So this was, hands down, my most successful NaNoWriMo ever.

I hit 50,000 words a full week before December, and I managed to continue following the three rules I set last year: no flashbacks, no writing out of order, and no werewolves. Contributing factors to this success include the fact that I did a lot more pre-planning than usual. I actually had an outline this year! With a beginning, a middle, and an end! And subplots and stuff! It’s amazing how much direction using a classic seven-point plot system can give your story.

I’d known for a while that I wanted to write something in the same universe and timeline as Lehelle (last year’s NaNo project) so I could expand on and better develop the setting without continuing to obsess over the same story. But I didn’t have anything resembling a plan until the last days of October, when I randomly doodled a character I liked and built up from there. It was pretty thrilling coming up with as many plot ideas as possible in such a short time (it’s been a while, man), and I was really, really excited to get going with Tea Stains when November came around.

So I wrote 4961 words the first day. And one of my writing buddies wrote ~4700 words. And thus, a ~*Death Match*~ rivalry was born:

@Kiriska: Day one clocks in at 4961 words. o_o This is awesome, but WILL IT LAST?? #NaNoWriMo
@mefloraine: @Kiriska Dang you beat me by 200 words for the day.
@Kiriska: @mefloraine I totally wasn’t eying your word count all day and trying to top you or anything. U_U #reallycompetitive #NaNoWriMo
@mefloraine: @Kiriska I totally wasn’t doing the same for you either or anything. >w>;
@Kiriska: @mefloraine WHELP. >;3 You know it’s on now.
@mefloraine: @Kiriska And then we found ourselves at 100k by the end of the month. #welp
@Kiriska: @mefloraine I would be okay with this.
@mefloraine: @Kiriska As would I. TO THE DEATH.

Neither of us ended up at 100k, but the hilarious intensity of this impromptu rivalry was a huge driving force through the three weeks it took for the pair of us to hit 50k. I found it especially entertaining that we wrote at almost the exact same pace and took turns trumping each other in word-count. I mean, seriously, we even hit the Point of Crushing Despair at the same time:

Surely this is the way NaNoWriMo is always supposed to go — with a vague, last-minute plan (but a plan nonetheless) and a death match rivalry forcing you to forge ahead even when you hit those hard spots in your story. It was pretty grand.

In general, I aimed for “+2000 words/day or +1000 words over Mef, whichever is higher,” but this ended up being just +1800-2000 words most days. Mef was just so damn good about keeping pace with me that it was impossible to stay on top of her consistently. The pace was still a good step up from the standard +1667 words/day though, and on the 20th, I wrote 6k words, putting me at 46k and spurring the both of us to the end.

I hit 50k an hour or so before Mef on the 22nd, but we basically timed it so we’d both finish around the same time, so I consider it a mutual victory. I hope we can do the same thing next year. :3

My story wasn’t anywhere near finished at 50k though. I entertained the idea of pushing on and writing to the end of the story within November, but the momentum was gone (especially since Mef stopped writing at 50k, the slacker), and I ended up closing the month at 58k words — still no where near finished. But it’s my highest ending word count ever, and I can’t not be pleased with that.

Generated by Wordle! Lorre is the protagonist's name.

It goes without saying that are a lot of problems with Tea Stains, and most of them stem from the fact that I wrote it in a month. Despite having an outline, there weren’t many specifics mapped out, and I was making plenty of stuff up as I went. In particular, I had no idea which of the secondary characters or subplots were going to be important when I introduced them, and this resulted in wasting a lot of time (and words) carrying the cast through events that ended up not being significant at all. This also resulted in my dismissing almost the entire secondary cast around 40k words because they were more interesting than the protagonist and were distracting from the main plot way too much. Also distracting from the main plot was the fact that Lehelle’s plot was a subplot/background element — I tried not to get too wrapped up in it, but it was hard. :c

Pacing and relevance to the main plot became such a problem that I ended up skipped forward about four months of story time (also around 40k words) because things were just moving waaaaay too slowly. Case in point: it took my poor tea merchant more than 25,000 words to sell his first ounce of tea. When I go back to edit things after I finish writing the rest of the story, I foresee a lot of long passages getting axed completely. It’s kind of sad, I guess, but you have to write them before you know that you don’t need them. Or something.

I’ve always had a problem getting back into my NaNoWriMo projects outside of November though. That’s why I really wanted to finish writing the story in the month even if it would have probably needed ~70k words. Next year, I’ll just need to aim for 70k or 75k from the get go. 2011 is my fourth year reaching 50k, so I know I can do that much, but now I also know that I am super prone to meandering all over the place with the story and if I want to finish it, it will probably make more sense to aim for 75k. I guess that means I need to make a third word count version of my annual NaNo calendar next year. Not quite ready to gun for 100k.

One of the things NaNoWriMo winners have been getting the last few years, aside from bragging rights, is a CreateSpace voucher for a free, printed book. I think the voucher usually expires within a year, so to utilize it, I’ll need to finish Tea Stains and edit the hell out of it before it does. I had a voucher from 2009 that I let expire, but I considered 2009’s story to be pretty unsalvageable. NaNoWriMo 2011 has been the best ever, so I should definitely try my best to actually use that voucher, right? Right?

Not that using it means that any of you get to read it though, lol. Maybe it is silly of me to write so much about writing when pretty much none of my original fiction is available anywhere to read, but oh well.