The Importance of Reaching 40 (k words)

July 2019 marks the fifth month in a row that I’ve been writing 20k every month (sometimes even more). Yes, I’ve already written a novel and a little over a half of a second novel in 2019.

But, having done NaNo several years in a row – and having had a lot of fun in it – my mind seems to have come to the conclusion, in the past decade, that no piece of prose which would reach over 50k is worth the planning and the tears. (Well, there are rarely any tears involved, but… you know. Arrrrrt is sufferrrrring…) Thus, the words between 20k and 30k used to be the toughest to ever tough out for me, and then I had the “climax” (ungh) and/or the denouement (thank you, Snicket-loving significant other), and the very end, which – not that scary, if I had any idea where I wanted to end at, which I do, more often than not.

Because, after all, The First Werewolf Novel itself, edited for publishing, ended up at a meagre 43k total. The Second Werewolf Novel’s first (still not fully edited) draft ended up barely reaching 53k, and the meteo station predicts unavoidable cuts (re: on-page character introspection, still, after all those years).

And still, somehow, The Third Werewolf Novel only seems to be picking up the pace, plot-wise, since passing the damned 40k mark.

Earlier in my novel-sized-prose writing life, 40k used to be the sign to slowly start unwinding, resolving the conflicts to their respective ends. And panicking over why the hell did I ever think writing another unpublishable copy was a good idea, nevermind how much I always enjoy NaNo. Even when I don’t reach the 50k finish line.

Nowadays – literally, during the past week – my biggest concern seems to be how in the seven hells will I ever stop myself from inserting even further trouble for the characters in the novel, making the damned thing even longer! (I’m having some issues, too, with trying to avoid playing teacher’s pet with some of the characters, but that seems altogether unavoidable. I’ve just ended up resorting to enjoying myself with my actual favourites and trying not to screw up the lesser-favourites’ plotlines too much.)

But, the most important lesson from reaching 40k two times in the past few months, for me, was this: it is, literally, possible. You don’t have to be a superperson. Nor a fast typist. Nor a ‘professional’ writer, whatever that even means for somebody writing in a tiny language for an ever tinier market (as I’m still doing, and there’s nobody to blame other than yours truly).

Also, prioritizing writing as work (oooooh) sometimes actually works!

Also also, from time to time you just have to do other writing-related things, besides writing the novel you’re currently in the middle of. Write something shorter, something sweeter, something just for you. Alternatively – which helped me reach 30k in the third novel – you can go plan the sequel, or the final stand-off between the warring parties, or whatever – just not necessarily the exact next scene. Not now. Not again.

And then there’s the utter inevitability of reading during the writing breaks (and sometimes I take a full week off, which my Goodreads can attest to), and reading a lot; fiction and fanfiction (and mangas) and even a few novels for an award jury I’ve been privileged to be a member of for the past few years.

Because writing long shit is, literally, a marathon. And the most important side effect of finally reaching 40k in the Third Werewolf Novel for me was sweet, final acceptance.

No, it will not be done next week. Maybe not even the next month. And at this very moment, the middle of July, 2019, I have no idea how long the Third Werewolf Novel will actually be, at the very end.

But I know I will be there to see it through… (cue Dear Mr. Fantasy) whatever it takes.