The Accidental NaNoWriMo

November is on the horizon, and that means thousands of writers are preparing to jam out 50,000-word novels in a month as part of NaNoWriMo. I’ve never done an official NaNoWriMo, but I keep meticulous records of how much I write per day when drafting a novel. I thought it might be interesting to look at the first draft timelines for four of my novels and see how they stack up against the NaNoWriMo pace.

These numbers and dates are for first drafts only. For the first three novels, there were, of course, revisions that added months to the whole process. (There are revisions on the fourth as well. I just haven’t finished them yet.)

Acts of War: Flashpoint

  • Started: 12/7/15
  • Finished: 2/19/16
  • Total Days: 65
  • Actual Writing Days: 40
  • Total Words: 82,559
  • Average Words Per Day: 1,270/2,063 (total days/writing days)

This was the first novel I wrote for Privateer Press. The first draft took me about two and a half calendar months, which I think is a good pace. My goal was to write 2,500 words, five days per week. I fell short of that and ended up writing a bit over 2,000 words per writing day. The closest I came to NaNoWriMo production was between the dates of 1/4/16 and 2/2/16, where I produced a total 42,897 words.

Acts of War: Aftershock

  • Started: 12/12/16
  • Finished: 2/9/17
  • Total Days: 60
  • Actual Writing Days: 44
  • Total Words: 95,303
  • Average Words Per Day: 1,588/2,166

I started the second Privateer Press novel almost exactly a year after I started the first and finished in just under two calendar months. This first draft of Aftershock was longer by some 13,000 words than Flashpoint, and my average output per day is correspondingly higher. My goal this time was 2,000 words per day, five days a week, and I accomplished that for the most part. I did pull off what would be an official NaNo with this novel, writing 50,006 words for the first 30 days between 12/12/16 and 1/10/17. I wrote 22 days of those 30, and averaged 2,273 words per writing day.

Late Risers

  • Started: 1/24/18
  • Finished: 5/4/18
  • Total Days: 111
  • Actual Writing Days: 48
  • Total Words: 92,684
  • Average Words Per Day: 835/1,931

Late Risers is the first novel I wrote without a deadline. It took me roughly four months to finish the first draft, but I took almost three weeks off right in the middle of that period. On the days I did write, I was productive, and managed almost 2,000 words on average. Compared to the Privateer Press novels, this one took a long time, but I don’t think four months is unreasonable for a 92,000-word first draft. I didn’t get anywhere close to NaNo-ing on this book. The best I managed was the last 30 days, where I wrote just over 31,000 words.

Hell to Play

  • Started: 4/13/20
  • Finished: 7/14/20
  • Total Days: 93
  • Actual Writing Days: 53
  • Total Words: 89,188
  • Average Words Per Day: 959/1,683

The last novel I finished is called Hell to Play. I wrote this one during the first months of the pandemic, mostly so I’d have something else to think about. The pace of this novel is pretty much my ideal. I wrote 90,000 words in almost exactly three months. Interestingly, I produced less on a day-to-day basis with this novel than any of the others, managing, on average, just over 1,600 words on the days I did write. This novel is currently in revision, and I hope to have it ready to go by the end of the year. There was no NaNo-ing on this novel either, but I did write almost exactly 30,000 words every 30 days.

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As I said, I’ve never done an official NaNoWriMo, but I was curious to see if I’d unwittingly pulled it off. Looks like I have, once, but I’m much more comfortable around 30,000 words per month. That feels like a good fit.

Don’t get me wrong; I think 50,000 words in 30 days is an awesome goal to strive for, and the motivation and sense of community NaNoWriMo promotes is fantastic. Maybe I’ll give it a try this year. I do have some monster baseball novellas I need to write. 🙂


Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Thoughts on 50,000 words in 30 days? I’d love to heart about it in the comments.

One Comment on “The Accidental NaNoWriMo

  1. It’ll never happen for me unless I quit my day job (which also isn’t happening). I’m doing NaNoWriMo again, but I typically end up in the neighborhood of 20k words at the end of the month.

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