NaNoWriMo: Writing Progress Doesn’t Have To Be Linear

I decided that I would do NaNoWriMo this year. I managed to write fourteen novels without it, but I was kind of stuck in a non-fiction rut and wanted to break out of it and write the next cozy. Those all come in around 42K so a new one seemed like the perfect project to target for the month.

(So far all I’ve seen from officially signing up for NaNo is requests to buy things or donate money, so it’s a good thing I did it more for the mental reminder than anything else.)

I thought I’d share my progress for the first four days just to show that you don’t have to hit the exact same word count goal every day to stay on track with something like this.

I had an early draft that I’d started probably this time last year that had about 10K words in it already, but it needed a new pass because the story had evolved in my head in the interim and I knew there wasn’t the right balance between the mystery part and the personal life part.

(At this point the cozies are 60% actual mystery and 40% hanging out with a cute dog and all of the main character’s friends and family and seeing how everyone’s lives are going to change this time around. I figure if readers stuck with me for the first seven books they’re on board with that.)


Day 1: Added 2,308 new words and ended up with about 5,200 words that were reviewed and ready to be part of the new draft. Time spent: 2.5 hours

Day 2: Added 774 new words and ended up with about 7,500 words. Time spent: 50 minutes

Day 3: Added only 60 words but cycled back through the first 7 chapters for a light edit. Time spent: 1 hr 20 minutes

Day 4: Added 2,459 words and ended up with about 11,000 words total. Time spent: 1 hr 45 minutes

I’m averaging about 1,400 new words a day but you can see how chunky it is.

This is pretty standard for my writing process. I have days like yesterday where lots of new words are added all at once and I have days like Wednesday where it’s almost entirely an editing pass to smooth things out.

Also keep in mind that adding 60 words may involve deleting 120 and adding 180. I just track my net difference each day.

So there you have it. For anyone who is new to writing and questioning your progress and worried that you have to average X words per day or it somehow doesn’t count, don’t. The key is making forward progress. Sometimes that involves playing solitaire or walking the dog while you think about the story, sometimes it involves feverishly drafting new words, and sometimes it involves going back through what you have and tightening it up a bit so you can move forward.

It’s all writing.

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 M.L. has also been a published author under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at]

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