Sarah's Scribbles

The Year of Months

My 2009 NaNoWriMo Adventure

I received many questions, Dear Adventurers, about my NaNoWriMo escapade this year so I thought I would answer them all (and more!) here. 

Last year I decided to do NaNoWriMo a day before it started. I was excited and terrified. However, it went remarkably well. I reached 50k around the 20th, I think. It helped that I was on assignment and knew next to nobody in the area so my life consisted of writing and playing with my dog.

This year I knew very well what I was getting into. I was excited for it. I knew it would be a little tougher; I lived in area with plenty of friends, my sister and my boyfriend around me - but I still thought it would be a piece of cake.

The first week went great. I had just been laid off, but was optimistic about find another job. I picked up a lot of shifts at my other on-call job. My demanding boyfriend didn't make things easy, but I still managed to stay on target with my pace.

The second week, I still made progress but it began to fall behind pace. It was nothing I couldn't easily come back from. I broke up with my boyfriend (nothing to do with NaNoWriMo, but needed to be done). I worked seven days in a row at my job and realized it was barely enough to cover expenses. The gravity of my financial situation began to weigh heavily.

The third week, I let my word count fall drastically. I maybe wrote one or two nights. I spent all my time and energy applying for jobs and pursuing another opportunity that I am not yet ready to publicize. Again, I worked seven nights in a row and barely had time for anything else

The fourth week, I didn't really work that much, but still applied for jobs. I could have easily caught up, but I just didn't want to. I was bummed about not being able to find a job and other things. I didn't get any shifts at work that week so I was worried about the money situation again.

On the 27th (in the afternoon) I finally decided that I was going to make an effort at finishing. I was at my parents' for the holidays and woke up earlier than the rest of them to start writing. I was at 30k when I decided this. I didn't think there was any way I would actually make it to 50k, but I wanted to try.

On the 29th the effort really started. I typed away on my eee until my battery died while Kayelee drove us back to Orlando. Once I got home, I buckled down and swore off everything but Twitter until I finished. I began to tweet my progress (See tweet stream regarding NaNoWriMo below. If you want to read chronologically, read from the bottom up.) I was at 36.5k at that point. Around 4am and 43k, (I was trying to switch back to my third-shift-friendly sleep schedule) I could no longer keep my eyes open. 

Around 1pm on the 30th I woke up with my mind on my mission. I was on track to definitely finish before midnight and hopefully finish before 10pm, when Castle was to come on. I stopped to eat around 6pm and my boss at Gaylord called, asking me to come in as soon as possible and work until 11. I was at 46,310 Like I said, I hadn't had any work the week before and only had one shift scheduled this week. I really wanted to finish, but I knew I needed the money more. I told him I would come in, stalked into the living room and yelled "Foiled!" at my sister. I packed a notebook (Optimus Prime) just in case I got a post where I could write. I lucked out and got a post watching equipment. The furious scribbling began. I counted the words on the first three pages and then used the average of that to estimate the rest of my writing. 

At 48k my story was over. Normally, I start a story with a situation and one or two characters in mind and that's how I started this one. It is a YA, so it should be shorter, but not that short. (Don't worry, when I go back to edit I will definitely be adding more in the way of description and characterization) So I broke one of my self-imposed rules: Don't write crap. I wrote an interview between the MC and a reporter (who was in the story) that I was positive had no place in the story. I wrote descriptions of my MC's house and room. I created conversations that didn't add to the story or characters. I realize now that it was actually beneficial. I learned a little bit more about my characters through these exercises, even if a reader will never see them. Sometimes, there are things a writer needs to write to understand their story but a reader doesn't need to read. This 'crap' included some of these things.

At around 10:40pm I reached (roughly) 50k. My hand was aching from all the hand writing but I was so relieved. Check out this graph of my progress: 

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who supported me and sent encouraging messages, especially during the last two days. Encouragement from good friends, family, friends I hadn't heard from in a while and Twitter buddies who I've never met in person really got me through the hours when I was sure I would never make it to that 50k mark.

Now, for some of the questions

Q: Why was it so important for me to finish?
A: If you know me very well, you shouldn't need to ask this question. I wanted to finish because I said I would. When I commit to something, I stick it through, no matter how painful. 

Q: How did you validate if you wrote the last 4k with pen and paper?
A: Some people do the entire NaNoWriMo by hand. In those cases, the people who put the program on suggest that you count up your words and use something like a word generator to create a text file equal in size to your hand-written novel. So, I just did that for the part I wrote at work. I'll probably type it up later, but for now we'll go with that.

Q: What did you write?
A: It was my first attempt at a YA novel, though it is Urban Fantasy (which is what I normally write). More information can be found by clicking on the 'Novel Info' tab on my NaNoWriMo page

Q: What do you get for winning?
A: Nothing. Well, nothing that people who aren't writers would understand. You get a sense of accomplishment. FYI: Winning means getting to 50k, it's not a contest. I tried explaining this to one of my coworkers today and he gave me a look. I said, "What? Writers are all crazy, everybody knows that."

Twitter Stream

Done! I did it! #nanowrimo have to validate once i get home. i need a hand massage

350 left. #nanowrimo

1k left. I am going to do it! At work til 11. Hopefully my writing hand holds out on me #nanowrimo

1.5k to go. omg, so close. hand is cramping #nanowrimo

3k left! writing by hand is hard tho

can someone go to my nanowrimo page and tell me how many words i have? writing in notebook at work!

Weird. Sitting at work watching equipment (and writing furiously in my optimus prime notebook) when i hear bella's lullaby. (piano in lobby)

OH MY GOSH! Now I get called into work? I have to go because I desperately need the money, but this all but smashes my #nanowrimo hopes

Let's play a game called "How many words can I write in the 9 minutes while my dinner is baking?" #nanowrimo

46k and it is time to eat food. #nanowrimo my brain won't work for long if it doesn't get nourishment!

Broke 45k! Maybe I can do this? Thanks for all the support, sorry for clogging your status streams. #nanowrimo

6k left to go. 8.5 hours left. it's so close, can't stop now #nanowrimo

OK, 7k and >10 hours to go. This is getting tough

At 43k and my eyes won't stay open. will go to sleep and start again tomorrow. my goal: to finish before Castle, and watch it as a reward

I am so tired. At 45K, I will let myself sleep, though I don't know for how long. #nanowrimo

8k and 21 hours remaining. #nanowrimo I hope my story doesn't end before the words do.

break/dinner time is over. time to write 10k and win this thing. How did I let myself get so behind? #nanowrimo

yay! passed 40k! What should I eat? #nanowrimo 23 hours and 10k remaining.

when i reach 40k, i can eat. turning the tv off in 10. not my fault, @nanny_k turned it on. #nanowrimo

25.5 hours and 12k to go. #nanowrimo chugalug

27 hours and 13k to go. #nanowrimo i may be tweeting every thousand words... sorry if it's annoying...

<28 hours left and 13.5k words to go. can it be done? maybe. will i end up with keyboard face? probably. staying up all night? definitely


Reading that was super intense.
Good for you :)

My nanoing experience was somewhat more low key. I was ahead the entire way and finished a day early.

Good luck with your financial situation.


I think my favorite tweet was the " let's play a game" that showed that even 9 minutes was sacred time.

Your graph looks a lot different from mine but the resurgence at the end is so awesome and inspiring.

I hope to participate again next year, although I'll change genres I think. I'm jealous that your story is done because I have more to write myself without the deadline motivation.

Lastly, there is One tangible reward for "Winning" at NaNoWriMo this year. The amazon self publish store CreateSpace will give you one completely free copy of your novel as a published work (with ISBN and everything!) and 50% off any additional vanity order one time, available until June. I thought that was pretty cool as it encourages editing for publication. Let me know, as we keep in touch, if you'd like to exchange passages or have me proofread.