Victory! Battle Cry! Onomatopoeia!
As a point of personal preference, I don’t like writing onomatopoeia, but that is beside the point.
For the third time in five years, I have completed the NaNoWriMo Challenge. As of the end of the night of November 29, 2020, my story ended at 50,430 words. It feels amazing! Simply put, it's quite an accomplishment, even if it doesn’t result in a complete product. So, if you have ever completed NaNoWriMo, then congratulations from me.
The last week of NaNoWriMo was my most dedicated. I did not miss a day between the 25th and the 29th, and my word counts for those days were all above 2,100. The high day was 3,637 which was my second highest day for the month. In fact, the last five days had three of my top five word count days for the month. One could say I was feeling motivated. Now I love looking at stats, but I do not want to bore everyone with my personal stats when there are things of more inherent value to discuss.
I started this challenge looking to make a change and accomplish a goal. I was 2-2 for NaNoWriMo and I wanted to have a winning record. I had every intention for doing this, but I think my tools for success predated the prep time in late October. In August, while on paternity leave, I joined a small Facebook writing group that mostly includes theatre friends and also got connected with the people at Emergent Realms. I was fired up to get back into writing and trying some new stuff.
Well, my leave ended and life is generally complicated. The month of September disappeared before my eyes. My involvement with both of the previously established groups came to an abrupt halt. Honestly, I was feeling rather down on myself. Luckily, both groups were still there for me. My friends in the writing group continued to post about their challenges and successes, keeping the group active and the notifications coming. Jim from Emergent Realms also reached out to check in with me. It turned out this was just what I needed. The last couple weeks of October were full of mounting excitement and preparation.
I would be amiss to say my wife was not also a great support for the month. She has always supported my writing, and though her enthusiasm for my numerous unfinished projects has waned, her faith in my art has put me back in my writer’s chair more times than she knows. When I told her I was doing NaNoWriMo again, just a few days before November first, she was mildly perturbed not with the concept of me taking hours of solo time for writing, but that I had sprung it on her with zero time to adjust. After an apology for the abrupt and last-minute announcement, she did tell me she was glad I was trying again.
As any parent knows, some nights the kids just don’t go to sleep. My wife took most of that on herself for the month so that I could make use of most of my window most nights of the month. Her vital support on this front, as well as in my writing in general, my writing group which included two other NaNoWriMo challengers, and this blog with Emergent Realms, helped spur me to the finish line.
Now that the end has arrived, it feels great to have succeeded. My story is certainly a rough draft. There is a scene that is essentially and then they did what they said, but for the sake of time it needed to be abbreviated. The word count did not need the scene, and while I could use the last day of the month to go back and write it, there are actually a number of other things I consider higher priority. Plus, it’s an intimate scene which I’ve never written so yeah, it’s more insinuated.
Why include an intimate scene if you don’t want to write one? As a challenge, of course! I asked my wife for three random elements for the story when I told her I was doing NaNoWriMo the last week of October. She supplied female protagonist, a sex scene, and a left-handed character. I included them all, but to say I phoned it in instead of delving into those three topics would be fair. I intend to flesh it out—pun intended—in the completed work, but that’s probably two drafts away.
Which is a great segue into the next topic: what comes next with the story? The simple answer is proofreading. I am notorious for mistakes in typing and grammar. Autocorrect can be a friend but also an enemy. I am willing to bet I will have to correct “from” and “form” at least ten times as I go. But proofreading also gives you the opportunity to enjoy your story, take out what no longer works for you, and flesh out ideas you love. I find myself struggling with second drafts because the discovery part of the writing is mostly done, and editing for grammar and spelling holds zero joy for me. Yet If I ever wish to proceed, it is necessary.
If you have ever written a story, whether it be a 50,000-word novel in a month or an epic that takes you a decade to compose, you will be familiar with the following situation. You tell friends or family you write in your free time, you are a writer, or you just finished a story and the first thing they want to know about is… publishing. People outside of the realm of writing assume you just take your finished story to Publisher Co. and they say “great a story! These are hard to come by. We will publish right away and send you money.”
People in the arts have it hard in this way. If you are in a band, I’m sure people want a CD, but I’m pretty sure most people understand that the band playing in your favorite bar every Friday night does not have a record deal. Same goes for actors and actresses. If they can’t see you on TV, then perhaps you are really just a waiter. It’s a pain I empathize with. But for anyone interested in a story about a young woman who answers the call to adventure under duress and has to broaden her worldview while drawing on her experiences in order to wield powerful magic and save a city that she previously hated from an insidious plot orchestrated by a dark cabal… it’s not out yet.
If there is one final thing, I can take from this experience it is the importance of a working balance. Too often in my life, my evenings involved entertaining myself with one version of electronic media or another. I enjoy my video games but also watch a fairly wide variety of TV on my various streaming apps. Board Games are also great but the setup tends to be longer and involve other people so they are not exactly my go to evening distraction. It has been great to have this purpose for my evenings. That is something I intend to keep, though I will relax the deadline. It put a bit of stress on me to make sure life lined up to allow me that writing window. Now, after another discussion with my wife, I know how I want to proceed.
Thanks to everyone who supported me in this journey even without knowing it, and thanks to all my readers. I’ll be writing more blogs in the future with Emergent Realms, so check in periodically.