NaNoWriMo is over! How did I do? I would say I did “alright.” Did I hit 50k? Yes. Did I hit my goal? Not so much. But I am trying to have compassion and kindness for myself.
[note: the last section of this post deals with triggering topics, it is marked. as such.]
This year I participated in a group challenge with the people at the Campfire Discord. We were assigned teams, we had weekly “stumped” chats where we could talk through some of the story issues we were encountering, weekly check ins, regular writing sprints and rallies, and it was amazing. I don't think I would have gotten as much done without it.
Honestly, I probably would have skipped NaNo this year if it weren't for the people of the Campfire discord. I had just finished a massive revision/edit on a tight deadline and was feeling creatively drained after releasing Stars and Soil. But the Campfire discord was hosting a bunch of “Preptober” events, and I decided that even if I wasn't going to do NaNo, why not at least use that to get a head start on Smoke and Steel? And then I started to have so much fun that I said “Yes, NaNoWriMo is happening.”
I started off super strong, but as you can probably see, the last 10 days of November were not that great. I ended up catching the flu somehow—seriously, I have no idea how because I never leave my apartment—and I am STILL getting over it. I tried to do some editing on those days in bed, as you can see from the grand total of “2” words on some of those days. I thought I was rallying but then nope, right back down into my hole.
My original goal was 75k. When I realized that I wasn't going to make it because I was still just unable to be upright and I lost my voice so I couldn't even dictate, well. I adjusted my expectations. I still came out only 11k shy of my original goal.
Despite that, I always knew that this novel would be longer than 50k, and probably longer than 75k. I had no expectation of writing an entire novel this month, so I had already planned for the writing process to continue into December. But I am very happy with where I ended up in the novel. I write in a 4 Act structure, and I had hoped to write Act 1 – 3 during NaNo, and finish up Act 4 in December. And guess what? I got almost to the end of Act 3! So, my guess on word count and chapter length was about on track!
I've been trying to keep notes as I go of what I need to come back to in editing. There are a few characters I still don't have names for, a few minor questions about the setting I still haven't found a good solution for, so my draft is littered with [PLACEHOLDER: MENTORname] and [PLACEHOLDER: ARENAname]. Although, funny story about the arena. I apparently did have a name for it, and even used it consistently in chapters 1 -5. I somehow forgot that when I started on chapter 6 and only realized it during my sick days when I tried to do some editing.
I tried to keep a daily diary and weekly retrospective during NaNo. But obviously when I got sick, that kinda dropped off. My journal pages for that were AM and PM entries.
AM I wrote down my starting total word count, my starting mood, my “goal” word count and my “par” word count and what I was looking forward to writing that day. Sometimes my “goal” and “par” were the same. Some days I was ambitious, and my goal was higher than “par”. Pacemaker Planner determined my daily “par” as what I needed to write in order to stay on track. I determined my goal based on how I felt and how busy I was that day.
My PM entries were my daily word count, a summary of what I wrote, what I enjoyed most about writing that day, my favorite line or paragraph that I wrote, what I intend to work on tomorrow that I'm excited about and ending total word count.
I also documented my thought process for any changes I made while writing and ponderings I had about the direction of the story. I wrote a pretty lengthy outline, around 25k words on its own, and while drafting, I did do some tweaks, cut some scenes, and even re-outlined a whole sub-plot. Keeping this in my journal was super useful.
I found this incredibly helpful for keeping motivation, and I think I am going to continue to do it every day going forward.
Here are some excerpts from what I put in as my “favorites” that I wrote (in no particular order):
“Your family is really bloodthirsty,” [PH: SMITH] says, voice strained in horror. “Did no one ever love you growing up?” Sari's heart races, eyes wide as she analyses the emotions on [PH: SMITH]'s face; nose crinkled in disgust, jaw dropped in shock, and eyes wide with pity. Pity; the last thing she wants from her enemies. She can feel the harsh gaze of every insurrectionist at the table appraising her; judging her actions and finding her motives lacking. “Mat'sahr'dan are not to be loved; they are to be trained into weapons.”
Etana comes back to the gate, face whitening when she catches sight of the forces coming to destroy her would-be communal paradise. “Go! Go Sari,” she screams. “Just run!” “But...” “Go, and please, if you have ever had an ounce of feeling for me, consider what you saw here. Consider what we tried to build here.”
When she at last finds the map, she collapses into the sand, clutching it to her chest and screaming into the night sky. “It will be worth it, [mentor name]. It will be. We will defeat them, and this world will be destroyed, our world will be remade. I will see you again, [mentor name]. I will. I will. I must.”
December / What's Next
So, NaNo is over, where to next?
I still estimate that Smoke and Steel will be roughly 100k. With the 64k I wrote in November, I set a goal of 36k to write in December! I really love Pacemaker Planner because it lets me set some days as “do less” and some days as “do more” and it even has an option to “skip” days.
As you can see, Mondays and Wednesdays I have set as “do less,” since I usually have a lot of doctors' appointments on those days as well as those being the days when I raid with my FFXIV friends.
But finishing the draft of Smoke and Steel is not the only thing on my plate.
As you can see, I've got a lot more! What else is going on here?
Syncing Versions of Final Manuscript: I write and edit in a combination of programs, Campfire and Scrivener being the two primary ones. I like to have my projects in Scrivener because ProWritingAid can open Scrivener projects directly. It makes it super easy to run reports and whatnot. But what's going on this month is that I did end up making a lot of changes to Stars and Soil in Campfire, and now I want to make sure that the version of Stars and Soil I have in Campfire and the version I have in Scrivener are the same. So, starting Monday, I am going to be comparing the two to make sure that there are no conflicts. Pacemaker has me set up to do about one chapter per day.
Publish Character Pages The tasks labeled “Character Page” or with a name are related to Campfire. As part of Campfire Publishing, you can access bonus material and elements. I have character pages for all the cast in my Campfire project. However, only the main cast has been released. The rest are not yet ready for prime time. This month, I plan to review and improve each character page and release them as bonus elements. If you already have Stars and Soil, you will be able to see these when I publish them! If you don't have Stars and Soil yet, why not? I hope to get around 1 to 2 characters done per day. As you can see, On Mondays and Wednesdays, I only have 1 per day. Thank you, Pacemaker Planner for this customization option. These characters are color coded. The sea-ish green are members of the royal family. The forest green are members of the rebellion, and the characters in burgundy are members of the court.
Brainstorming Shackles and Secrets: In dark pink, you can also find the “Brainstorm Structure of Shackles and Secrets”. And yes, this will be the fourth story, or rather, the third novel, in the SCIONS AND SHADOWS series. It delves into the life of a young acolyte who resides in the temple of the death goddess, navigating the challenges of identity and the need to belong. It's quite intriguing how I often find myself writing about these themes of identity and belonging... It's as if WIPs can hold so much unprocessed childhood trauma! Shackles and Secrets is a book that has been on my mind for years, yet I never felt fully prepared to tackle it. If Shades and Silver bordered on being autobiographical, then the main character of Shackles and Secrets could easily be an alternate version of myself. I have the overall idea of what I want and where I want it to go, but during the latter half of December, I want to outline the “Major Scenes” (Plot Points, Pinch Points, etc) so that I can spend January and February fleshing it out.
As you can see, I've got several projects I am working on at once this month! Some of my tasks for these projects are boring “administrative” tasks, others are creative tasks. I thought in October it would be too much to be editing one novel while outlining and planning another. But I actually found that it let me get more done. I was able to pick up editing when I got frustrated with outlining, and visa-versa. It made me edit and revise with greater fervor because I was getting antsy to start drafting. I want to have a novel ready to outline by the time I get to editing again. Editing Stars and Soil was very difficult for me and took far longer than I wanted it to. I want to make sure I don't run into the same issue with Smoke and Steel.
I know this was a long one, thank you for reading! Below, I have some pretty triggering thoughts on “NaNoWriMo, the Organization” as an addendum that I really didn't want to add on, but felt, due to others comments, that it was necessary. I'm still gonna pretend that this is the end of today's post, though! Thanks for reading, and I hope you had a great NaNo. Every word you wrote during NaNo was a word you didn't have before; and that's a huge win IMHO.
If you did finish your novel or are about to, why don't you check out my FREE Novel Revision Planner? Printable PDF for 3 ring binders or disc-bound journals, as well as compatibility with Goodnotes, OneNote, and Penly! Bonus: access to the Canva template so you can make personal tweaks to it. Check out my blog post about it for more info and examples. Happy editing!
<3 – Dax
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The NaNo Organization Issue – Trigger Warning for Exploitation and Abuse of Minors
I do not even want to talk about this but I feel like I've been coerced and cajoled and shamed into doing so. This is the one and only time I will discuss this. If you feel that I have not said enough about this topic, or shied away from certain aspects of this situation, please consider why that might be.
About ¾ths of the way through the month, I learned about concerns that had been brought to the Board of Directors regarding the behaviors and actions of one of the forum moderators.
I've never used the forums. I only use the site during NaNo and a few times during Camp NaNo once or twice. I've never purchased merch, and usually the site is just a word count tracker for me during those months. This year, I primarily used Pacemaker Planner as my word count tracker. I am no longer on X/Twitter often, don't use Facebook or insta, and my Mastodon is HIGHLY curated with gratuitous amounts of muting and blocking. I say this because I've had at least two people accuse me of “not caring” because I didn't know about this issue in May or something. It's not that I don't care, it's that I keep “bad news” as far away as possible for my own mental wellbeing.
I've also seen people telling others that once they heard about the issues on the forums, writing a single additional word in the month of November is tantamount to being a groomer yourself. I am sorry, but no. I needed to keep writing. Writing is how I keep myself grounded, it's one way in which I manage my mental health. And it is a source of income for me. Not a huge source of income, but it is a means in which I—a person with multiple disabilities—can make money and pay bills. I kept writing. Will I support NaNo monetarily? No. I never have. Will I stop using the site? Well, NaNo is over for the year, and I know the Board of Directors is trying to get a handle on the situation. Maybe next year I will use it depending on how things work out.
Boards of Directors are rarely involved in the day to day functioning of the organization for which the direct. Mostly they are glorified fundraisers. When I worked at a large, national non-profit organization, I think I saw board members twice in person, and that was because I was the meeting planner who planned the annual board meeting. Otherwise, they were just there to occasionally sign their name to fundraising email blasts. I think I was one of the few staff members whose name they actually knew and that's because I was the one emailing them what they wanted for dinner after the annual board meeting and letting them know all of the details. I say this because I see a lot of people saying the NaNo Board is complicit and should have known and every member of the board should have been on the forums every day, reading every post and they are “privileged” because they are paid so much to be on the board. Board positions are usually unpaid volunteer positions for non-profits. They all have day jobs. They don't have time to be ad-hoc moderators, too. So, it'd be great if people stopped harassing them while they make an honest and earnest attempt to fix things!
I do not feel comfortable going further into this issue and will say no more about it so please do not speak to me about it. This issue touches on some subjects that are hard for me; please respect that and do not shame me or others for still having word count goals in November.