The Hardest NaNoWriMo Of My Life

The Hardest NaNoWriMo Of My Life

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.

15 thoughts on “The Hardest NaNoWriMo Of My Life

  1. Bless you – go easy on yourself you have a valid excuse/ reason why you are finding this camp so hard. You have done it in the past, you needn’t prove anything to yourself. You have acknowledged that creativity ebbs and flows and it sounds like you have written a fair amount to be feeling exhausted. Camp NaNo can become extremely demoralising for the over tired, lacking creativity writer.

    THE GOOD NEWS is you can alter your word count.
    I know people will judge that – but I don’t care what they think – they can step into my shoes and take over for a while if they would like!

    Be gentle, lower your word count and try to write a little every day. Recognise if you feel negatively towards the writing the experience will not be as productive as earlier NaNo writes.

    I did my 1st camp in April 54000 words.
    This month I set a 35000 target. Then moved house, had to pack up 1st, had to finish work, host a friend at the new house and a ton of other things have meant that I missed days of the writing schedule.
    I have managed 12000 words, so I have lowered the target to 20000 (I still wanted to make sure I work on the writing) but no longer feel like tearing my hair out!

    Good luck with it!

    1. Thanks! 30k was a challenge but not impossible — any higher would have been. I’m all for altering targets whether up or down. The challenge is about what you want to get out of it, so it doesn’t make sense to confine yourself.

  2. Well done Miriam! Despite the obstacles placed in your path you persevered and won through in the end. You are amazing. :) As you know, my Camp NaNoWriMo effort for July can only be described as pathetic as I let tiredness beat me. But I’ll be back to challenge you again in November… ;)

  3. Congratulations for finishing NaNo, Miriam! If things had been that tough for me, I probably would’ve given up. You’re awesome. :D

    Does having RSI excuse you from doing school assignments involving writing? >:) Although that may not be a good thing since A) you love writing and B) if you miss too much work you’d get behind.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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