The novel itself, should it ever be something that gets published, will not be the source of controversy. My status as a National Novel Writing Month winner will be.
I started Sunday morning about 18,000 words short of the 50k mark each writer has to meet to be called a winner. All month I have really wanted to get there. I started off well, but got to visiting with family and stuff, so the last weekend I had a lot of catching up to do. I wrote 5,000 words on Saturday, which was enough to make me realize that I could pull it off if I hustled on Sunday.
So for most of the day I have been sitting on the most comfortable chair in the house, laptop in hand, unaware that every wasted second could cost me the right to call myself a winner. And one or two wasted seconds may have just been the difference. The judges are still out on that one. Here’s why.
The NaNo site has an official counter that counts the manuscript length for you. Throughout the day, when I knew I wasn’t near finished, I would submit my text to see how close I was getting compared to the word counter in Microsoft Word. Each time the NaNo site was giving me one more word than my own word processing program.
Between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. I had hit 40,000 words and change. I went to the site and wanted to get a count. Doing so, by the way updates the word count on the overall display, so there was a psychological bonus for doing it. Well, on this occasion, I must have hit “paste” twice, because the word counter gave me credit for 80,000 words and I suddenly had the “winner” tag on my page. I figured it would be no problem to correct it. So I deleted the text, resubmitted it and the correct word count came up. It did not, however, remove the winner tag. I tried a couple more times and it didn’t work. I eventually realized I was wasting time, so I got back to the novel and the task of finishing it so I could feel good about what the Web site was saying about me.
I was getting close to the end, watching the clock and realizing I was cutting it dreadfully close. With about a minute to spare I did a word count and it came in at 50,000 on the nose. I thought the NaNo site would clock me at 50,001. To my surprise, though, when I went to the site it said the deadline had passed. I was feeling pretty good about finishing the novel, really good in fact. But I wanted the validation from NaNo. My site said “winner,” but the word count was stuck in the 40k range.
So I got resourceful, went and changed the time zone and found out the word counter would work. It clocked me at 50,000 exactly, just like Microsoft Word.
So I was feeling OK about it, but that doesn’t last. So I wrote to NaNo and came clean about what I did. If I get the official nod from them that I finished, then I might flash the NaNo “winner” button and print the certificate. Then again, I don’t know that I can feel good about that. I mean, rules are rules. By changing the time zone I got around them, but I’m not sure I deserve the button. According to the NaNo clock, I didn’t write a novel in a month. I wrote a novel in one month and one minute. Dang. Now I’ll have to do it again next year.