Spoiler alert! I finished!
Now, if you're new to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it's a challenge that takes place every November for ambitious writers who want to tackle 50,000 words towards a new or pre-existing novel idea.
This wasn't my first attempt. I tried in 2019 and failed miserably. I think I got to Day 8 with just over 8,100 words. Pretty bad, but I still attempted.
This year gave me some early training for my second attempt in two ways:
1- The Pandemic
Like most people, I was out of a job for several months. Starting in May, I decided to challenge myself slowly with 500 words a day. It was a fair word count that I often did but did not stay consistent with. However, I made it to 50 days straight. It was a steady warm-up to prepare me for November's heavy lifting. Once I started, I blew past 500 words easily.
Over the summer, I took a trip out to Montauk with my wife and mother in law. I knew that my story was loosely based on a site there, so I decided to research a particular area. Upon arrival, the creative juices started flowing. I had the secret site (those old abandoned buildings behind that loosely guarded fence), I had the small town, and I had the many beaches to base my story. Not only did I solidify details, but I found a further muse to guide my characters.
November came around, and I was ready after plenty of outlining. The first two days were a breeze. I cleared my word counts and then some on top of it. The first week was fairly similar, as well.
My second week lacked significantly. My day job got intense right before Veteran's Day, and I was going home to force myself to write. I'm on my feet all day, and that week particularly, I got home with swollen feet, so writing was in the back of my head a bit. One of those days only got as far as 260 words. Yeah, it's gross.
After that crazy busy week, the story started to form itself. I was steadily making my daily words, and I was ascending towards where my story originated.
As I reached mid-November, I surpassed the daily words (1,667) by at least 200. I would be at work and jotting down in the little journal that I bought specifically for NaNoWriMo. There was a point that I outlined 7 chapters ahead and kept going. The chapters would average about 3-4 sessions each to get chapters of about 8,000 words.
The third week of November, I exploded. I reached my original concept, and I was flying when I got home from work. 1,900-2,100 words a night for the week, and I was catching up on those days I was drastically short. I was closer to my ending even though it's still not finished as I type this two weeks after the challenge concluded.
The fourth week was steadily successful except for one day with 900 words. Thanksgiving break was helpful due to the time off and restrictions on travel due to the pandemic. I didn't celebrate until Saturday, so the words were mine for the typing. Friday the 27th was when I set my highest daily count—2,754 words! I don't recall that part of the story's specifics, but I sure as shit had it that day. I wasn't out of the woods yet.
Even with my extra word counts, the last 3 days of the challenge required a MINIMUM of 2,000 words to get to 50,000. I knew I could do it with the weekend and Monday probably being slow at work. Saturday was just enough, and Sunday the 29th ended up being my second highest word count for the month. Not only that, my session was the smoothest since the start of the challenge.
I'd gotten so close to finishing, and the story is already completed in my head at this point. Now it's simply a matter of getting down on the screen. The Monday, November 30th, came along, and I was ready to go. I honestly needed less than the required word count for the day, but I went a bit further. I typed those final words and concluded a chapter as the challenge came to an end.
The story needs an ending, and I know how it concludes, but I've honestly dread concluding it right now. I'll need to finish, revise, add, maybe take things out, and get it edited for an eventual release. I'm so immensely proud of how it turned out, but I'm not ready to let it go yet. I'm not ready to close the book (so to speak) on these characters that have rattled around in my head for so long.
I want to let it settle and find my cleared head when the time is right. It's so close, yet I know I'll let it sit even more once I type "THE END."
Regardless, this was an intense challenge. I had serious doubts, but once the story formed, it became easier each day. Maybe I'll try again next year! (Well, strong maybe. I'm tired.)
NaNoWriMo opened my eyes to that needed effort for storytellers, writers who NEED to get it out, and characters that won't let you give up. I'm forever grateful, even if I do this every year or never again.
Death Cleanse is my baby from years of finding the right story to tell, and NaNoWriMo got me there.
Now, I look forward to the time of getting this novel in your hands. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.
Also, don't give up on your own personal project. You'll thank yourself when the battle is over.