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A NaNoWriMo Recap 2021

As Written Midway Through Week Two and On December 1st

First off, yes I know it’s odd that I’m knocking out part of my ‘post-National Novel Writing Month’ blog before the challenge is even half over, but honestly - I need the words, y’all.

Ha ha. No, I’m just joking - or am I?

But seriously, there’s a method to my madness in starting this blog now instead of later this month or in early December. NaNo tends to be a rollercoaster of emotions for me, and judging from the way the tones and subjects of people’s tweets and check-ins and even the Pep Talks sent out as the month progresses, I’m not the only one. Typically, the pattern seems to be starting off with a mass of enthusiasm right at the start with minimum word counts met or even exceeded and a story that’s still fun and ridiculous and some how the best thing anyone has ever written and just brimming with potential. By Week Two, that excitement is slowly starting to die off as we realize that yes, yes this is harder than we guessed. Sure there are people out there who can knock out 5-10k words a day even around a day job, but most of the folks who manage it are writing AS their day jobs. Those of us with a 9-to-5 are likely discovering that even achieving even just the minimum word count can take a large chunk of our free time - sometimes more than we or our loved ones would like. But still we’re making progress even if we’re starting to fall behind a little. It’s worth it to keep going…isn’t it? By Week Three, welp it’s easy to fall into the pit of despair. Often by that week, I’ve fallen WAY behind, to the point that I start questioning if it’s worth it to try to get caught up - hell, if it’s even realistically possible to get caught up depending on just how deep I’ve dug myself into my daily word count deficit. (Just an aside - early in Week Three, it almost always is, in fact, technically possible for me. Even if I haven’t written ANYTHING by the 15th or so, that’s still only 3,333 a day for the next half of the month. I’ve managed 4-5k words a day before. Technically, I could manage it. Now realistically - I’m not likely to do so without hitting burnout in my brain and my wrists. But it’s not impossible, is what I’m saying. And sometimes it’s looking at the sheer possibilities that can get my hands moving again, even if the 50k goal is looking harder and harder to reach.) But yeah, regardless of the feasibility of getting caught up if I’m behind or alternately keeping up the pace if I’m still clinging by a thread to my daily 1,667, this is the stage where I FEEL like I’m failing - or inevitably going to fail - the most. This is the moment where I am always the most tempted to throw up my hands and just pack it in.

(Not coincidentally, the middle quarter of a novel tends to ALSO be where I’m the most tempted to say screw it and trunk the WIP for now. Coincidence? I think not. I’m building toward a metaphor is what I mean. Lol)

Strangely enough, Week Four is usually some of my highest word counts even when compared to the buzz of energy of Week One, and yes that’s even when I’m in the ‘so far behind I’m not even sure the finish line exists camp’ oddly enough. It’s like this - if I’ve kept going a solid twentone days out of thirty by that point without stopping, I have this sense that well, I already came this far and dedicated this much time to whatever project (or let’s be real, this is me and my too-many-plot-bunnies ass so it’s usually projects plural), so I might as well just dig in and finish out the month as strongly as I can. Week Four is where I reach for spite as my motivation LOL, or depending on the word count, where I remind myself if the rush I’ve gotten in the few years where I did in fact manage to reach that whopping 50k. It may not happen often for me, but it HAS happened. And Week Four tends to be when that memory and the memory of previous years’ pushes toward the finish that gets me reaching for my laptop and just refusing to stop.

Week Four is also when my husbeast starts making regular rounds to top off my drink and leave me some icy hot patches and acetaminophen and just planning to eat dinner on his own while mine goes cold beside me on my desk. He’s a patient sort, bless him.

But I guess the point is that I know this cycle. I’ve been here before for many years in a row now. I may not know my personal novel process as such, but I know the way my emotions and motivation progress during this month of writerly madness. And knowing this lets me accept whatever I’m feeling at that stage of the challenge, get over it, and move on. (And yes, to remember during drafting outside of NaNoWriMo as well since I’ve noticed just how similar my writing cycles are in that respect.)

I just have to remind myself of that, which of course, was where this blog post came in, and why I decided to write it for myself during Week Two.

And uh, because I’m behind and needed the extra words. Are you really surprised at this point? I mean, I’ve included my grocery lists in my master doc for previous NaNoWriMo rounds, for fuck’s sake. A writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do, am I right?

EDITING TO ADD AS OF 12/01/21 FOR POSTERITY (AND TO KEEP MYSELF HONEST LOL): Welp, I did NOT manage the full 50,000 words this year. I didn’t even manage 20,000 as it happens. I finished up at about 17,000 words, which is a fair showing considering that’s more than I managed for the last three years in a row. Hell the 84,000ish words I currently have for the year is more than I managed per year total since 20FREAKING17. It’s a little humbling to realize just how low (for me) my wordcounts have been for three years running. Most days I can tell my mental health is SO MUCH better than it was during the hell job years and, of course, last year’s beginning of the COVID pandemic, but that’s a subjective measure, you know? But this – tracking my own wordcounts and just how much I had the energy and motivation to write and create – gives me a legitimate objective measure of what I’ve managed to accomplish. And y’all, this year has SUCKED in multiple ways, but I’m still so much better equipped to handle it emotionally and mentally. And I can see it right there in my little word tracking spreadsheet. I’ve made progress, and damn that feels amazing. So I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo. Big deal. I’m HEALING, and that is worth so, so much more. So yeah, I’m thrilled with what I accomplished this month and the rest of this year. The rest of the blog still feels valuable, too. At the very least, I can remember to check this next year as a little unofficial Pep Talk to myself. And hey, I’m planning and looking forward to the future. That’s something else I was having a hard time doing for a while there. Healing. What can I say? I like the feeling.

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