In 1984, Daniel LaRusso did a lot of manual labor. At the end of the day, regardless of how shitty a job he may have done at washing and waxing cars and painting houses, it didn't matter. He wasn't entering the All Valley Manual Labor Tournament. He had learned karate and won a big ass trophy. The maintenance he did for a maintenance man was arbitrary...
I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo this past month. This was my second run at the 50,000 word goal, the first happened in July 2019. On that one I did exceed the word count goal within the month and I finished a story about Bigfoot hunters and paranormal investigators. It's a godawful novel, but it was a great exercise in working toward long form story.
This year's NaNoWriMo did not see me reaching the goal of 50k words, and I'm honestly not sure if that's a success or a failure. Clearly, I did not hit the word goal, so in that way, the most basic and straightforward goal of NaNoWriMo, the project was a failure. But what about the other aspects of the challenge?
50,000 words is the goal, I think, because it's kind of the most basic and shortest length of a novel and would, typically, be the basis for a bigger story and a more full-length novel. The point is to walk away from the challenge with a skeleton that can be fleshed into a more realized version of itself. For me, the challenge was about finding the story. I had an idea that's been bouncing around in my head for several months that I just wanted to get out of my brain and figure out what it was about. I expected that I would hit the word count, and then take a look at it and, more than likely, cut it down into a long short story or a short novella. My goal was not a full novel, but finding the story beats. "Breaking the story" as they say.
My issue came as the end of July was looming near and I was hitting the wall. With about a week of "camp" left, I had come to the end of my story. I hit a conclusion, and even wrote a second ending just to have an option. I got to a point where I didn't have a lot more to say on the story I was telling. I went back and looked at previous scenes to see if I could beef them up a little bit or add more scenes to them, but honestly, at just under 42,000 words, it already seemed a bit unnecessarily bloated. It didn't need anything else in the initial draft. Zero words were needed.
And so, with about a week left and 8,000 words shy of the challenge's 50,000 word goal, I declared myself done. I had not only achieved, but also discovered my personal goals in the writing of my short manuscript. I had completed my story's skeleton... but I had also failed the challenge.
So what is the verdict then? Was Camp NaNoWriMo a success or a failure for me? Did I hit the right goals and miss the important ones, or vice versa? I guess that depends on what one considers important. Personally, I don't care a whole ton about an arbitrary word count. It's fantastic in that it served a purpose of giving me something to aim at, but at the end of the day, it's just a word count, and that's not representative of quality writing or story structure. It's simply a number to hit, mostly because it's a round one and it's attainable within a month's time. In striving for that goal, I fleshed out concepts and ideas that formed a semi-cohesive story and articulated what I was trying to say, and that's the most important thing to me. I hit the 50K last year, but had less of a story to work with than I do this year after falling short, so I failed... and also succeeded.