November is National Novel Writing Month also known as NaNoWriMo. Every year tens of thousands of people from around the world strive to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It is no small feat, to be sure. It takes hours of dedication each day to write an average of 1,667 words to meet the goal. I know this post comes long after the NaNoWriMo 2021. So, my apologies.

In an amusing twist, the reason this is so late in coming is that all my efforts in the last couple of months have been about promoting my book, Alaska Shelter. Amusing, why?

Recap of Past NaNoWriMo Efforts

As you know by now, my 2019 NaNoWriMo turned out quite successfully. First, I completed the challenge. Big success. It turned out to be the first draft of Alaska Shelter, Book 1 in the Cooper Brothers of Alaska series. Second, and for sure the cherry on the cake, was that effort turned into my first ever published book. After multiple rewrites, it sold in May 2021 to Wings ePress. And, was released two months ago.

For NaNoWriMo 2020, I wrote about 90% of the second book in the series and successfully completed another challenge. I envision a total of four books in the series. It had a title when I started, Stolen Secrets, but the plot changed so much as I wrote that it no longer would make any sense. Plus, it seemed quite pedestrian to me and I was never super keen on it. I haven’t come up with a new one yet. And, bad news for me, I should have kept writing into December 2020 until I had a full first draft finished. I recently reread it and, while I know who the bad guy is, my sense of the full resolution alludes me a bit.

NaNoWriMo 2021

So that brings us to NaNoWriMo 2021. Last fall I was distracted and I walked into November with serious doubts about my ability to hold two thoughts in my head, let alone put together an idea for a story and write it. But sheer determination made me promise myself to at least try.

The end result was better than I expected but no where near the previous two efforts.

In the end, I wrote almost 27,000 words which, I estimate, to be about 40% of the novel. The novel, it is worth mentioning, is a standalone and not part of the Cooper Brothers of Alaska series. I guess that means Book 3 will be the NaNoWriMo 2022 project.

A Few of My Stats from NaNoWriMo 2021

Total Words Written: 26,640

Number of Days I Wrote: 30 Yep, I managed to write every day of the challenge.

Least Words Written: 153 on first day. The reason? I spent most of that day driving from my workamping assignment in eastern Oregon to my next stop in Long Beach, Washington.

Most Words Written: 1,577 on day number 25. In other words, not one single day did I hit the minimum average one needs to reach the 50,000-word mark.

Number of Days 1,000 words or more written: 15. Exactly half of the days of the challenge.

NaNoWriMo 2021 line graph of daily word count cumulative, along with a line graph of where one needs to be to complete the 50,000 word challenge.
The gray line represents the average needed to meet the goal by months’ end. The blue line was mine.
NaNoWriMo 2021 line graph of daily word count.
You can see I was all over the place on my daily word count. But at least there is a dot each day.

Since the end of the event, I am happy to report I kept up with the writing a bit. Right now, my total words are approaching 35,000 so I suspect I’m about halfway finished with the book. Recently I went back and reread it. Much to my surprise, it was not terrible.

So I continue my efforts.

A Few Facts About NaNoWriMo

It’s fun and encouraging to feel you are part of a bigger creative movement. How big you ask? Let me share a few stats.

Graphic that reads "238,192 total people pursued their creative writing goals with us this November"

Another nearly 58,000 people registered to be part of the event but made their own goal. In other words, it was probably less than the 50,000 words or they were writing non-fiction since, technically, the No in NaNoWriMo is novel.

In 2019, more than 450,000 people participated. In 2020, the number plummeted to 151,000. It’s interesting and not surprising. On the surface you’d think they number would’ve increased with all the extra time people had during the year of the pandemic. But we now know, that 2020 was hard psychologically on most of us. So, while the idea of participating along with having the time was attractive, the reality was much different.

It was, therefore, nice to see a rebound in 2021 up to the 238,000. Hopefully 2022 will see even more participants. I know that NaNoWriMo 2022 seems far away but I promise in the blink of an eye, we will find ourselves once again dressed in our Halloween costumes with NaNoWriMo only a day away.

No question that spending a little time planning how you will approach your NaNoWriMo, including things like getting to know your characters, understanding the plot and setting, maybe even creating an outline, can go a long way toward increasing the chances of success. And, while October is known as Preptober, it is never too early to start prepping and planning.

Woman dressed in a cowboy hat with a pink bandana tied around her neck, and and cow hide print vest. She is holding a Halloween bucket of candy.
The next day, I left Sumpter, drove 6 hours to Long Beach, Washington. Then I sat down and starting writing.
Graphic that reads "27,003 official NaNoWriMo winners wrote 50,000 words of their novel!"
I always say…do the math. If you do, you’ll see that 11.3% of those who started the challenge successfully completed it.

Perspective

If you haven’t seen Brene Brown’s The Call to Courage on Netflix, put it on your list. I love her work and this one was full of gems. The last story she tells is of a time when her daughter was on a swim team and her coach decided to put her in a race she was never going to win. As the girl is crying to her mother, not wanting to compete, Brown offers her daughter another perspective.

She asks her daughter to redefine the word win. There was no question she cannot win the race in the traditional sense of the word by coming in first place. But what Brown asks her daughter to consider is what does a win look like for her? Maybe, in her case, a win is just getting wet. Maybe it is as simple as coming off the blocks and plunging in.

I adore the story (and you have to watch it to find out how the story ends). And the timing of when I watched it was perfect as it was shortly after I finished NaNoWriMo 2021. It turned my beating myself up for not reaching the 50,000-word goal into knowing a win for me was just getting wet.

In November 2021, participation at all was a win for me. The fact I reached the halfway mark? That was the bonus.

We could all use that reminder now and again.

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