Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to let National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s known, kick me in the behind for a second year in a row. And I have to say, it did a darn good job of doing so. But at the end of 30 days, guess what I had?

Well, okay. Cat’s out of the bag with the feature image. Yep, I had myself a completion certificate.

NaNoWriMo (pronounced na-no-rye-moe), is held every November as people, young and old, across the globe attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It ain’t easy. Let me tell you. I know said the same thing last year. But it remains true.

In last year’s post, I also included information about the history of the challenge as well as how it works. I won’t repeat myself here but you can visit that post if you are interested.

Having the experience of one NaNoWriMo under my belt helped a lot on the one hand and not at all on the other. It helped because I didn’t have as much worry walking into November 1st about what to expect, about how to pace myself, about just how challenging it is. Although the previous experience helped me manage expectations, it didn’t do a thing for making the physical act of sitting down for five to six hours each and every day any less hard.

NaNoWriMo winner banner.
A second version of my winner’s banner they sent me.

Becoming a Plantser

There are three kinds of writers: planner, pantser (one who flies by the seat of his pants) and a plantser (a hybrid of the first two). In writing, like in life, I generally fall, without a doubt, into the planner category which won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me. The first novel I wrote, which eventually led me to RV life, I spent five months planning it. Before I started writing on he first of January, I had a 40-page, single spaced outline. That’s a planner!

However, just like last year, the time sipped away from me as I met other commitments and before I knew it, November 1st arrived. And the thing about NaNoWriMo November 1st is the day you start. Ready or not. As plantser as I was last year, I was even more so this year. At the end of October, I was truly scared I wouldn’t complete it this year. I had so little of the story figured out.

I’m writing a romantic mystery and I called it Stealing Secrets. I had this vague idea that the mystery was going to be corporate espionage, one company buying secrets of their competitors. I’d been writing for three weeks when I suddenly realized, as much as I liked the title, it was not going to work because my corporate espionage never materialized. It’s funny, because of the little bit of planning I did, I was always sure stealing corporate secrets was part of the story.

So, Am I Officially a Plantser?

Even asking this question makes me queasy. I want to stamp my foot and declare, “No, I am not a plantser. I’ll never be one. You can’t make me.” And yet…

Two years in a row, I have succeeded in working out the plot of the story as I wrote. For two years in a row, I started on November 1st and, 30 days later, I more or less had a first draft of a short novel.

Still, having said that, I’d feel much more comfortable next time if I had full outline on the day I started writing.

Some NaNoWriMo stickers someone sent me. The black one on the left is from 2020. Superpowered Noveling is from 2017 and the steampunk one is from 2019.

NaNoWriMo Stats

Last year 455,000 people participated. This year, I figured it would be dramatically different but I couldn’t decide which way they’d go. Either way up with so many people at home. It might be a good year to finally do something that’s been on the bucket list. Or, with the rampant depression and anxiety caused by COVID, closings and unemployment, it might plummet.

Sadly, participation plummeted. Not surprising really, but still sad. But what I found even more interesting is that the percentage of people who completed the challenge nearly doubled from last year, from 12% to 23%. If I were going to offer a guess as to why, I’d say that it was the die-hards who participated this year and they are more likely to be the ones to strive to complete the challenge.

Here are the figures:

  • Participants: 151,276
  • Wins: 34,619
  • Countries participating: 60+

My NaNoWriMo Stats

Here’s a coincidence, but one that amuses me. Last year I reached the 50,000-word mark on November 28th and this year, I did the exact same thing. My stats page tells me I wrote 8 words a minute and that I average 1,727 each day. Very similar to last year. So, we can say I’m consistent.

The first two weeks, I wrote about 14,000 words each week then dipped to 11,000 words each of the last two weeks. Last year, I had a big first week followed by three lower weeks. So, I guess I still had good momentum during week two this year.

Graph showing each days' total number of words written during  November 2020.
My daily word count. It was all over the place from the second day where I topped 3,000 words to the last day where I failed to reach 500.

One of the things I learned last year was that between the muddy middle and the burnout by the end it’s important to start strong. For me, I made a goal to hit the halfway point (25,000 words) at the ten-day mark. I fell short, reaching 20,000 words, and the blame lies squarely on the election. Like so many, I was glued to my television for a couple days. Okay, a week but after a couple days I decided I needed to limit television and the number of times I allowed myself to visit news sites. With those limits, my numbers went back up again.

On my biggest writing day, I exceeded 3,000 words. A first. I did that on the second day. Last year, my biggest writing day was the first day. Definitely more energy and enthusiasm early on.

My lowest writing day was, surprisingly, not during the election though in general those were some of my lowest days. No, my lowest day was the last day. The reason? Well, since I’d already met the challenge, I didn’t have any pressure to hit a certain number of words. But the bigger reason was because it become clear to me that within the 30 day window, I was not going to finish the story I was working on. Near the end, I calculated I’d end up 6,000 – 8,000 words short by November 30.

So, between reaching the challenge goal and knowing I wouldn’t finish, motivation waned. I am, however, happy to report I have very nearly finished the project.  

Graph showing cumulative words written each day during  November 2020.
This chart lets you know if you are on pace. The light blue line is what your cumulative daily total looks like if you write exactly 1,667 words each day. The dark blue line was my actual daily cumulative words.

Architectural Adventures

Like last year, scheduled adventure days to help keep my sanity and to create some much-needed non-screen time. The place where I’m wintering has many self-guided walking and driving tours. I love self-guided walking tours such as this one in Walla Walla and this one in Oysterville, both in Washington.

I picked out three walking tours to complete in November. However, because I was in a colder climate, I couldn’t schedule them evenly if I wanted to factor in the weather. What ended up happening was that I did them on three consecutive pleasant late fall days. You’ll read all about the adventures in an upcoming post.

But here is one sneak peak:

A white house with blue trim behind a white picket fence.
In 1907 the local Sherriff owned this house. He wasn’t the first owner but certainly an early owner as it was built sometime before 1900. One night he had to hide a prisoner in his cellar so the man wouldn’t be lynched. Then during the night, the Sherriff snuck the man to the next town over. The guide doesn’t say why townsfolks wanted to lynch the prisoner but I’d guess cattle rustling.

NaNoWriMo Winner’s Certificate

I loved the wording on this year’s certificate so thought I’d share it. I wrote it out rather than put up the certificate to make it easier to read.

This month you wrote a novel. You approached it word by word, and showed up day after day. You pushed through the doubt, the discomfort, and the frustration you might have felt with yourself and your imperfection: all to do the work.

In a year of pandemic, protest, and hope for change, we’re so proud to have spent this month with you—building creativity and resilience. Congratulations, Winner.

Now What?

Much like last year, I’m stepping away from the story for a month or two to allow distance and to see it with fresh eyes. Then I’ll start the revision process. A process, in many ways, harder than the actual writing. Unlike last year, this year is going to need a lot more work. I have some plot holes and point of view issues that I’m pretty sure are going to require tossing entire chapters and rewriting them. Last year’s story, I only needed to toss one chapter and rewrite it.

If you read last week’s post, you know I might apply to work at Amazon in November – December 2021. I’m also looking into workamping in that period too. It means I likely will not participate in NaNoWriMo next year but I’m keeping my profile up with them just in case. If this year has taught us anything it is that you never know what will happen.

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