NaNoWriMo is over for 2016. As you can see, I’ve been there, done that, got the certificate.

15.5 million words were penned by writers around the world during November. I contributed 50500 of them through a mixture of determination, encouragement and a shitload of Brazilian coffee beans.

Judging by the NaNoWriMo website, a lot of the 973 writers in Sydney failed their challenge this year with an average of 16000 words/writer logged. But that’s 16000 words that wouldn’t have been otherwise written. That’s something at least. I know one of our crew didn’t finish the challenge but she still wrote more than she would have without NaNoWriMo.


– Lisa Creffield

Fellow NaNo’er, Lisa wrote in her blog post that there’s “always time to write”. Isn’t it funny that we’re always so busy – busy, busy, busy – 11 months of the year but for one month, despite how busy we are, we manage to throw 1667 words onto the page every day. This surprised me.

My plan on 1 November was to rise at, ooh, 5.30am each day, breakfast and perform ablutions, go for a run, stretch (OK, these last 2 were never in my plans) and sit at the computer happily tapping out 2000 words before work.

What actually happened was … CHAOS.


When I search for pictures of “happy”, this is what appeared. Seems appropriate.

November was not kind to me on the chaos front. Between celebrating Lily-May’s first birthday, catching up with a mate in town from interstate, usual work challenges and unusual stresses that I won’t bore you with, I was having some sleep issues (refer to stresses). Oh, and my computer died and had to be replaced (insert more stress) the day before NaNo ended.

Happily, I still managed to squeeze out my 1667 – some days it wasn’t quite that much and on other days it was significantly more. I never fell behind my par word count for the day. I feared that whole “come from behind” in the last 100m thing. I always was a lead-from-the-front runner and my NaNoWriMoing was the same.

There were times when I couldn’t keep my eyes open or they were crossing as I tried to focus on the screen. But still I pushed on. Lisa was right, there always is time to write. If you’re determined enough.


So sleepy

I mentioned that I fell over the finish line a NaNoWriMo winner thanks to encouragement. Encouragement comes from strange places. My work colleagues, clients and friends helped me by asking about my progress, asked for my daily word count, about the plot developments and someone even insisted:

“FFS, take a day off.”

It’s a motivator. Suddenly you’re not only letting yourself down if you quit, but all these lovely, caring people.

There was no way I’d have made it without my fellow NaNoWriMo strugglers. There is something about a shared struggle that forges bonds. I’m not going to draw a comparison between writing a rollicking story to surviving mud and bullets and bombs in war trenches, don’t panic. However, when midnight rolls around and your eyes are closed of their own accord and your email bleeps, it was great to see a few words from Peter or Lisa sharing how their writing day had or hadn’t progressed.

How did the story end up? Well, it isn’t finished. Somewhere in my imagination was a plan that around the 51K mark, I’d be jotting “The End” but that didn’t quite happen. At 50.5K, we’re ramping up to the climax of the story and possibly 5000 words shy of completion. I’ve put it to the side for a few days to cleanse myself of the manic-ness of November. And to catch up on sleep.

Apart from a lack of sleep, where were the struggles?

I hit a plot wall at around 38000 words. The story had slumped and I wasn’t sure how to recover it. In the end, I skipped the story ahead to where I knew it was going to progress. The magical 2nd draft will cure the story slump.

What are my tips for surviving NaNoWriMo?

  • Don’t do it on your own. Either join an online community or get your friends or writing group involved.
  • Get as much plotting, planning and character development done beforehand.
  • Leave the serious research for before 1 November or after 30 November. Lisa went off on a journey to find out about toilets on board canal boats and we lost her for a week. Possibly in a sewage treatment plant.
  • Don’t fall behind the daily par word count.
  • Even if your words are crap, keep writing. The flow will return. And again, the 2nd draft will be when you sort out the problems.

Would I do NaNoWriMo again? Absolutely, yes.