we have formed from the scraps and jewels of our minds, and set it into the hands of some other word-lover. Another storylover. And we give them permission to speak freely about imperfection and improvement.
But that all comes much later. For these thirty days, that inner editor, the one we apply before sending our baby to the unfeeling world, it is locked in a box. It is not allowed to poke its useful, ugly head out for the entire 30 days.
Because if you start to wonder before day-31 why Sally would care if Betsy borrowed the dog’s ninja to go grocery shopping, you will lose momentum, and in NaNoWriMo the name of the game is momentum.
You tell me: Have you ever wanted to write a novel?