Well, I've done it folks. I won NaNoWriMo! This morning I copy + pasted all ten of my short stories (including a flash fiction I threw in for fun) into the NaNo website and verified my 50,941 words written in November.
NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. It's exhausting. I can feel the tired in my bones y'all. I have read barely anything this month because I've spent all my mornings writing. I wrote during World Fantasy Con, which was an adventure, I wrote while sad and unmotivated, I wrote with exhilaration today as I pushed myself past the finish line.
I don't know if I will do NaNoWriMo again next year, but I have gotten a lot out of doing short stories instead of novels. There's something really fun in knowing that you only have to live with that story in your head for three days and then you get to let it go, even if it's unfinished or imperfect.
Here's a last excerpt from my dino story, just for you:
I hike myself up onto Darla’s back and kick her into a run. My eyes are burning with dust, my heart is a stone jostling in my chest. Faster, faster. We break the second field, planted with new corn. There’s the gate. In the distance I can see the uncultivated lands of what was once the border. Dissected plains, dark, loamy soil. I swear, urging Darla on. I try not to hear the sounds behind me, creaking wood, the roars and battle screams of dinosaurs on a rampage. I keep on, keep pushing Darla on. My flock needs me. I’ll have to find a way for us to survive until the dinosaurs are past. We’ll need food, grass is a rare commodity. We’ll rebuild. That’s what we do, humans. We survive. We’ll come back and put up more walls, I’ll breed stronger dinos.
And then I’ll go after Ambrose and put a bullet in his head myself.
I interrupt your regularly scheduled NaNoWriMo updates to bring you this interview I did with The Daily Author podcast over at Wooden Pants Network. I had a good time chatting about writing outside the box during NaNoWriMo and my writing process.
We know NaNoWriMo as a month for novel writers, but I'm here to say that you can break the rules and write anything in November, as long as you're meeting word count goals.
It's day 28 of NaNoWriMo! My word count for today was 2104. I'm trying to boost my word count in these last few days so I can make my goal. I'm about 5k away, but I think that's doable!
I've been enjoying NaNoWriMo a lot more this year since I've been writing short stories. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever have the gumption to finish a complete novel. Working at a fast pace like this has it's limits but in the end it's been terribly enjoyable.
Here's an excerpt of Story #10:
I’m not concerned with all that though. The past is in the past. Right now I’m concerned with a hot cup of chicory and washing the green blood of a just-hatched Riojasaurus off my hands. I leave the baby to her mother and walk back up to the house. The girl, Carmen, is sitting in the little storefront I concocted by building out the porch, thrumming her fingers.
“Girl, stop that thrumming,” I snap. I can’t stand idle hands, not in this time we’re living in. Going to the little sink and little camp stove, I bring a pot to boil and drop two chicory roots in. They look a bit like the wilted teeth of a dino. I’ve got lizard on the brain.
Day 21 of NaNoWriMo and I'm on Story #7 with 1624 words today. I need to play catchup this week but I keep hitting a wall. However, I will persevere!
Day 20 of NaNoWriMo and I've broken 30k! Woohoo! I'm on Story #7 now, which is about personality transplants. It's a nice change to work on a solidly SF story for a while after my rather difficult historical fiction short story.
1925 words today!
He blinks, looks down at the wood. “I don’t know,” he murmurs, and brushes the soft strands away from the knife edge. “If you hadn’t come in I don’t know if I’d even have known what I was doing. I came in here because I needed to get out of the house—to smell the air. And the wood was just sitting there and I got the idea then that there was something in the wood—an animal. So I decided to cut it out.” He smooths the knife over the wood and I can see the beginnings of a snout there.
Day 19 of NaNoWriMo and I've written 1189 words on Story #6. I'm technically supposed to be working on Story #7 but I am behind because this is another historical story with a lot of research to be done. Spent most of the day studying the letters and journals of Virginia Woolf in an attempt to get caught up.
Here's an excerpt:
Inside that strange reflection there was something else with her—the ghost of herself. Ghost Virginia moved behind her, smiling with a comfortable ease. Ghost Virginia is beastlike, furry-faced, with great wings. The real girl went from room to room, finding Ghost Virginia in the windows, in the glass, in the pools of water from a fresh rain in the morning. Ghost Virginia would not have let herself be caught in bed in the morning. Ghost Virginia would not have let herself be lifted onto the slab outside the dining room door. Ghost Virginia would have slapped away his wriggling fingers, like snakes under her ghostly shroud, she would have bit off their heads.
Day 18 of NaNoWriMo. I'm working on Story #6, which is a historical fiction about Virginia Woolf. Only 733 words so far today. I'm not sure if I'll be able to come back and add more, but I did some good research too so that's fine.
Here's a snippet for you:
We are seeking a barrel grinder. Not the ornate, decorated kind. That would not do. For our love we require a squinty-eyed man with a skinny girl doing the work of drawing in a crowd, the man’s long fingers wrapping around the handle and cranking away, the girl with a too-bright smile and her hands flung open to the sky. We require the music of London—street criers and a man selling vegetables and another hawking sandwiches.
I took a brief break from updating for a week or so to clear my head, but I'm going to try to get my posts updated, if only for my own sake :) Today I managed 2,476 words.
Here's an excerpt:
I don’t say that Zara suffered from migraines and hyper-stimulation syndrome. She gained forty pounds in mere weeks. She lost hair, chunks of her glorious hair clogging up the drain and I’d clean it out, on my hands and knees next to the shower, convincing myself this is what I wanted in life. She was constantly thirsty, I’d bring her tap water with no ice, because anything made her feel full, and she’d vomit it up, just pure water and stomach acid. Zara’s skin went hard and dry, and once she cracked a joke about how now she was turning to rock. That’s when I knew it was time to give up trying.
Oh November, you cursed month. It's day 10 of NaNoWriMo and here's my update! I wrote 1984 words today and 1631 yesterday. Look at me, all keeping on track. Yesterday I got home from working in Houston with a sore throat and sent myself to bed early. This morning I managed to pull myself back out of bed and knock out my words before doing an interview for a podcast. Tomorrow I will be working at the Writer's Family Reunion at Writespace and I have to drive in with my husband in the early early morn, so we'll see how long this lasts, ha.
Here's some pretty words for you to enjoy from my WIP story #4:
At the head of the group is one man who doesn’t look like he belongs. He’s got gold hands. About one in a hundred people on the train wear some kind of burn-wear. It’s not that uncommon, just feared, especially when it’s like this man’s wear. The gold hands are luscious, liquid gold seeping up his fingers and ending in seeping rivulets at the top of his forearms. It doesn’t hurt that he’s good looking himself, with sharp blue eyes and dark hair that’s shaved beneath its long locks.
It's day 8 of NaNoWriMo and I'm still (mostly) on track. My story is definitely trickier than the previous two (sex, drugs, and mood rings, anyone?), but I think I'll figure it out. Yesterday I hit 1327 words and today 1642 words. A bit short of my goal, but I hope to catch up over the weekend.
Here's an excerpt of Story #3:
“You can create nightmares?” I ask, starting to get the point. I step back to the case. The nightmare ring is a slim black band. The ring Jonas pointed out as death is pale white and set with a single pearl. “What are the space and time rings for?”
I had a good word count day today, thanks to some words I had pre-written that I worked into my current story (We're on Story #3 now!) so my count for today is 2284.
Here's a teaser:
I kneel over his unconscious form and bring my hand to his face. I place my fingers over his thin skull, the finger with the mood ring on his temple, cradling him like a lover, I slip into the deep basement of his subconscious.
I'm late on updating today as my phone decided to die this weekend and I had to go get it fixed. However I am back up and running!
Yesterday I wrote 1143 words and today 1958.
I've found that in some cases, it has helped to break my NaNo sessions into two parts when I have the time. My new story is somewhat research-heavy, so this has given me time for reading.
A short excerpt!
Amelia set her head against the wood of the car’s open window frame and began to dream. Her body swooped beside the car, her arms held out, her hair a ribbon behind her. Skin tingling, she shot towards the sun. The atmosphere was like the barrier of water in a swimming pool, glass meant to be broken. Amelia’s body shot through it, headed toward the stars, which lived behind the sun. Like great floating marbles, the stars called to her body. If she drew close enough to one, it took her into its molten gold core and like the pit at the center of a peach she curled up and became hard, brittle.
For Day 3 of NaNo, I caught most of my words at random parts of the day, which is interesting. I've finished draft of Story #1! (Woohoo!) and have moved on to Story #2. This one's got a lot more historical context, but I will likely be able to return to that later. For right now, I'll just be fleshing out the story.
A tweeny bit from today's writing:
Jenny though about how when she was in high school her brother crashed his car on her birthday. She thought about how he once told her, “You’re so lucky.” She tried to think of something good, some memory that was pleasant or at least not so bad. She couldn’t place anything, her mind was a sieve for bones.
It's NaNoWriMo Day 2 and I'm already feeling the burn. This morning the hotel we're staying at for World Fantasy Con had a fire alarm test at 6am, so we blearily stumbled out of bed at 8 to find coffee. Thankfully, we found a little french cafe and I was able to get in 1,213 words. Not as much as yesterday, but that's all I'm going to have time for I think.
Here's a bit of today's writing:
“It’s all damp now,” Chao said, running his wet fingers over the little house. It was a coffee shop. Once it was down in the lake, all the little ghosts would swarm into it and fill its windows with filtered light, smeary and hot, and they’d stand on the stoop and drink coffee and talk to each other.
Welcome to NaNoWriMo! I hope that you've kicked off your first day right. I'll be updating my blog with my word count each day to keep myself motivated and so you can follow along if you want. I'm writing 10 short stories in 30 days.
Day 1 is a story about a city of ghosts sunk in a lake.
Here's an excerpt from today's writing:
In the water, a city began to wake. Lights blinked on, murky in the silt. Little people went out onto balconies to smoke. Cars began to move on the sunken roads, their headlights pinpricks wavering through the city. A Ferris wheel came alive and began to turn, reeds clinging to its carts. Bubbles rose from bakeries and cafes getting ready to roll up their shutters for the day ahead.
I wish I were down there, Jenny thought.
I'll be writing 10 short stories (hopefully) in the month of NaNoWriMo! Find me on the NaNoWriMo website and add me as your buddy if you want to follow along or just want to be friends.
I wrote an article for Medium members on prepping for NaNoWriMo in just 7 short days. Read it here.
November is National Novel Writing Month, or #NaNoWriMo, if you follow along on Twitter. This November, I’ll be writing ten short stories compressed into 30 days. That’s about 5,000 words per story, with each story taking me about 3 days to write, or about 1,600 words a day. However, my plan is a bit nontraditional and most writers will be writing the first draft of an entire novel. The only guideline is that you have to write 50,000 words in the month of November in order to “Win.”
NaNoWriMo is one of those writing events that tends to get a lot of flak, usually from people who’ve tried it and found it didn’t work for them. But for authors who work well under pressure, deadlines, and outlines, NaNoWriMo can be a plotter’s dream. For every naysayer, there’s a writer who swears by this process.
If you’re a procrastinator, never fear, it’s never too late to start prepping. Below is a 7-Day guide to setting up for NaNoWriMo. If you follow this, you will end up with a good portion of your idea already sketched out, which will leave you free to write during the month and not stalled with “what happens next” or “now what?” questions halfway through.
This is just one way to approach NaNoWriMo planning. I encourage you to adapt to your own system, feel free to experiment, and don’t be afraid to tweak as you go. You do you. The goal here is to get inspired, not to get bogged down.
Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor and author of poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath
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