Did I win this year? No… but yes.
Officially and technically, I did not win. I did not reach 50,000 words between 1 November and 30 November. This is the 8th year I’ve attempted it, and the 8th year in which I did not reach the goal.
Why didn’t I finish? Why did I hit a wall about the 20th day in, and grind to a halt? I began to have doubts about the story. I started to overthink the plot I had discovered and started to pick apart the scenes I had already written and how they fit in. I also felt my old friend, my Inner Negative Voice, start to tell me that the story was dumb, it wasn’t worth telling, and it was not interesting to anyone else. I had that old anxiety. Once that fear crept it, it became more and more difficult to continue writing.
However, as many participants have pointed out, every word I wrote was a word I’ve never written before. I wrote 35K words that no one has ever written before, and just by attempting it I’ve done something no one else has ever done: tried to tell my own story, and challenged myself to write something every day. I made it to the 24th day, writing something, even if it wasn’t the goal average of 1,667 per day.
This year is the best, the most, I’ve ever done in all the times I’ve tried NaNoWriMo; my previous best was 22,145 in 2016. All told, I’ve written 75,775 words, officially, which just seems like a lot.
I learned many things from the experience. I learned that I can go in with just the vaguest idea, and as long as I keep writing, a story will develop. I didn’t know where the story was going on the first day, and somewhere along the way, I discovered the shape of the story. I don’t yet have all the details, and I created some loose ends and dead ends along the way, but I can see where it should all end up. And I think it’s a story worth telling.
I learned that even though I started with no direction, a direction or path would come to me as I wrote. At least twice, I would realize “If I’m here, then the next logical things to happen are this, this, and this,” and I would write down notes for future scenes, which comforted me. Those future scenes gave me peace of mind that I wouldn’t sit down the next day not knowing what to write next.
I learned that a good way to just get some words down was for me to just rant. There are several passages that are just me, ranting about the ideas and themes I’m working from. Whether or not those stay in the story, or just inform my understanding of the characters’ actions and their world, remain to be seen.
I am going to finish this draft. I’m not done with this tale at all. I owe it to myself to finish the scenes I had figured out I needed, and try to wrap up this version of the story. After it’s done, I can go back and re-draft it, taking out the parts that didn’t work, and moving things around to make more sense, and fixing the plot holes that came up because I was making it up as I go (that’s another thing I learned: if I spotted a plot hole, it’s best to just make a note, and keep going; I did not go back and re-write anything earlier because of something I decided later.)
It was worth it to try. I will do it again.