I didn't hit goal by October 19, like I'd planned, but as of yesterday, TUNNELS is at 55,830. Done, as far as my early NaNoWriMo goes. Far from done in real life. As writers worldwide hit the keys later this week on the official November 1 start of National Novel Writing Month, a few thoughts:
#1: YOU CAN TOTALLY DO IT! If you've ever thought about writing a book, I highly recommend NaNo (sign up here). A year ago, I'd never tried it. Truthfully, I discounted the whole thing as a silly gimmick. Writing a 200 page book in 30 days? Crazy! But the intense word count goals really helped me focus and I think that's the hardest thing about drafting a novel: staying on task.
#2: IMO, writing quickly produces a better first draft. Its easier to be consistent with voice, timeline and plot because there's no lag time where you forget what the characters were doing and thinking.
#3: Be accountable, but flexible and don't quit! I set weekly goals through October (blue on the calendar). I was determined to meet them no matter what. But I got copyedits for THIS IS HOW IT ENDS in early October and they ate up a whole week. 15 days in and I was almost 10K words behind (green on the calendar). Clearly, it wasn't going to happen in 30 days. I added another week and got back to my 2000 words/day target.
#4: It worked best for me to make my daily word count the before-I-can-do-anything-else priority. Rules like I can't shower/check my email/go on twitter/do any of day's other to-dos until I've written 2000 words kept me focused (mostly). If you need help enforcing your rules, consider something like Freedom which blocks your ability to go online for set time periods.
#5: For me, having an outline is critical. Since I wind up pantsing a lot of scenes and character interactions, I have to make sure I'm not pantsing the plot, too, or I'll wind up with a big, unusable mess.
#6: Take a laptop/netbook/notebook everywhere. Some days I banged out an extra 500-1000 words waiting for my kids to finish piano lessons or karate. It really moved the draft along to have the tools available when inspiration struck.
#7: First drafts are NEVER finished books. Yes, I've passed 50K on TUNNELS, but it probably needs at least another 10K to finish the plot. Then, I need to research and, for this book, that's going to include site visits to places I'm not even sure how to get access to. The focus also needs tweaking - downplay the setting, highlight the mystery. The characters need more depth. And that's to say nothing of the basic re-writing, making my words stronger and cleaner. In short, there's a lot of work left. Several months to a year's worth, if past books are any indication. But the draft - who the characters are, what happens scene-to-scene, the forward progress of the story's driving forces - all of that is blocked out. And that's the part I find SO TEDIOUS.
Even though I'm not an official NaNo-er this year, I'll still be writing my 2000 words a day until the TUNNELS draft is done. And I'll be rooting for the more than 178,000 people participating in NaNoWriMo. Good luck!