In 2009, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month for the first time on the 7th November, despite the fact that I was a week into the challenge with no characters or plot having never written a novel before.
Most people were pretty sure I wouldn’t make the 50k mark, but I did, in 15 days flat. It was my first completed novel, and while it wasn’t great, I was able to harvest ideas from it to write another novel more recently, proving that no writing is a waste of time.
The following year I wrote 193k in the from of two novels, which I managed by getting up an hour early and writing before school. I attended two write-ins, and hit 50k on day seven of the challenge. In the last week of the month, I got ill (probably at least partly a result of sleep deprivation) and therefore missed out on writing 200k.
In 2011 I took part in both Camp NaNo challenges—July and August. The first one wasn’t too difficult, although I wrote a modest 50k, but August was more difficult. I wrote most of a novel in a notebook on a sailing boat, before typing it up and continuing on a laptop until that broke, stranding me without a computer in France for several days before I could get home to fix it and leaving me with only a notebook. This resulted in a rather inconsistent narrative, but I completed the challenge.
In November of that year, I wrote less than the year before, leaving it at one novel of around 70k which I completed about halfway through the month. I was revising for exams at the time and decided writing more would be unhelpful. Easy. It seemed easy.
In 2012 I completed the June Camp challenge despite it coinciding with my GCSE exams, but failed in August due to illness that left me in bed for two weeks without the energy or concentration to do anything, especially writing. The novel I had been working on was complex and I would have struggled even if I didn’t have a fever of 39 degrees C.
In November, I wrote 200k. On no day during that month did I get up early to write. I hit 50k on day four. It was, if nothing else, a testament to how planning novels aids speed… and how fast I type.
This year, I took part in April’s Camp challenge and set myself a target of 30k due to exams, but wrote 70k. I took no time off and wrote a similar amount the next month before going on to write 150k in June even though it wasn’t a challenge month. And then I broke myself.
July started, Camp NaNo started, and I had RSI. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t handwrite. My only option was speech recognition—a slow and inconvenient process. I knew I was going to be away for the entire validation period. I had every reason to give up.
But I didn’t want to. I had a novel to finish and a challenge to complete and I wasn’t about to sit back and let my hands and their issues get in the way of that. I set a target of 30k and despite the fact that no one would have blamed me for giving up, kept going. It was the hardest NaNo of my life.
The hardest because nobody would have been able to blame me if I didn’t do it. The hardest because everything was telling me to give up. The hardest because I had written 500k in the past 6 months and I was creatively exhausted. The hardest because I wasn’t even managing to blog, so how could I write a novel? The hardest because I had planned out the story and the ending was so bleak and miserable that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to write it. The hardest because my speech recognition refused to learn my characters’ names.
The hardest because all my usual methods (write anywhere/everywhere; type quickly…) were taken away, and I was stuck with a slow technique of speech recognition supplemented by short bursts of typing using a new keyboard layout.
But I did it. Eventually.
I never thought writing 30k would be so hard.