This marks at least the sixth time I’ve done NaNo. It’s a daunting experience, honestly. Trying to balance life with the rigors of striving for 1667 words per day for an entire month. It’s really tough, and made harder still by any holidays that interrupt it. Whether or not you won, you have my respect and a congratulations merely for attempting it.

I sometimes think it’s better to think of November as a month to stretch your writing in new directions. Get some short stories started. Try and get some submissions out to magazines. Do some editing on a previous work. Write some poetry. It doesn’t always have to be about the NaNo experience. More and more I see people shifting it into a “doing something writing related for the month, but not NaNo.” I think that’s healthy and would love if we could drift away from making it about “writing a novel!” and, instead, make it about exploring what writing means to each of us as individuals, and trying different things. National Writing Month. NaWriMo.

Having said that, I did try the full NaNo experience this year. In the past, I succeeded twice and failed three times. This time, I made sure to prep a great deal over the months before. It would be a secondary world fantasy, so I did a lot of world building and map making. A lot of cultural design and considering governments. Then the last few weeks of October, put the most basic of plotting in place. Just enough structure I could write to the overall arc of the story without feeling boxed in. I prefer having some flexibility for the story to twist in directions that come to me as I’m writing.

I reached 50,000 words on November 23rd, which was wonderful. I averaged 2100 words per day. The last 10k or so, things really did start to become harder. Not so much because I felt I’d reached the muddy middle, but more because things were slowly shifting as I wrote, and some of the plotting I’d prepped early no longer made sense. I had to take more time to redo some of the plotting, and rethink characters.

I’ve returned to a normal pace now. The goal for the rest of the novel is to average 700 words per day (although I prefer to think of words per week instead, so roughly 5000), a drastic decrease. That’s about what I can easily manage given the rigors of a regular job, some of the volunteer activities I do for SFWA and others, and life in general.

I hope you had a great month of November, writing whatever you wanted. Or editing. Or simply looking at new journals and fountain pens if that’s your jam. Make November what you need it to be. And have the happiest of holidays!

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