#NaNoWriMo Status: 20% Complete*

*...and then some. (I probably should have written this yesterday, but: Elections.)

If you’re taking part in National Novel Writing Month, congratulations—you’re already more than 20% of the way through November! If you’ve been keeping up with the recommended daily word count, you should be somewhere slightly past the 10,000-word mark now, and have a very good sense of the dramatic stakes in your novel. With 10,000 words, or roughly forty manuscript pages, you should have a feel for who your main characters are, what they want, and what’s keeping them from getting what they want; furthermore, they should probably be at a point in the storyline where the things that are keeping them from getting what they want are posing a significant dramatic challenge.

Most people, of course, don’t come to #NaNoWriMo on November 1 completely cold. The novel they start writing that day is usually one that they’ve been thinking about for some time, maybe even one they’ve tried to write once or twice before but stalled out at some point. Now, some people can have a whole novel mapped out in their head before they start writing, and some people come up with schematic outlines, but a lot of writers begin with a slightly vaguer concept. For example, you might know who your two main characters are, and where they are at the beginning of the story, and where you want them to be at the end of the story. You might even know a few of the things that are going to happen to them along the way. Now you just have to figure out how to get those things to happen, sometimes including what happens between one thing and another.

At the beginning of the month, I mentioned some advice from one of my favorite writing books, Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake: “Writing is a process… You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process.” So it’s entirely possible, forty pages into your manuscript, that you might have arrived at a scene you didn’t anticipate when you were working out the story in your head, or that, as you got to know your characters better, they made dramatic choices that have altered the course of the story. And you’re thinking, Now what do I do?

Go with it! See where the process takes you. After all, the point of #NaNoWriMo isn’t to write a perfect novel; your goal this month is simply to complete a novel, or more accurately a draft of a novel. If you have something in December that you think is publishable, or nearly publishable, great! But it’s okay if you look at your manuscript and tell yourself it needs a lot of work, or even that the story went wrong somewhere and it’s going to take some time to figure out how to set it right. That’s part of the process, too.