I received the following e-mail from NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty:
You remember those overachieving participants I talked about in last week’s email? The ones speeding past us with word counts in the 20,000s, and “kick me” signs fluttering from their backs?
Most of them will be cruising into the 50,000-word winners’ circle this week.
But you know what? I’ve been doing a little research. And I’ve discovered that thousands of participants haven’t written word *one* of their books. Which makes those of us with more than 10,000 words to our name look pretty darn good by comparison. Not as far ahead as we’d like to be, maybe. But nowhere near out of contention.
And this is where I need to talk a little bit about 35K.
To me, there are two milestones in NaNoWriMo. The obvious one is 50k, when the champagne flows and the confetti falls, and your friends hoist you up on their shoulders and sing songs about your heroic novel-writing feat.
My favorite moment of the whole endeavor, though, comes at 35K. There’s less singing, mind you, but when you hit 35k, you won’t need a word-count tool to tell you you’re there. If Week Two had a wall of fatigue at its core; Week Three is built around this glorious, chocolate-covered door called 35K. That portal opens into a wonderland of renewed energy, revived bookish enthusiasm, and serious happy-dances at the computer keyboard.
Because when you pass 35k, the gravity of the whole event changes. Writing is easier. Plotting is easier. And at 35K, you will see something in the distance that is both wonderful and bittersweet.
You’ll see the end of this crazy noveling adventure.
We’ll talk more about that next week. For now, the only important thing is getting to 35K. For those of us in the lower rungs of the word-coun t bracket, that may seem an impossible feat. But as NaNoWriMo participants, we eat the impossible for breakfast.
And just to make sure you have everything you need for this week’s intense writing sessions, I’ve asked our technical overseer Russ to pack a little something extra into this email.
You see, eight years ago, while trekking across Tibet, I met an old yak farmer who lived alone in a small yurt filled with paperbacks. The older volumes were self-help guides to better living through topical applications of yak butter. But the more recent books included an array of detective fiction set in London, sci-fi tales about interplanetary wars between asparagus creatures, and a sassy series about a young woman just starting to make a name for herself in the publishing industry.
The farmer, it turns out, had written all of them.
When I asked him how he managed it, he explained that he’d found a secret totem on the s teppe that endowed its possessor with superheroic noveling powers.
I excitedly told him about my idea for founding a project where everyone in the world would write a 50,000-word novel from scratch. He wept. Then he went and dug out the brown, wooden totem, and placed it in my hand. “Share it with your people,” he said. “I don’t need it anymore. Book contracts have ceased to have any meaning for me since Bertelsmann AG bought Random House.”
He then lowered his sad eyes, and disappeared, leaving me with the curious object and keys to his yurt.
Thanks to that totem, I’ve managed to write a 50,000-word novel every year, overcoming dastardly word-count deficits and my own diabolical procrastinatory tendencies.
But now I think it’s time to pass the torch. This morning, I ground up the totem, and asked Russ to carefully imbed a tiny portion of it into every Week Three pep talk email. You have it no w, and its magical writerly effects will last at least through the end of the month, and probably much longer.
All I ask in return is that you honor the last request the old man made to me before riding off into the yak-filled sunset.
“Please be at 35,000 words by the end of Week Three,” he said. I nodded. I had no idea what he was talking about.
But I know now. As do you.
The challenge is mighty, but you are mightier still.
See you at 35K, writer!
18,400 words, 4 yaks, and 1 jumbo latte
I’m ahead of Chris Baty!