Reflections on my First #NaNoWriMo

An old-style black alarm clock

Time's up!

It’s December 1st, which means that midnight last night was pencils down and check your word count for hundreds of thousands of writers participating in NaNoWriMo. For once, I was one of them.

I didn’t manage to write 50,000 words, but I did knock out a little over 21,000. And now I’m going to throw them all away.

Okay, I’m not actually going to toss my notebook in the garbage can or run the pages through a shredder. But I am going to start my story over again. This is not a bad thing.

I could blame not getting to 50k on November being an even busier month than normal for me. After all, I did have my usual MACE gaming convention, ARFP charity book sale setup, and two yummy, fun Thanksgiving dinners. I also had a couple of follow-up doctors appointments, sick kitties, and the unexpected stress of having to get a new $5500 furnace and heatpump.

But even before all that I was struggling with the story. I felt like it was boring. That it dragged. The characters didn’t seem believable to me. Even as the writer, I had a hard time buying that the female main character wouldn’t try to escape at least once after being captured — magical bonding or not. At one point I thought I needed to start the story earlier, with the death of the male main character’s wife. Then I thought I needed to change the female main character to a gypsy instead of a river nymph. I wasn’t willing to give up on the story, but I knew something was wrong.

A couple of days before the end of NaNoWriMo, it hit me. Jump ahead in the story. Not a day, not a week. Fifteen years. Skip the boring bits and get to the good stuff now. And all the problems that were supposed to plague the characters over those first fifteen years? Hit the characters with them all at once. Boom boom boom. Don’t even give them time to breathe.

So those 21,000 words I wrote for NaNoWriMo are getting tossed aside.

Writing them wasn’t a waste of time, though. Far from it. For one thing, I know my characters better now. I don’t think I’d be able to say that if I hadn’t written those 21k. They’re backstory, and some of it I’ll work into the story later on. Some of it’s important. It’s just not important enough to drag a reader through for a hundred pages or so.

Then again, maybe I’ll get a few dozen pages into this new version and realize that the real starting point for the story is somewhere in that 21k. If so, I can always open that notebook again and pick up where I left off. Either way, it doesn’t matter, as long as I keep writing until the book is done. For me, that was the whole point of NaNoWriMo. Not writing 50,000 words by November 30th, but keeping going once the clock ticked over to December 1st.

And continuing to write until I reach “The End”.


Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? If so, how did it go? Did you hit that magical 50,000 word mark? Have any epiphanies about your story? And are you keeping going now that NaNoWriMo is over? Post in the comments — I’d love to hear!

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One Response to Reflections on my First #NaNoWriMo

  1. Storm says:

    I have had similar experiences where a story hasn’t felt right until after I have written 20-30k words. The words I had written were invaluable, I had learnt a lot about my characters and their environment and when I found the right story – the one I was writing, not the one I thought I was writing – I was on a much firmer footing.

    Good to see you are determined to keep the momentum going – I look forward to the finished work!