You Can’t Take NaNoWriMo from Me, 2020!

With all the crazy changes that 2020 has brought, I was determined to have one normal thing: National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. This year marked my eighth foray into the crazy undertaking of writing a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. It was also my eighth win—yay!

With everything else that’s gone awry so far this year, I was worried that NaNoWriMo would be added to the list, especially since it’s been a struggle the last few years. NaNoWriMo 2019 was the ultimate low for me. I did have a good excuse, at least: last fall, I started grad school, and I wondered if I would be able to cobble together 50,000 words. But while grad school made finding time to write a challenge, it was my enthusiasm for the story itself that was the real reason for my struggle. I really had reservations when, 22 days in, I had only written 17,000 words. But I’m not one to quit when I say I’m going to do something, so I knuckled down and validated by the 29th of the month. It was a pretty miserable experience, honestly. I labored on after November, attempting to finish the book, and then—boom—COVID. When you’re writing a book set in 2020, and then a pandemic happens, it tends to kill an already-floundering storyline. I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll have the energy to go back and fix it.

Unfortunately, I was already on a downward spiral, with 2017 and 2018 being little better. Those two years, I actually wrote the same story. After 2017 lost its mojo, I decided to set it aside and start fresh for NaNoWriMo 2018. But even though I have two novels’ worth of material, I still have never been able to put it all together into one cohesive book.

I’ve had to face the reality that nothing will be like my first NaNoWriMo in 2013. That was the year I embraced what I thought was a completely insane experiment and started with a sprint—over 4700 typed on day one. And I hit 50,000 words just 14 days in. I’m realistic enough to know that that is not the standard to which I should hold myself, but still. I don’t want 2013 to be the one hit wonder of my NaNo experience.

Thank goodness it wasn’t. Although no subsequent year has been as easy as 2013, I finished writing each of my novels for 2014, ’15, and ’16 a few months after NaNoWriMo. And this year, I am determined to do the same. I can’t lie—it helps that I’ve taken a semester off from grad school this fall. Next year, I won’t be able to say the same. But for now, I am determined to enjoy my present success. I’ve already typed 57,000 words, and I haven’t grown weary of this story, as in the past several years. I’m excited to see where it takes me. (Hopefully not as unpredictable and outright nuts as this year, but I’m not counting anything out right now.) Right when I was beginning to fear that NaNoWriMo was just a chore, something from 2020 has finally given me hope.

If you’re a writer, I hope 2020 has provided some interesting fodder for your projects. Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? I’d love to know how you did!

Happy writing, friends.

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