November is here but no NaNoWriMo post yet? Naturally, otherwise, what kind of a rebel would follow arbitrary rules?
To explain what a NaNo Rebel is, let’s look at an exemplary NaNoWriMo participant.
What is a traditional NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge in which writers around the world commit to writing 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s right. 1,667 words per day written every day for 30 days.
It’s a great challenge that results in sweat, tears, muscle cramps, sleepless nights, and stress. It’s a great competition with yourself with no prizes at the finish line other than bragging rights, but if you persevere, you end the month with an incredible accomplishment, and you have put a dent in your dream manuscript.
While a writer can set a challenge like that for themselves at any time of the year, the beauty of NaNoWriMo is that you don’t do it alone. The writing community participates together, cheering each other on. It’s a beautiful thing.
In an exemplary NaNoWriMo attempt, the writer sets a goal to start a brand new story and write like the wind in an effort we affectionately call the word-vomit. You write everything and anything, and you delete nothing. All words count towards the 50,000.
The reason for this approach is that it is easier to word-vomit on a new project. When an idea is fresh in your head, it pours out of you.
Even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, having more words than what you started with is already an awesome accomplishment.
But what shall one do when they don’t want to write a brand new story? What if they want to edit? What if they’re working on a graphic novel or a movie script? They won’t be able to generate 50,000 words, but they too want to reap the benefits and the hype of the community event.
And yes, they can. They’re the NaNoWriMo Rebels and they’re welcome to participate.
My exemplary NaNoWriMo years
My first NaNoWriMo was in 2019, and I did it exemplary: I started a brand new project, wrote like the wind, finished that manuscript, and crossed the 50,000-word line in 14 days. For the rest of the month, I worked on a couple more projects for a total of 84k words. Wow. It was a perfect NaNo.
In 2020, I tried to write a new story again, but I encountered a full stop shortly after starting and switched to a couple of other projects. I barely met the 50k goal.
In 2021, I worked on a project that had been started earlier, but in a proper NaNoWriMo fashion, I focused on that project only and finished the draft while also crossing 51k.
My NaNoWriMo Rebellion
This year I’m a complete NaNo Rebel.
Why? It’s not that I don’t have ideas for brand new stories—I certainly do—but the time comes when you just can’t keep creating new projects, you have to finish some. I took stock recently of all my projects that are either unfinished or that I want to work more on and counted 14! That’s fourteen stories waiting for my attention. That’s too many!
If the goal of NaNoWriMo is to achieve something awesome with the help of the writing community, why shouldn’t my goal be to complete stories that are waiting for my attention?
Finishing stories is even harder than starting them. The process doesn’t generate as many words but requires even more effort. And so this NaNoWriMo, I challenged myself to finish 2 or maybe even 3 stories, which are close to completion.
NaNoWriMo 2022 Projects
Here is what I would love to finish this month:
1. The Merlin Paradox. I’ve been working on this story for the larger part of this year. It is a complete rewrite and I’m nearly finished. I can see the finish line and need to cross it badly. And won’t it be poetic that I wrote the first draft of this book during my very awesome very first NaNoWriMo?
2. Cursed, book 2 of the NOOM. I finished a rough draft of this book during NaNoWriMo 2021 and haven’t touched it since. Besides needing extensive edits, it also needs a couple of missing scenes at the end, and it will be done. I can’t wait to finish this story and close it for good.
3. The Well of Youth. This story is intertwined with Cursed. The ending of one affects the other. So as I’m finishing Cursed, I’ll also have a chance to finish this one (if time allows).
Challenge of being a rebel
The challenge of this rebellion is in the NaNoWriMo goal itself. As I’m finishing these stories, I will spend a lot of hours fixing things, rewriting, and brainstorming. Word vomit doesn’t help when you’re trying to finish a story, but since the NaNo goal is a wordcount, what do you do? How do you keep yourself accountable without cheating?
You get creative but still consistent, that’s what you do.
This year, I’m going to use this flexible approach:
1. If I’m writing new scenes that will generate a good number of words, count the words traditionally.
2. If I’m editing or brainstorming, count the time spent as:
1 hour of work = 1,000 words.
How will this turn out? I have no idea, but let’s give this sweet rebellion a go and see what happens.
words written so far.
NaNoWriMo 2022 Rebel Journal
Project: The Merlin Paradox
Starting status: Everything is written up to the story finale. It’s time to work on the climax.
Ruby has a new conflict I didn’t predict. I wonder how that will affect the climax. Interesting.
I wasn’t sure for a while how I was going to execute the climax. I knew what I need to achieve in it, but I didn’t know how to set it up. Well, I finally have some ideas and I’m excited to try them out. Wish me luck.
Oh, no. I’ve spotted a plot hole. My characters are about to do something really stupid, and at least one of them should know better. Hmmm. I might have to go back to change the set up for this, but it will have to wait. Right now I’m moving forward so I’ll continue.
And here we go. I’ve completed 3 parts of the 5-point climax, but I had to backtrack to edit the plot hole. Some of it is edited, some still will have to be addressed later, but now that I feel better about the set up and about my characters having a better reason for doing the stupid thing, I can move on to part 4 of the climax. Funnily enough, though I was mostly editing, I managed to exceed daily par with just new words, didn’t have to resort to 1hr=1k words approach yet. Maybe I’ll be able to count my nano traditionally after all? We’ll see how it goes with the other projects once I switch. There are still more words left in The Merlin Paradox. And by the way, Ruby’s new conflict is coming in handy.
Project: The Merlin Paradox
Starting status: The climax is finished!
Work notes: I finished the climax last night and it feels glorious. I was able to check off a lot of moments that the climax needed. I didn’t have it all planned beforehand, I basically just went into it hoping that it would come together, and it did! I am very pleased. So now I’m going to work on wrapping it up, tying those loose ends and I’ll be able to move on.
Day 14. And this is a wrap. I have officially written The End on The Merlin Paradox. The last few chapters will need lots of edits and maybe thorough revisions but at least they exist and I don’t hate them. Honestly, the climax was quite cool and the ending feels cathartic and I guess that’s the outcome I wanted.
The draft sits at 94706 words, which is a good starting point for a fantasy story, but the size worries me a bit because I tend to add words when I edit. On the other hand, it’s also beefy enough to be an interesting story.
To celebrate finishing the draft, here’s Ruby singing Jiggle Jiggle.
What’s next? I was supposed to work on Cursed, but I have to read it first to get into the story and so my daily wordcount will suffer. I have only two weeks left in November and 28k+ words to go.
And I don’t know, I’m tempted to work on the sequel to The Merlin Paradox. The story has been in my head for quite some time now and it would be cool to write it down at last. Should I? Hmmm. We’ll see what I feel like doing tomorrow.
Project: The Merlin Paradox and the sequel
Starting status: Starting the sequel from scratch.
Work notes: While I intended to work on the sequel only, I find myself going back to the last chapter of The Merlin Paradox to fix and expand. I’m getting a better sense of what I want to get across in that last chapter, the last final lesson Ruby had to fully acknowledge, and I think that’s what the theme of the book boils down to.
The fun part of the sequel is that it’s a continuation of the same lesson. Ruby might have figured out who he is now, but knowing something vs using that knowledge right are two different things.
In word-goal news, I’m a bit behind, but it’s not hopeless yet. I may still be able to recover.
Project: The Merlin Paradox and the sequel
Work notes: I still find myself continuously going back and forth between The Merlin Paradox and the sequel. I guess I’m not fully ready to put that story aside just yet. It’s still stuck in my head, but it’s nice to be able to move on to the new scenes in the sequel.
The big Aha! moment
Today, November 23rd, 3 years after I had written The Merlin Paradox for the first time, I had a major revelation.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking hard about how to focus the book I had just finished writing. A lot happens in it. I struggle to simplify it into one concept or one theme. So today I tried to write a full synopsis for it, hoping it would give me ideas and………. it gave me an idea. Is this actually two books????
It is! Which means that I have the trilogy I always wanted.
Update: It’s the final stretch. I have 4 days to go and almost 10,000 words. Can I do it? Wish me luck.
Update: Since the last few scenes have been writing themselves really slowly, I skipped a couple and got started on the exciting stuff: Merlin’s deal. That resulted in 5,613 words within one day! That might be the most I’ve ever written in a day. Truly, choosing what you write makes the most difference.
With that nice little bump, I made up for the several bad days and finished November with 50,958 words.
Lessons learned from my NaNoWriMo Rebel year
In the end, I didn’t rebel as much as I thought I would. I worked on more than one book but still within the same trilogy, I edited, I planned, but I counted new words, not time or any other method I had considered.
A big part of the reason was that The Merlin Paradox wasn’t out of my head yet. The story was still very active in my mind and I couldn’t just shelve it. That’s why I had to get started on the sequel. I didn’t even touch Cursed.
But in the end, I made an awesome progress. I finished the draft of what I now understand is two books and put a dent in the third. I had several glorious Aha! moments and solved a bunch of issues.
Most of all, I’m happy to report that I don’t feel tired or burned out by the process. I think I’ve finally found the balance I needed to juggle real life and writing life. It is possible.