Guest Post: Word Wars With Friends

Guest Post: Word Wars With Friends

Today we have Karl, my nemesis from NaNo 2012. He neglects to mention the hellish schoolwork load I had, or my numerous extra curriculars, and makes it sound like I literally just had to write all month. Typical! But it’s a great look at what the competition was up to while we competed, and the values of writing with friends….

Regular followers of Miriam will know that she likes to write – a lot! One of the things she takes part in every year is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo takes place every year in November, with participants aiming to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in just 30 days. I, too, take part in NaNoWriMo every year, and it was through Nano that I met Miriam.

Now, for some people, 50,000 words just isn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, writing 50,000 words in 30 days is incredibly tough and a huge achievement – I wrote 51k in my first Nano, and I believe Miriam did 50k in hers. (Ed: It was also 51. We clearly have some sort of psychic connection.) But once some people achieve this milestone, they feel that they can go for more…

In NaNoWriMo 2011 I had written a mammoth 160k. I believe this was the highest word count achieved in London that year. But, during the month, it felt lonely being so far out in front. Nobody else had a word count that came close to mine. I had no one to compete with.

At the end of NaNoWriMo 2011 I had said that the following year I would just go for 50k, but then someone said they’d give £100 to a charity of my choice if I wrote 200k for NaNoWriMo 2012, and I agreed – despite knowing how insanely tough writing 200k in 30 days would be.

On day 4 of NaNoWriMo I finally got to meet Miriam at a write in. I had already heard of her – I knew that in NaNoWriMo 2010 she had written an amazing 193k (whereas I had “only” managed 111k) and that she could write incredibly quickly. It was on that day, at the write in, that Miriam became the first person to win NaNoWriMo in London that year by reaching 50k (in NaNoWriMo everyone who writes at least 50k is declared a winner). I ended that day on “only” 32k. During that write in I would have told Miriam about my 200k target.

And then the war was on…

One aspect of NaNoWriMo is word wars. This is where two or more people challenge each other to see how much they can write in a set amount of time. Word wars can last as little as 5 minutes, and as long as the whole 30 day period of NaNoWriMo. Usually, there are no prizes for winning a word war, apart from the satisfaction of beating your opponents.

Miriam went on to declare her target for NaNoWriMo 2012 to also be 200k. Unlike the previous year, I now had someone to compete with.

She had already beaten me to 50k, but the month was still young. I got my 50k on day 6 – my fastest ever NaNoWriMo win. I then slowed down the pace, as writing at that speed was tough. I reached 100k on day 14. However, Miriam had slowed down further than me, and so I was the first to 100k!

Neither of us were going to give up as we continued to push on. I’d taken the first two weeks of November off of work, but now I had to return, and so I couldn’t write as much each day. My pace slipped further, and it took me to day 23 to reach the 150k milestone. But, again, I was still ahead of Miriam! However, I couldn’t stop writing with her still on my tail and going strong…

With just seven days left I had to pick up the pace. And I did. Miriam knew that she also needed to pick up the pace. And she did.

It turned out that she had more in the tank than I did, and was able to overtake me. I was writing at a pace that would take me to 200k by day 30, and I was struggling – I was tired, and, due to not eating or sleeping properly, I’d caught a mild cold. I was ill, exhausted, and working a full time job on top of doing NaNoWriMo – novel writing doesn’t get any tougher than this!

Towards the end it became clear that Miriam was going to get to 200k before me. She had found a new burst of speed in that last week, as she was determined to get to 200k first. And, indeed, on day 28, she did just that. I publically congratulated her, and metaphorically took my hat off to her.

On day 28 I had reached 186k. I could have stopped there if I had wanted to. There would have been no shame if I had done so. But, having seen Miriam reach the 200k goal, I was determined to get there myself. I carried on, reaching 192k on day 29, and then, with about an hour or so to go on day 30, I reached 200k. Miriam publically congratulated me, and saluted my efforts.

And here is the real benefit of having a friendly rivalry in NaNoWriMo. In word wars it really is the taking part that matters. There are no losers in word wars as everyone wins the real prize – and that’s to have more words of their novel written. By being in competition with Miriam, I was spurred on to keep going, and she in turn was spurred on by being in competition with me. If it hadn’t have been for Miriam, I genuinely don’t think I would have reached 200k. It would have been far too easy for me to have slowed down or quit earlier on. And so, for that, Miriam, I thank you!

Looking to the future, NaNoWriMo 2013 is only a couple of months away. This year I’m “only” going to go for 150k. For various reasons, Miriam has told me that she may only go for the standard 50k. I am therefore looking for a new nemesis this year.

Is there anyone out there who’d like to take me on?

Karl is 32, and lives in Harrow in north London. His day job involves doing very clever things with spreadsheets. Outside of work he’s in the process of gaining a second degree, likes to play video games when he has time (which is currently never), read books, and watch lots of TV. He’s probably seen more episodes of Doctor Who than you have. Some of his writings can be found on his website, and he blogs about various topics at “The Further Adventures of Karl”. You’re welcome to stalk him on Twitter at @KarlSGreen.

9 thoughts on “Guest Post: Word Wars With Friends

  1. WOW, you guys are impressive! :D My longest book (so far) is only 50k and it wasn’t even for NaNoWriMo. ;P It took me forever to write! But I will definitely sit back and watch the fun this year (if you guys are still in the YWP).

  2. I’m just gonna sit here on the floor and alternately gawp and cry at the productivity of the pair of you. Perhaps this year I’ll be able to do something more impressive than my usual NaNo, inspired by your success (although I doubt I’ll be hitting anywhere near 200k).

    Also, I need a nemesis. Who won’t trounce me. Yes yes yes.

  3. You guys do make NaNo sound fun. I’ve been contemplating it this year, but I just don’t think my style of writing is suited to it. On the other hand, maybe I’ll give it a go and find that its actually really stimulating.

    Either way, I sincerely doubt I’ll be much competition for Karl. Plus I’m not in the London area.

    1. No need to be in the same area! I race people all the time who aren’t nearby :)

      It might be a fun experiment. Give it a go — you’ll either love it or hate it (in which case you never have to do it again).

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

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