When I hit my 50K I knew I wasn't anywhere near the end of the 'book' yet. I had plotted out the remaining chapters, worried about their contents and whether it would be an exciting read, scratched a subplot altogether and gave a character I pegged as bad, devious and in the first round actually pure evil a new role as suddenly-nice-guy. Don't know how that happened.
I also gave myself all of the rest of the week to complete the story in its draft version. Because... there were deadlines looming (one translation by the end of November, another by the end of December and a third by the end of... take a wild guess: January!). Still, I'd managed to come this far and I knew I wouldn't be able to start editing, polishing or rewriting anything until at least March, so I needed to finish my story. And I did.
November 18, day 18 of the NaNoWriMo challenge, I shut down my netbook with a feeling of satisfaction mingled with pride. I had done it. I had officially written something in less than three weeks' time that could qualify as a novel. Yes, it still needed a lot of revisions - but I've learnt that all books do. No one sits down to write 'chapter one', types through to the very end, types 'the end' and has a perfectly publishable novel. No one.
Crazily enough, that was what I believed for years. That you just sit down and shake it all right out of your brain onto paper or keyboard and screen, just like that. Silly, I know. I should at least have known better after writing a college thesis and all the many revisions and rewrites I had to do for that. But for some reason, that academic type of writing seemed so very different to me than writing an actual story.
It is, and it isn't. Every book requires planning on whatever scale. Research, on whatever scale. A basic plot idea and chapter division. Some knowledge of the subject (thesis) or characters (book) is pretty much a requirement, but what your thesis subject hardly ever does and characters most always do, is: change.
That was an experience I really liked. Especially because once November dawned and I was gearing up for NaNo, I had no end of this story in sight. I just wasn't sure where it would lead. But then my characters showed me, prodded me, made me hear things on television and in day to day conversations that I could use or modify or that at least gave me an idea.
And... as a result of this forced burst of creativity, I'm coming up with new thoughts and ideas at the craziest times. I can't always write them down, I forget most of them, but at least my brain has been kicked into the right gear for writing. Now all I need to do is create a little more time for it.