The biggest challenge in the 50,000 word/30 day NaNoWriMo challenge – or, indeed, for any writing defined by word count – isn’t actually meeting that target. Yes, you do need to meet it – but that isn’t the real issue.
The real challenge is making the structure of what you write work to the 50,000 words – meaning proper balance between beginning, middle and end. That’s harder than it sounds. Any writing must have proper structure and pace for it to carry the reader on the essential emotional journey that lies at the heart of the art.
The exact proportions will vary depending on the purpose and intent of the writing, however as a rule of thumb for a novel plot you might think about 20 percent introductory, 50-60 percent expository and 20-30 percent ending. There are a few principles:
- Don’t use the beginning as an information dump. That’s not what it’s for. Beginnings are there to unfold the characters to the reader – to reveal what the character needs (as opposed to what they want). Call it Act 1.
- Keep the expository tight. Does a scene advance the character’s journey down their character arc? No? Cut it. Think of the whole as Act 2.
- The pace has to rise and fall in a series of rising waves until…
- The ending – which is the final point where the events leading the main character down their arc come together in a final challenge. This is the third and final act in the story.
From the viewpoint of writing, the purpose of the “50,000 word” length – and of keeping tally of the words – isn’t to hit a daily target of 1667. It’s to allow you to put approximate scale to the three acts and their components. If you’re running outside that scale, there’s likely to be something structurally awry.
Why is this important? Because if you get the structure right, everything else follows. After NaNoWriMo, you’ll have a good basis to build your novel.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014