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NaNoWriMo 2019: My Personal Experience – Part Two: I WON!

This is part two of my experience participating in NaNoWriMo 2019, a writing exercise where one attempts to write a novel (50,000 words) in a month’s time. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to read part one first.

Huzzah, I did it! I won!

Time & Gears Winner

I am very much relieved I survived the grueling National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) by successfully writing 50k+ words and completing the first draft of my postcolonial/dark fantasy Dark Retribution. Phew!

And now that I have given my fingers a brief reprieve of voraciously exercising over the keyboard during the month of November, I can bring myself to type-out my final reflections on NaNoWriMo as a literary exercise. For if you don’t know already reader, NaNo is often used as a tool for many writers (whether they’re a published author or not) to kick-out a novel and finally force themselves to finish the story they’ve been putting off completing. Editing is not advised, one must fight their way through to the end, or, as Brandon Sanderson puts it, “It’s more an exercise in endurance than it is in craft.

Granted, I did scroll through my document a few times and re-edited a few things, but overall, I tried to stick to those wise words. Dark Retribution totaled to 97,029 words. I had 45,780 words from participating in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, so throughout I had to subtract Camp’s total to make sure I was still on track to win. I also didn’t include chapter titles and other odds and ends, due to determining those before I even began writing D.R. It was frustrating entering my word count into the NaNo progress meter, since the website had a re-vamp and while on one page is shows I had, indeed, won NaNo, the progress meter on the “stats” page does not reflect that. One could argue that, since the “stats” is still meandering at 48,994 words, that I lost?

Time & Gears (banner)

But, when I entered the final word count, I did get the complimentary confetti fluttering down the page of my browser, received my “Wrote 50,000 Words During NaNoWriMo” award badge, and coupons for Scribbler, Dabble, CampFire and a bunch of other goodies. Thus, I am going to ignore the broken stats meter for I do tend to overthink issues till I am in fits. So I have told the “stats” meter to bugger off, and moved on.

The evil editor within me, that had been eagerly bidding its time to emerge, is gnashing its gluttonous teeth. However, finals are calling my name, I have a poster to edit for my Visual Technical Communications class, an essay to write for my Women in Literature class, and an essay to re-vamp for my Literature and Popular Culture class. Thus, the manuscript is being shoved in a drawer to collect dust while I conduct my student duties.

I already know some of the issues that will need to be addressed such as: than vs. then, which my mind constantly fights me on. One sentence has too many hers, which makes me cringe:

“Leave it!” she cried, pulling free from him and quickly shuffling towards the waiting carriage she knew would take her back to the lodgings her father had arranged for her and her mother.

The English Major within me is appalled, but I have to step back, take a deep breath, and not beat myself bloody over it. Again, NaNo is about getting words onto a page, not creating poetical prose that would make Patrick Rothfuss proud.

NaNoWriMo (logo)So, what’s next when one has successfully completed NaNoWriMo? Editing. One could begin editing their first draft into a second, and third, and fourth and so on and so forth. One could hunt down beta readers and editors to review the draft(s) and suggest changes in pacing, grammar, word usage, worldbuilding, tense, plotting and more. One could desperately shove their first draft into their friend’s hands, or family’s, for that matter, imploring they read it and give feedback. However, it might not be the constructive feedback needed, so it’s better to hand it off to strangers.

Although, I have always been wary of having someone I don’t know review my writing. Why? Not for the criticism I would receive, more along the lines of someone liking the idea I cooked-up and stealing it, and I know how ridiculous that sounds (again, this is my crazy imagination conjuring up worst case scenarios that, for some strange reason, I’ll torture myself silly with for weeks).

While a few are gifted with the ability to love the process of editing (I am looking at you Brian Lee Durfee), I know my mind better than anyone, and I know it’s going to be like pulling teeth. Once more, that is why having others review your work is such a godsend, they are seeing it with eyes that aren’t rose-filtered and can give you valuable feedback. For example, I had written a short horror fiction for my college’s literary magazine, and a lot of it came off as brilliant to me. But, when I handed it off to my fiancé, he immediately began picking-up on my countless mistakes; mistakes I hadn’t even picked up on: “Hey, this is too descriptive,” or “This is redundant,” or “I like this, but you can cut back on this.” And so on and so forth.

Yes, he’s family. Yet, he has a critical, logical mind I find invaluable to give my writing the kick in the butt it needs. So, if you do have a close friend that is overbearing in that department, definitely hand off your manuscript to them. It was also nice to receive immediate feedback (by living in the same house together), instead of handing it off to some stranger who might take days, if not weeks, to get comments from.

Typewriter (poster)I also struggled with the concept of, not just being a writer, but being a damn good one. Not to mention I struggled to really call myself a writer for the longest time, coming to the point where my boss, who I was writing blog post for at the time, had to inform me, “You are a writer.” Professors having to drill the same concept into my head that, yes, you are a writer, and not just pretending to be one. So, accepting that, yes, I am a writer, I needed to write.

This is easier said than done, for I am my own worst critic, aiming too high with vast worldbuilding, re-editing a million times till I finally exit out of the Word Document, telling myself I wasn’t good enough to write something meaningful. Longing to write character’s with amazing chemistry, with hilarious bantering between them, like my favorite fantasy author Elizabeth Haydon had done in The Symphony of Ages series or achieving the overwhelming epicenes that Steven Erikson achieved in his Malazan: Book of the Fallen series. Heck, I wanted to be able to write crazily-badass characters like Brian Lee Durfee has done thus far in his Five Warrior Angel’s series. I could go on and go with what I envisioned for myself, but it wasn’t feasible until I opened-up my laptop and begin typing my vision down. And, to reiterate, putting my editing shadow aside and simply writing.

Overall, my experience in participating in NaNoWriMo cannot be replicated or replaced, for it added a golden feather to my cap I will cherish forever. As I stated in part one, I had always been a writer (even if I struggled to accept the fact) since I was a tiny, shy little girl in elementary school. Yet, that girl struggled to write-out a completed manuscript, her largest being 200k+, and now that girl can say she had succeeded in that venture. Seeing a full-blown novel from its beginning to its ending is a powerful lesson for a writer. One gets to mull over how the plot panned out, the world you created now a living, breathing thing, how the character arcs were expanded and finalized, and how the characters meet their ends.

When I first heard of NaNoWriMo, it was in the pursuit of understanding how Brandon Sanderson managed to complete his novels. I found an interview titled “Pep Talk (2011)” on how he spent his “Thanksgiving digestion” “furiously pounding” his novel out on his log bed, that inspired me to make the attempt myself. Because, well, it was about damn time I finally finished something beyond a short story.

Sanderson stated that one of the best lessons in writing is in finishing, in typing-out that final line. The End. Or, as I typed, Das Ende. To be able to sit back, bask in the glow of your finished manuscript, instead of wishing for it while stuck in traffic, or calling-out to it amidst working your soul-sucking day job of mindlessly ringing-up someone’s groceries. It is the best reward for the writer within you. I feel no one can really grant themselves the title of author until they had, at the very least, completed a manuscript, let alone being published. And NaNo is the means of succeeding in making that wish a reality, at least for me it was.

Here are some words of wisdom from Patrick Rothfuss on forcing yourself to write and not just wishing for it. He says, “The worst unpublished novel of all-time is better than the brilliant idea you have in your head.” So, what are you waiting for? Even though NaNoWriMo has ended, you can begin planning for next year or, crazy as this might be, create your very own NaNo and begin writing NOW. And, if you have not successfully met the 50k word count, that doesn’t mean you stop writing. The whole point is to get you in the habit of writing, every day, and not pushing it off till tomorrow, or next week, month, year.

Conqueror that page by writing your idea into a full-blown, completed story. Trust me, the writer within you will be very thankful by the end of it. 

Time & Gears

Final Note

I do intend on publishing Dark Retribution someday, but I already feel the itch to begin another novel, the first in a trilogy I’ve been thinking over for over a year, very soon. And, while I finally completed one idea I had bouncing around in my head, others are begging to be realized. Now that I know I can write a single novel, I know I can tackle a trilogy and, eventually, that 9+ epic series I have been re-writing since the sixth grade. Perhaps Opal Star and Elegant Sea, I had scratched down on paper those many years ago will finally be written, and countless others will, at last, become physical.

I can’t wait, for they have been like old friends anxious to meet the world.



  1. […] The story was written during Camp NaNoWriMo and NaNoWriMo 2019, where I had successfully won both by reaching the goal of 30k and 50k words from both projects (you can read my experience here and here). […]

  2. […] I also have a few other ideas cooking and will be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year (psst, read my writing experience in last years NaNo here and here). […]

  3. Avatar Angela Knight says:

    Hello! May I use the hot air balloon banner? It is yours?
    Thank you!

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