NaNoWriMo: Another Second Chance

There are many good things about the NaNo redesign that launched a few years back now. What I dislike about it is that it is much harder to see at a glance my years done/won for November. There used to be circles on the profile with the year, blue for sign-ups and purple I think for wins. I have to work it out for myself now, which isn’t hard as I can remember, but I really liked that little visual cue.

Anyway, I am starting with a history lesson because – What is Phase Two? That was what I called my WriYe progress thread this year, as the theme of the year was ’transition’. Last December I hoped very much that I would be moving house, and my living situation would improve. It was a rollercoaster ride, and there were times it seemed that wouldn’t happen, but I am finally here. I moved into my new house September 13th and I am pinching myself daily that I get to live here, that this can be my life. It feels like such a positive thing, and an opportunity to build the future of my dreams. I know, I know, that is a lot of pressure to put on myself and that is counter-productive but I do want it, so I am trying to practice self-compassion/forgiveness and remember…

“The steps you take don’t have to be big: they just need to take you in the right direction.”

Jemma Simmons, Agents of Shield

So NaNo history! For this post I’m going to ignore Camps but there have been a lot of those.

My first NaNo was 2007. I managed about 20k before I realised I had world building but not much plot. Also I think I passed my driving test mid-month and so I lost a lot of my ’easy’ writing time due to waiting around for the bus.

Roll on 2008 and my first year at university. I got the 50k. I was proud of that BUT while it was a complete draft, I can’t really say it was a coherent story. Again I was a little short on plot. There are various plot threads going on but the pacing was all over the place.

2009 and I picked up my 2007 verse again, and had another stab at it. Again I got my 50k but the story I wrote wasn’t the story I had intended to tell. I had fixed my ’lack of plot’ by basically shifting main characters, and it felt like I had lost the reason I had first tried to write that story to begin with.

2009 was when I really ’got serious’ so to speak. I hung around lurking at the Overachievers section of the NaNo board. I found Holly Lisle’s courses and signed up for a couple. I wanted to actively improve my writing. In terms of where I was in my life, this was the start of the second year at university. I credit NaNo really with how I made it through that semester as I think it buoyed me up but that Christmas I basically had a mental breakdown. I didn’t pass a single class that Spring Semester.

Therefore it was probably somewhat inevitable that 2010 was a loss. To be honest I’m not sure what I wrote, my NaNo stats claim 20k, but I would have to dive on my HD to discover what that was on. I think it was random scenes all over the place to be honest. I had tried to aim high and go for 100k I think, because I wanted something in my life to work. I’d been supposed to be on work placement but I had quit after two months (and then the company went bankrupt anyway). So I’d gone back to uni for a mix of year 2 classes (the ones I had failed in the spring) and some year 3. But I failed everything for the entire year.

2011 I didn’t even try. I had dropped out of uni that summer, moved back home. I had nothing in my life and I should have tried. It has been a regret of mine that I didn’t even make the attempt but I wasn’t in a creative place. It was all I could do to survive to be honest.

2012 I decided to rewrite 2009. I struggled to start and wrote 5k of something that just came into my head. It was a great feeling essentially creating ’something from nothing’, and gave me a good boost. I got my 50k but again I wasn’t happy with the story.

2013 and I had joined a writing group. It was more of a social thing to be honest but I had precious little social interaction and so I made an effort to go every week. This years NaNo project was supposed to be one thing and in the end I basically threw words at the wall. I got 50k by the skin of my teeth but it is probably my most incoherent of years, as I just seemed to switch stories at random. I didn’t like that. It wasn’t what I wanted from the ’NaNo experience’.

And then we get to 2014, in which I had decided that as I had nothing else, that maybe I’d give this ’writing gig’ a go. I had my best ever writing day (12.5k on Day One) and I finished the book. I think I intended to go on and write Book Two but that didn’t happen. Anyway, I had a book which I cleaned up and I did eventually publish that end of 2015, which was a mistake which I’ve gone over in other posts.

2015 and I didn’t finish the book but I did write 50k. I was actually happy I hadn’t finished as novels are supposed to be longer, so having 70k in the first draft was great. This was the series that stole my heart to be honest. I intended this to be my launch. I published Book One September 2016, Book Two in December, but yeah 2016…

2016 was a turning point year for all the wrong reasons. I got my highest ever months total (around 86k I think) but it was all over the place. I was supposed to be working on Book Three but it wasn’t going well so I picked up another project, which also wasn’t going well. I had started writing fanfic again that summer and so I added words to a lot of projects, thinking that was better than nothing. Then my life imploded and words just stopped.

2017 I got 11k added to Book Three which only isn’t my lowest ever NaNo total for when I actually signed up, because 2018 was worse at not quite 8k. I don’t recall what that 8k was even on, not a novel I don’t think. I had gone back to university in 2017 so I did have that going on, and I had hoped for a repeat of 2008’s success but nope. 2019 was another 2011 in that I didn’t even try because I was so defeated that I didn’t have it in me. It’s no surprise really that I dropped out before Christmas, so I can’t say I technically failed the autumn semesters classes because I left before that would have happened. I’d reached bottom, I had tried and I had nothing left to give.

In desperation I turned back to writing, diving into the WriYe community but then 2020 happened, a year of panic attacks everytime I opened the writing documents. It got to NaNo 2020 and I had to make a choice. I wrote a post about that here in which I basically broke down my desperation. I returned to fanfic which I hadn’t really written since 2016 (let’s face it I hadn’t really written anything since 2016).

Now I don’t appear to have done my usual ’NaNo retrospective’ post. I may have written it on my tumblr as I did do quite a few ’NaNo diaries’ that year, and I posted them on the tumblr as it was fanfic-based. Anyway, I did do a WriYe year in review for 2020 which would have covered it. Basically the passion for my new fandom reinvigorated me. The words were flowing again. I got 66k in November, all on the one completed fanfic. It was a great feeling and I hoped to build on that in 2021, and in some ways I did and in some ways I didn’t.

I have done a 2021 WriYe year in review and I don’t need to rehash that because we’re only talking about NaNo and the impact of the various NaNo’s in this walk down memory lane. Now 2021 wasn’t another 2011/2019 in that I didn’t even try because I was consumed by depression BUT it was a year in which I didn’t even try. At the end of September 2021 I said I had to move out, as I couldn’t go on with my then living situation. So in November 2021 we were in full swing trying to sell the house. I was stressed and didn’t want the pressure. It probably would have been good for me, given me something to focus on, and I kinda hate that I didn’t even try but it is what it is.

So in summary:
2022 marks the 16th event since my first in 2007
I missed 3 of those years which makes it the 13th event to be attempted
I have reached 50k 8 times, but only 6 times without ’rebelling’

What is the point of this memory lane trip? Why aren’t you talking about your plans for THIS NaNo? Why does it matter what happened in past years?

It matters because NaNo has helped shape the decade. How I did, what I wrote, how the success/failure then flowed throughout the rest of the year. The path it put me on even back when I first decided to try writing a novel. I had messed around with some characters but never got anywhere, never started a draft prior to the NaNo event. I owe it for giving me that initial push. Then there’s the fact that the years I had a good NaNo were better years as words tend to beget words. Also purely for my own benefit I like to see where I have come from, especially at the moment because the theme of the year…


What is Phase Two? NaNo has been a springboard for me in the past. I wrote the first draft of my first published novel in 2014. I wrote the first draft of my second published novel in 2015. Both of those publishing journeys ended in failure but the journey was still made. NaNo 2020 got me writing again after four years of nothing very much. I am only now back here on the horse/in the saddle/whatever metaphor you like, because NaNo started me back writing.

It doesn’t always work. 2010 went to pieces, 2013 was a mess, as was 2016, then 2017 and 2018 were embarrassing. If you go back in the tag you’ll see I did a ’hopeful’ post for 2017 in which I talked about how I was going to ’fix it’ with how the year had gone to shit after my life imploded November 2016. I did not obviously fix it, as everything continued to be shit and really my desperate flailing attempts made it worse in lots of ways.

It’s important to remember that it didn’t always work. That I can hope NaNo will propel me forward but there have been years it didn’t work. I think the issue with 2010 and 2013 was that I wasn’t properly prepped and so the idea fell to pieces when I actually started writing. 2016 was a mental health problem, as was 2017, and I don’t even remember what I was trying to do for 2018 so that was probably poorly prepped as well.

This teaches me things. It teaches me that I do much better when I am properly prepped. It also tells me the obvious which is that I do better if my life is semi-stable. I am sure that is true for a lot of people (although some people write more when their life is in chaos, which is the opposite reaction). 2009 kinda bucks this trend a little but I think desperation saw me through that and then I broke, and that is a break I still haven’t really recovered from over a decade later.

I have done these kinds of retrospectives quite a few times. I don’t know why I like to do it, why I think it’s necessary to break it all down like this, but it’s a reference I guess. It’s a little touchstone and I think my hope is that while the past might be disappointing, the future can be better.

Which brings me to a conclusion – the general feeling is that NaNo 2020 has all the ingredients to be a success. I prepped well this October, and my life is generally in good order (as much as it ever is, with depression lurking, and anxiety dominating everything). Hopefully there won’t be any surprises that put me into a tailspin.

So what are my plans for NaNo this year?

I can’t 100% remember when I first started poking at this steampunk idea but I think it was 2019. I looked into the genre and basically scared myself. This story had themes, it felt like something a ’proper writer’ attempted and I didn’t feel equal to it. There was also an aspect of the story which revealed something about myself that I don’t think I was ready to acknowledge, at least not publicly, and if the novel got to publication then I knew I would have to explain it. So I benched the idea but I have not come back to it.

Why? First it’s designed to be a trilogy, so it’s a shorter more contained series than many of my other verses. I thought it would be a good way to get an ’instant backlist’. As I could rapid release the trilogy, and then tease Book One of another series coming out. Second. I do love the idea. It’s always been in the back of my head. When thinking of what was in my heart, and what I wanted to work on first it was between this Steampunk trilogy and my Camelot retelling. I had a first stab at the Camelot retelling last year. What was supposed to be a 20k novella turned into a 53k draft that is going to get reworked into a series. I love that verse very much but I am still chewing on some language issues (due to the semi-historical nature) that paralyse me when I try to write it. So Camelot is now benched, which left this steampunk.

I am hoping for a good Day One. I always try and get a buffer on Day One, and there’s a thing called a DORG (day one ridiculous goal) and I would like 10k. That’s not quite equal to my best day ever (day one, 2014) but it’s more than I have written in a day since then. 5k is my realistic goal, with 10k more of a dream, but here’s hoping.

Dragonflight (the next Warcraft expansion) releases on the 29th. I’ve been saying the 28th but due to timezones it’s not until midnight in the UK. Anyway, that’s for the last two days of NaNo and it’s going to be a temptation. An expansion dropped in November before, Warlords on the 13th (but again timezones might have been the 14th I can’t remember), which in hindsight actually might partially explain my stats. I had good words on the 13th and 14th, which I seem to recall congratulating myself for as I wrote before I logged in but then I didn’t write again until the 19th, and then the 20th was the last day. I did finish the book but I think I finished that on perhaps the 13th-14th, and so this is probably why I didn’t write Book Two as planned.

Anyway, the upshot is I really need to finish NaNo before the 29th and then just maybe take those last two days off. The issue with that is I am hoping the draft will be around 75k and in an ideal world I would like to finish it. Doing 75k in a month is hard enough without making the month even shorter. So the dream is to type ‘The End’ but we’ll see on that.

As I said I’m aiming for 10k to kickstart things on Day One, and then I am going to try for a 3k a day pace, which if sustained would put on track for the triple digits I have dreamed about since 2010, but that isn’t the plan for this year. Unless of course the book turned out to be over 100k in which case who knows.

My plan is to try and focus, and do a lot of sprints. Generally I have been guilty for writing by poking at it in between talking on discord etc. for a long time. But I am only ’budgeting’ so to speak for 3 hours of writing time a day. That should be plenty to get the 3k but I will have to actually get on with it. Day One is obviously an all day marathon, but for the rest of the month I want my words done in the morning, so I can then spend my afternoons on the art course.

This quarter I am trying the HB90 program. That has three goals per quarter. Goal #1 for me was obviously writing based, Goal #2 was art and Goal #3 was personal development, doing things to have a healthier life. I didn’t think I had the time in October for Goal #2 and so I purposefully benched it. Starting a new goal at the same time as NaNo is possibly a bit crazy but I’m not waiting another month to try and make some art progress. I need to a post about my art journey as it’s not gone how I hoped – again, but that will be for December I think, to then set up the January goals.

Hopefully 2023 will be my year. Probably jinxed it now but it would be nice. Can but dream.