Two Weeks of NaNoWriMo

Screenshot of my NaNoWriMo profile, which shows stats and badges.

I can hardly believe that it has been two weeks since I decided to jump into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once again. November is always a busy month for me, and this year is busier than ever. Besides the normal holiday events, I am hosting a kind-of-sort-of family/friend shindig at my home next weekend. I took over for my parents this year, so I have been busily getting my home and property presentable for at least three dozen guests.

But, pressure tends to drive me to actually get things done. Giving myself hard deadlines each night and keeping a packed schedule for the month helps me keep going. It is those the down moments, those hour-long lulls that turn into three hours of video gaming, that are productivity killers.

Speaking of video games, here is one of my NaNoWriMo hacks for the year. I had my sister hide my copy of Halo 5 so that I could not play it. She is not allowed to reveal its location until the end of the month.

So, I am nearing the halfway point of my novel. Technically, I have only finished Day 13 of the challenge because I haven’t sit down with it today. I will later tonight, though. Right now, I have 23,583 through 13 days. I expect to cross the halfway-point toward 50,000 in tonight’s session, earning both the 14 Day and 25K badges.

This is my third serious attempt at NaNoWriMo. The first was in 2005, and it was a valiant effort for a fulltime student who was working multiple jobs.

My second attempt was in 2018. It was also my first win. I dubbed that challenge the greatest writing course I had ever taken. The novel was a dumpster fire, but it taught me a lot about who I was as both an individual and a writer. Sure, I had co-authored and published a tech book years before, but I had not created something as epic as a 55,000-word short novel on my own.

In 2019, I wanted to compete again, but I had a book deal for the 2nd edition of Professional WordPress Plugin Development. I was actually getting paid for that, so it kind of took precedence.

And, 2020 ended up being a bust. I jotted a few words down that first night, but I was neck-deep in buying my new home. The home-buying process is one of the most stressful things you can ever do, at least here in the U.S. I wouldn’t even recommend attempting a major project like NaNoWriMo while going through it.

I missed two NaNo-years of putting the knowledge I had gained in 2018 into practice. Yeah, yeah, I know that there are 11 other months in the year to work on a novel, but there is something special about diving into the challenge with 1,000s of others every November. You feel a little less alone in what is one of one of the most solitary acts anyone can do: writing. Plus, a deadline never hurts.

I am writing an epic fantasy this year. I do not intend to complete the entire manuscript for NaNoWriMo. I will finish the 50,000-word challenge, but that should only be a third or so of the novel.

The challenge has been different for me this year. I suppose that is likely to always be true. We grow and change. The person writing today could never be the same person who wrote in the previous year.

My approach is definitely different. I was running my own business in 2018 and had 100% freedom to devote to NaNoWriMo (outside of keeping customers happy). For the past two years, I have been working as a fulltime journalist. If you ever want to learn how to always meet deadlines, the industry is one of the best teachers.

Both careers tend to utilize a lot of my creative energy. Getting myself settled in each night and reengaging my muse or whatever it is that drives creativity is always the part I struggle with the most. However, I feel like my time as a journalist has helped me grow into someone who better compartmentalizes the tasks he needs to perform each day.

This year, I have primarily relied on a time block between 9pm and 11pm to devote to writing. It gives me a chance to eat, shower, and recharge before trying to tap into that creative part of my brain. Thus far, it — and late-night cold brews — have helped me stay on track and not feel too burned out. We’ll see how I feel about all this in another two weeks.