How long is a piece of string?

In amongst all the other things that go on in my life, some of which you may have read about on this very blog, I’ve found time to conduct a writing experiment. I thought it would be good to find out if I preferred writing a whole novel (or at least a first draft of around 50,000 – 54,000 words) in a month or taking two months at a rate of 30,000 words a month. This was inspired, as many things are, by NaNoWriMo. Each November for quite a few years I’ve dutifully written a novel of at least 50,000 words from scratch.  I also wrote one in this way in March for Camp NaNoWriMo. However, when July CampNaNoWriMo came along, I decided to try a change. I wrote 30,000 words of the novel in July and most of the rest in August, although because I ended up at 68,000+ words it dragged on into the first week of September.

Which was better? How long is a piece of string?

Waiting for string

Waiting for string

50,000 words in 1 month:

  • A more coherent story (or at least it feels that way)
  • You get it over with more quickly
  • 50,000 words makes a realistic target – only 1667 words a day
  • If you are doing this in November, you get it over well before Christmas


  • There’s no time to think
  • It can be physically wearing

68,000 words in just over 2 months:

  • You can usually write a bit more than your target, as I did
  • There’s a bit more time to think – good or bad?
  • You can take an odd break, even for a weekend
  • It’s a bit easier on the joints


  • It’s tempting to dawdle
  • It’s easier to lose track of the plot
  • The story can seem rambling or sprawling*
  • It feels as if the drafting process will go on forever

*this may be partly because in this particular story the characters rambled all over the UK.

I’m still not sure which is better – even after just over 2 months’ work on my current novel, I still have the whole editing process to get through. I am not entirely sure just how much I did lose the plot as I went along either. I think I will stick to the traditional NaNoWriMo model for November as I definitely need to get the first draft out of the way before I get immersed in the ‘joys’ of the pantomime season, but I might try the 2 month approach again next summer – providing I get anything like a coherent novel out of this current flood of words.


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