End of Nanowrimo: Looking Back . . . And Forward

Well, that’s a wrap! It’s officially December 1st, and that means Nanowrimo has come to an end. It was a crazy, hectic 30 days for everyone, especially with the release of The Scavenger to contend with, but overall, I’m proud of what I accomplished.

The goal for the month was 50,000 words (if you’re new to Nanowrimo, click here). In the end, I finished with 50,033!! I made it! For a while there, I was getting pretty unsure, but I’m so glad I was able to hunker down and get it done. I actually finished a few days early, too, which makes me even more proud of what I accomplished

I actually first heard about Nanowrimo in January. I was extremely disappointed and kind of confused, seeing as I had been writing for years but had never heard of ‘National Novel Writing Month.’ I signed up right away, and waited the long eleven months until November. As the months and weeks ticked away and The Scavenger came closer and closer to completion, I realized I might have a problem. I had never launched a book before and I had never participated in Nanowrimo before. Both take up a huge amount of time and dedication. Once I start something, I have to finish it, so if I signed up for Nanowrimo, I would do everything in my power to get it done. But would I really be able to consistently write 1667 words a day, launch my debut novel and not completely fall to pieces? I really wasn’t sure. Up until the last day of October, I was really on the fence about it. But I did have a few ideas in mind, and those ideas demanded to be written. So, I announced my project. And Nano begun.

The book I wrote wasn’t actually a book — it was a collection of short stories titled Between the Lines. At the end of it all, I wrote three. For each of them, I tried to keep a specific goal in mind while I was writing. Here’s a little synopsis of each of them:

The Monkey: A short story my mom had been begging me to write for months about a creepy monkey statue she saw one day in a cafe. I wanted to try my hand at writing horror and see what I could do.

Final Count: 6,220 words

Scattered Pieces: An idea I wanted to try fleshing out, describing four people who find themselves trapped in a cabin together. As they begin to put the pieces together, they realize they’re all there for a similar reason. The goal was to write in third person while still being able to convey subtle shifts in emotion or character without narrating from inside the character’s head.

Final Count: 11,765 words

Plague: A story following a village that gets struck with a mysterious plague that sends seemingly random people into an unbreakable slumber. I wanted to try pantsing a story.

Final Count: 32,048 words

Looking at the word counts, ‘Plague’ was easily the longest story, which is really ironic, because it was the story I never expected to write. For those of you who aren’t aware of the difference between planning and pantsing, it’s two styles of preparation before you write a book. Writers who plan before they write have an outline of the story ready before they jot down a single word. Pantsers “fly by the seat of their pants” and just start writing whatever comes to mind. I had never pantsed a story before, I wanted to try it. About two weeks into Nano, I turned to one of my friends who was also participating and told her I needed an idea for a story I was going to “pants.” I told her I wanted it to take place in medieval times and I needed a problem. She mentioned a plague, and it stuck. I had no idea how the book was going to start, or even end, but I just started writing. And everything took off from there.

By far, Plague was the most fun to write. There were points where I would get a prompt from a Write-In and, because I really didn’t have a set structure, I said, “Let’s go for it!” and threw it into whatever scene I was currently writing. It was a ton of fun and I really enjoyed my time writing it. Even during the very final days, I followed a completely different plot-line than what I expected because it fit with what I was writing.

Now, don’t get excited. Between the Lines will not get published anytime soon (or maybe ever). All the work I did during Nanowrimo is extremely raw and is not meant to be seen by any eyes aside from mine. Some of the things I wrote were complete garbage and that’s okay — but every now and then, something would click. A word or a phrase or a sentence would fit just right, and that’s what Nano is all about. Those little moments make all those crazy hours of writing worth it. In the future, I might find a place to fit those gems into my other work wherever they’re needed. The fact that I have all that material written down, ripe for the picking, is a great thing to have.

If you didn’t win Nanowrimo this year, that is totally fine. Some years are better than others for people. Next year, I might not be launching a book and STILL not get 50k words down. Life happens, and that’s okay. But the fact that you created words that would not have been there had you not tried at all is an accomplishment in it of itself.

If you didn’t participate in Nano or are just hearing about it now, I highly recommend trying it out next year (or even Camp Nano during the summer)! It’s a ton of fun and brings together writers from around the world. Check out the official website here.

How did you do in Nano this year? Comment your word count below!

Happy December, everyone!

— J. L. Willow

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