Learning to Flow: Word Counts and Short Story Writing Goals

I’ve dedicated this month of November to finishing the first draft of my short story compilation during the annual novel writing contest NaNoWriMo. On November 24 I surpassed the 50k word count that signifies a winner and continued on as my compilation wasn’t complete. Yesterday, just a day or so shy of December 1st, I finished my first draft with 70k words.

For what I can discern, one of the primary reasons I exceeded my goals was the nature of my writing format.

Word count goals are best achieved by allowing your mind to loosen and not force yourself to write anything that doesn’t easily flow from your your mind to your hand into your words. Drudgery isn’t suited for putting out as much writing as possible— if it’s not happening easily, move on.

Writing multiple short stories at once is both a blessing and a curse.

On the positive side, if I ever found myself stuck on a passage or concept I was struggling to articulate, I could skim through my document overview until I found a different work in progress that was sparking inspiration and crying for attention. This allowed me to circumvent slowing my pace for the sake of fighting through writers block. Eventually the previously abandoned story would reclaim its worth once the inspiration has returned and it will take its turn calling my attention back to it.

The other side of the double edged sword is that I must be willing to drastically adapt to different styles of perspective and tense. Almost every story in my compilation is a different combination of first, second, or third person point of view and past, present, or future tense. This wide variety was a choice made to support the ongoing themes of timeless souls, but the burden was on my ability to shift gears.

Rather than let myself be held back, I readily threw myself into each new style. One of the aspects of my personal journey and mental health recovery that’s been important is learning to let go— this writing project has been an exercise in fully changing and immersing myself and my thoughts.

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