04 Dec A Surprising End to My Nano NaNo
Two years ago at this time, I was on a writer’s high, full of success from completing the National Novel Writing Month Challenge. I’d finished that November with 57,000 words, the most I’d ever written in such a short period. I’d never felt as much confidence in my abilities as a writer as I did then. I looked forward to the days ahead; I felt certain I would finish my novel and have it fully edited by the time my baby would be born eight months later.
Of course, that’s not what happened. Exhausted from the November writing challenge, I decided to take a break from writing to catch up on sleep. Then, it was to catch up with work and my friends, as everything I’d pushed away from my life in order to dedicate almost two hours to writing each day came rushing back. It would take me until January before I wrote again, and as the weeks passed, getting back into a writing habit was harder and harder. And then I had a baby and well, somehow I ended up here, a writer who didn’t write.
I knew what signing up for NaNoWriMo would mean, the kind of dedication it required to win. But this year, my inspiration wasn’t based on word count, though it would serve as an indicator, a marker for my progress. My goal was to write every day, to find time every day to sit down and write.
Not a lot of time, just thirty minutes a day.
30 Days in November – at 500 words a day – would get me to 15,000 words. A far cry from the 50,000 words for traditional NaNoWriMo writers, but it felt reasonable; it felt real.
So, how did I do? My final word count on November 30th was just over 27,000 words.
It wasn’t easy. I didn’t have the same tense feelings of exhilaration every day, nor friends to write with or gather encouragement from. It was a lonely journey; writing in the dark after everyone else went to sleep.
There were days I couldn’t write at all. Evening would come and I’d be too exhausted to write a single word. But other nights, my hands flying across the keys and I’d feel a trace of the experienced writer I used to be. Over the course of the month, my lowest words per day were 16, my highest 1,792. My average overall? Closer to 900. Not too shabby.
As I think back to my last NaNoWrimo experience, I am still very proud of that accomplishment, but I’m actually more satisfied with this year’s. Specifically because this December, I’m still writing, still making progress on my novel.
My lesson? By focusing on something smaller, on something easier to attain, I have managed to do the one thing that really mattered: the habit of writing every day.
Catherine Ellsworth is currently working on a science-fiction novel and runs a monthly critique group in the Bay Area.When not writing and reading, she eavesdrops on commuter conversations, monitors the development of AI, and fantasizes about living on other planets.