NaNo Reflections

Here we are. November is over. Another National Novel Writing Month has come and gone. Somehow, I survived. Even more than that–I won for my second year in a row!

It feels good. It feels incredibly surprising as well. If I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I would be able to pull off 50k in 30 days this year. Sure, I was psyched. And of course I was going to try. But…the thing is…this is the first year I’ve held a full-time job at the same time as attempting NaNoWriMo. The five years I participated while being a full-time student, I managed to fail every year. NaNo 2009 was something of a luxury in my eyes–while it sucked that I didn’t have a job, I could focus all my energy on that 50k finish line. My confidence was a little down at the beginning of November this year, because I could only think about those five years when I was a full-time student and failed miserably because I didn’t have the time and the energy to put into such intense writing.

Color me surprised when it turned out to be a little easier than I originally thought it would.

The first important thing I learned–just focus on that 1667 words per day quota. Yeah, I knew this from other years. It’s preached around every corner in the weeks leading up to NaNo and throughout the month as well. Anyone who’s participated can rattle of that you just need 1667 words a day in order to reach the 50k at the end of thirty days. Hell, even I’ve rattled off that information. I had three mentees this year and I told them this about a thousand times before November started. Still, it was something I needed to remind myself several times. If I could just get those 1667 words a day, then I was fine. If I happened to get more than that, then I was golden.

The second important thing–it’s okay to fail. I’m not even talking about the general sucktitude of the story itself (and my novel from this November has a pretty grand level of suck). I even embrace the sucktitude of the NaNo novel first draft. It’s part of the fun…just shutting up that stupid inner editor that is perpetually running its mouth in my head and writing whatever happens to come to mind. No, I’m talking about the failers of the actually daily word counts. The fancy stats page on each user’s profile on the NaNo site this year showed more info than usual. At the beginning of the month, I somehow managed to convince myself that I would have the perfect November, where I would be at least on quota every day. I never wanted to see those stats fall below the set goals on my page.

This, my friends, was just stupid.

It’s okay to fail. I realized this by about week 2, when the struggles started. When the Harry Potter movie came out and one of my best friends from college came into town for the midnight release and I didn’t get any writing done for three days, that’s when it really mattered. It was okay that I didn’t have the “perfect” November stats-wise. The end goal was the important thing, and I accomplished that two days ahead of schedule.

The third important thing–family drama is a great time to write. A story: I went to Hamburg, NY for Thanksgiving. Stayed with the grandparents. Ate at the aunt and uncle’s. Spent six hours both ways in the car with my parents and sister. I love my family. I do. But we’re really good at the drama. With the exception of my step-grandmother, I’m the only liberal democrat in the entire family. My step-grandmother is far more left-wing and vocal than I am (which might seem impossible, but it’s true). Some of my other relations are incredibly far right-wing. When the drama started or the politics were brought up, that in particular was when I opened my laptop. Ignored my family. As soon as all that started, it was time to write.

I got a lot written over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Now it’s back to the real world. I have a first draft of a project I finished in October (but started writing mid-summer) that I’m about to do my first round of edits and revisions on before begging friends to read through it too. I have another novel to start–the sequel to the one I’m about to start editing, actually. I’m getting back on the agent query train for the one I started sending out earlier this year. The novel I wrote this November is going to be put in its little drawer, along with all my other NaNo novels, both completed and otherwise. Maybe someday I’ll take it back out to make it look less pitiful, but for now we need some distance from each other. It was fun, but now my energy needs to go elsewhere.

Farewell, NaNoWriMo. I’ll see you next year.


  1. korifrazier says:

    I think it’s having a job that is NOT related to writing (assuming yours isn’t) that makes it easier than being a student/writer. When you’re in school, you’re really holding down two jobs – you’re doing your own writing, but also fulfilling the requirements the university deems necessary for your degree (and we BOTH know what ONU was like in that regard). But I’ve found that having a job that has nothing to do with writing has actually made my focus a lot sharper. It feels really good to just leave work at work, come home, and have nothing to do but your writing. Like I said, assuming you have a similar kind of day job, I’m sure a lot of your success comes from that as well. Congrats!

  2. Erin M. says:

    That’s a good point, Kori. I didn’t really think of that. And you assumed correctly…my day job has absolutely NOTHING to do with writing. It’s a processing job. I update licenses and change addresses all day.

    Congrats to you as well!

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