Here we are. November 30th, 2021. The last day of NaNoWriMo for the year.
For those who might not know what NaNoWriMo is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. This happens every November (with smaller events happening in April and July). The gist of the November event is to attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This boils down to 1,667 words a day. Which doesn’t sound that daunting when you say it like that, but add in work and family and holidays and 1,667 words a day can suddenly turn into being 10,000 words behind with one day left in the month. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. Looking at you NaNo 2011.)
A few years ago, I posted a blog about it wanting to write a Bloodborne inspired novel. Not necessarily a fanfic. Just something that came to mind while I was playing my favorite game of all time: Bloodborne.
Well, I tried in NaNo 2018. Deviated course in 2019 (with no luck), and tried again in NaNo 2020. I managed to write about 16,000 words between the two years, but things just weren’t clicking. It wasn’t the story, though. It was me.
And that killed me. I’m a Municipal Liaison! I help lead a region of intrepid writers on this journey. I’m not supposed to fail! But that’s what my NaNoWriMo has been the last few years. Barely making it off the starting line.
I came into NaNo this year, hopeful, but feeling like it would go like the last few years had. I used to run a NaNoWriMo region in South Carolina, too, before moving back to Tennessee in 2018. That region was a lot of my heart and soul. I built it. I brought people together. We did things throughout the year, not only during November. Some of my best friends have come from that group and the first group that I was a member of before I took over a region. Then, my life fell apart. A decade long relationship ended in December 2017. I moved back to Tennessee, living in a family house, where I never wanted to be again (read: toxic maternal relationship right next door).
My creativity died. A few failed relationships, lost friendships, a brief infatuation with someone who turned out to be a psychopath, a terrible work environment and family drama didn’t help mentally and emotionally. Neither did losing my choirs or my places to gig or my writing group in SC. I tried streaming on Twitch, video games and sometimes music. I loved it. It kept a baby creative spark alive, but I was eventually overwhelmed by homework for my career changing degree and couldn’t keep up with it.
And yes, while you can create through pain, and it can be cathartic, throw a pandemic on top of it, and there’s a recipe for disaster. I locked up all of my creativity and buried the key.
My only saving grace these last couple of years has been my partner. While he’s yet to experience NaNoWriMo in a non-pandemic year with in-person events, he’s been extremely supportive of my virtual involvement in it. He’s even read one of my NaNo Drafts that came out of the 2014/2015 years. He’s also listened to me breakdown and cry over choirs being cancelled and my lost creative outlets. And dealt with my downward spirals into feelings of failure and not being sure if I’ll ever create again.
And I was seriously doubting that I ever would. I went to Cons. I went to writing panels. I listened. I learned. I thought about ways to improve my writing. I chased plot bunnies. But I couldn’t write.
NaNoWriMo. Camp NaNoWriMo. I tried over and over again. But I felt like I’d lost something. I’d lost a certain magic. I’d lost my mojo.
2015 was the last year I successfully completed NaNoWriMo with a new project. That was the year I finished my urban fantasy Phoenix Rising (that is still awaiting rewrites).
In 2016 and 2017 I “won” but it was a mixture of rewrites and half-hearted plot bunny chasing.
I don’t rightly remember what I’ve worked on since then. Or why I didn’t succeed. I just know my heart wasn’t in it. In 2019, I created a project but never logged any words. 2018 barely scratched a thousand. I felt odd becoming an ML again in 2020 after such dismal years. What did I have to offer to other writers if I couldn’t even motivate myself to write?
2020 was an okay year. I wrote about 20k, but with a full class schedule and finals in November, I had to prioritize. I also got caught up on world-building, or the lack there of. I was having a hard time envisioning the world my characters exist in. And without that, they couldn’t continue on their journey.
This year, though. This year I’ve had a breakthrough.
I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if I’ve just fallen in love with my story. Fallen in love with writing again. But, I’ve done it. I’ve broken down whatever walls I’d built up around my creativity and tapped back into that well.
As I write this blog, I’m around 1,600 words shy of 50,000. The WIP sits around 68,000. It’s a high fantasy, and probably going to be a trilogy, so the story is just really getting started.
This month? I’ve had to write a paper for one of my Master’s classes. It’s been a long, drawn out, seven-week process. And I still have to finish the final draft before Friday.
That project put me way behind on my word count. I told myself I’d pocket the 5,000 or so words that I wrote on my paper, and if I was behind at the end of the month, I’d use those words toward my NaNo word count. But I didn’t want to pad my count early on, because I didn’t want to shortchange my creativity.
And you know what? I didn’t need those 5,000 words. My story has taken off. It’s taken a life of its own. Relationships I didn’t dream of. Story arcs I never imagined.
And things have just been falling into place. It’s been such a joy to write. Even the times when I stared at the page and had to force words out to get to the next exciting part.
And I finally remember why I do this. Why I write.
I feel that thrill again. And I’m hoping I can hold onto it. I’m hoping I can siphon some of it over to my music as well.
I feel like with every new sentence, every new plot twist, a weight has been slowly lifted off of my chest. I’ve been shedding these chains that have been holding me captive.
It feels amazing. I was almost in tears last night talking to my partner about it. Trying to describe it all. I can’t wait to cross that 50k finish line and keep going. I can’t wait to finally dive into these rewrites I need to do.
I wanted to publish before I was 35. While that’s not going to happen (as I turn 35 in January), maybe 2022 will be my year to at least have something worth querying.
I just know I’m holding on tight to this feeling and trying my best not to let go.
Winner shirt showed up at exactly the right time. I got it when I was about 10k behind, but I knew I was going to rally and make it happen!