Keep going, or how I pushed through the 50,000-word wall

This month, I hit the 50,000-word mark on my latest project. I was super excited and really proud of myself. I don’t know what this thing will look like when it’s done (right now it’s a bloody mess, like all first drafts), but it’s definitely the most ambitious thing I’ve ever worked on personally.

But after I hit 50k, I stumbled and stop-started. Before the 50k, I was churning out 1,000 to 1,500 words per day (30 minutes before my work day starts and an hour over lunch).

After the 50k, I struggled. I worried I may have hit the wall.

Fifty thousand is a major marker for many writers (I also get a second wind hitting the 10k mark and the 25k mark). According to Nanowrimo, 50k is generally considered to be a novel-length piece of work. I’ve written and self-published two novels to that guideline. This time, I’m staring down the 100k mark. But a number is not my goal. My goal is to write this thing to completion, whatever that looks like and whether its over or under 100,000 words. And I’m enjoying the ride.

When I hit the wall a few weeks ago, it was because I went back to my old tricks: trying to control the direction of the story. I forced the characters to go here, do this, say that–and they fought me and they resisted me. I wrote three chapters where my characters were acting wooden when I realized I was stuck.

And then I did the unthinkable.

I edited myself.

Many experienced writers will tell you not to do that–don’t self edit in your first draft. Just get the thing on paper (or on screen). But I couldn’t move forward without going backward, and so I returned to those wooden pages and cut them out. I went back to a pre-50k world and started again from the moment my progress slowed.

From then, I listened to my characters and I felt my way through the world I had built for them. I promised these characters free will to do what they needed to do to tell their stories and like any real human being who was promised and given free will, they refused to surrender it when my clumsy author brain tried to play god.

I’m glad they did.

So I’ve gotten my second wind and will keep on keepin’ on. Let’s see where this thing goes, shall we? As always, I can’t wait to share it with you.

(And by the way, I’m over the 60k mark as of yesterday.) :)