For you stat-heads, here’s a look at my day-by-day chain-moving in NaNoWriMo 2008, when I wrote the entire first draft of 600 Hours of Edward. The first number is cumulative word count. The number in parentheses is the change from the previous day:

  • Nov. 1, 2008: 5,763 (5,763)
  • Nov. 2, 2008: Off
  • Nov. 3, 2008: Off
  • Nov. 4, 2008: 11,183 (5,420)
  • Nov. 5, 2008: Off
  • Nov. 6, 2008: 13,721 (2,538)
  • Nov. 7, 2008: 16,963 (3,242)
  • Nov. 8, 2008: 20,439 (3,476)
  • Nov. 9, 2008: Off
  • Nov. 10, 2008: 23,085 (2,646)
  • Nov. 11, 2008: 27,293 (4,208)
  • Nov. 12, 2008: 30,744 (3,451)
  • Nov. 13, 2008: 34,558 (3,814)
  • Nov. 14, 2008: 39,886 (5,328)
  • Nov. 15, 2008: Off
  • Nov. 16, 2008: Off
  • Nov. 17, 2008: Off
  • Nov. 18, 2008: 43,846 (3,960)
  • Nov. 19, 2008: 51,811 (7,965)
  • Nov. 20, 2008: 54,816 (3,005)
  • Nov. 21, 2008: 60,837 (6,021)
  • Nov. 22, 2008: 63,957 (3,120)
  • Nov. 23, 2008: Off
  • Nov. 24, 2008: 73,208 (9,251)
  • Nov. 25, 2008: 79,175 (5,967)

About the highlighted dates:

Nov. 2-3: When I tell people now that I wrote nearly 80,000 words in less than a month, there’s an assumption that I did nothing but write. Not true. I took ample time off — eight full days, in fact. But when I was at the computer, I was punching the story down the field. To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you need to average 1,667 a day. That first day’s work bought me some time off immediately.

Nov. 15-17: I remember these days well. Angie and I went to her folks’ house in Fairview, and I remember feeling great relief about two things. First, I would make the 50,000-word mark. I had half the competition left and was nearly 80 percent of the way there. Second, and more important, I knew I would finish the story. By then, I was living inside it.

Nov. 19-22: I didn’t get the idea that I would finish the entire first draft inside the month until this stretch of days. That nearly 8,000-word effort on the 19th allowed me to clear the 50,000-word mark and succeed at the competition. But it was the next three days — bringing a collective 12,000-plus words — that moved the finish line into view.

Nov. 24-25: I don’t care who you are, writing 15,000 words in two days borders on insanity. I’m amazed that what I put down was semi-cogent. In any event, I hit the two best words of all during that stretch: “THE END.”

Here are a few more stats:

Over the 25 days, I averaged 3,167 words per day, whether I wrote or not.

The 17 days of actual writing up the average to 4,657/day.

In the first 10 writing days, I averaged 3,989 words.

In the final seven writing days, I averaged 5,613 words.

Now, about word counts: They’re only one way of assessing a story, and a pretty superficial one at that. Of far, far, far greater import is what the words are and what kinds of sentences, paragraphs and chapters they build. But if you’re giving NaNoWriMo a whirl, your word count should be your focus. The whole point is to get on down the road. Rewriting is for the second draft.

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