I've been listening to old episodes of Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing podcast while also listening to the more recent ones in order to get myself caught up with it. Anyway, in one of the episodes I listened to recently (somewhere between 240 and 250), Mur talked about how milestones can be like speed bumps.
You tell yourself you're going to reach X amount of words, perhaps by Y date (say, for example, 50k words by November 30th) and when you finally get there your brain just curls up into a ball and says, 'Okay, we did what we set out to do here, now let me rest.' I'm paraphrasing Mur here, I can't recall her exact wording, and I've already deleted the episode from my phone (because of limited data storage space) so I'm not going to redownload it and listen back to get the exact quote.
The point is though: Mur was right. Once I hit the 50k mark last weekend, I felt mentally fatigued and decided to take a break. I told myself it would only be for a day, but a day turned into two days, and so on until here I am at the end of the week with no more work done on the fic than I did at the end of NaNo.
It's not that I'm not enthused about the story, I am. And as I reached the end of November, I'd found my stride again, the action was picking up and it was all falling into place. And then I hit 50k and everything just stopped. I whooped in triumph, I posted on Facebook that I'd won, I did a happy dance, all that stuff. And I took a break, and I'm still taking a break.
Part of it is exactly like what Mur described, just my brain needing a break to recharge. Another part is that I've been fighting off a bit of a cold this week. But there's more to it than that.
NaNoWriMo was like a holiday from my inner critic, where I could write whatever the hell I wanted. The inner critic still complained here and there about plot issues and grammar and whatnot, but he let me off with writing fanfiction. But now the holiday is over, and Mr Critic is telling me I should get back to writing REAL fiction again. And don't get me wrong, in the wake of NaNo, I'm more than ready to dive into my own original ideas and get some work done on those. But I also want to complete this fanfiction project. So now I'm trying to figure out how exactly I can juggle two different projects at once. That's probably a topic for another day.
The other thing is that a word count milestone isn't really a great target to shoot for. You could write 50,000 words and be nowhere near finished with your story (and, in fact, 50k isn't really a novel, it's more of a novella), or you could have wrapped up your story a while back and you've started working on something else just to fill the word count quota. Either way, once you reach 50k, you're not really finished. But you've hit your milestone, so your brain is like: 'Okay, whew, we did it...nap now.'
Maybe it's my harsh, inner critic talking here, but I kinda think 'No. No nap! Not until the story's finished.'
Anyway, I figure a week is enough of a break after finishing NaNo, so as of now it's time to get back to work.
If anyone is reading this blog who is a writer, I'd like to hear your thoughts on milestones and needing breaks afterwards. Does this happen to you too? How do you deal with it? Are word count goals really useful milestones to aim for? I'd be interested to hear from other writers on this, so please leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading, folks. I'll be back tomorrow with my Geekly Weekly Report.