I Won NaNoWriMo 2021

The NaNoWriMo Winner 2021 banner from nanowrimo.org

On November 30th, 2021, I won National Novel Writing Month!

The Stats

A graph showing the climb from 0 to 50,000 words

As you can see, I started off strong.

On the first day, I was ready to go. I wrote for an hour at midnight, a couple of hours in the morning, and again later in the evening. I wrote a total of 3,550 words that day. Getting so far ahead on the first day allowed me to stay ahead until I started to fall behind around the 19th.

My motivation staggered for several days, followed by a couple of days of not writing at all. That big jump at the end was on the 28th, when I wrote just over 5,000 words!

A graph showing my daily word count

My daily word count chart has many ups and downs, some more drastic than others. Can you guess when I burned out a little?

Winning Is A Huge Deal

I won NaNoWriMo.

I won NaNoWriMo!

I haven’t said that in almost a week, and it still feels good. I squealed when I updated my word count and got the winner screen. Word on the street says I shed a tear, but I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.

Winning NaNoWriMo is a huge feat. Writing a novel in one month isn’t easy. Perhaps some writers think it’s easy, but for me, it certainly wasn’t.

I attempted NaNoWriMo in 2014 in high school and again in 2016 in college. Both times I failed to reach even 7,000 words. This year, when I hit 7,000, I had a feeling I was going to win. This year felt different than my last two attempts: I had a detailed outline to keep me on course, I had more time to dedicate to writing, and I had a story I actually believed in.

At 10,000 words, I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t written that much for a single story before. 25,000 had me astonished. I fell behind for a while, but when I hit 40,000, I could see the finish line. I considered myself a winner already because there was no way I would let myself lose this.

To Think I Almost Gave Up On Writing

Mentally speaking, I had a rough time in college. I was working toward an English degree, but I fell out of love with writing while doing it. I declared I wanted to be an author when I grew up when I was eleven years old and felt that way until college. At eighteen years old, I wasn’t sure English was what I wanted to study. I felt like I wasn’t good at writing anymore, and I hadn’t read for fun in years. So what was I doing studying English?

Fast forward to my junior year, and you’ll see me fretting over my identity. I hated my English degree. I hated reading. I didn’t want to be a writer anymore. But how could I feel that way when I’d been writing stories since I was eight or nine? My whole life revolved around writing, so not loving it anymore made me question my purpose and who I was as a person. If I’m not a writer, who am I?

Fortunately, I progressed beyond my personal Dark Ages and enjoyed writing again. Once I got my first freelance job in March 2020, I got my confidence back. I was ghostwriting at the time and couldn’t take credit for my work, but I managed to find my published article online and couldn’t stop smiling. It felt right to see my work on the internet, even though someone else’s name was on it.

With each success freelancing brought me—sending my first invoice, having two gigs at once, my first decent-paying gig, my first article with my name on it, my very own website—my confidence got a boost. Most importantly, I’ve enjoyed every step of the way.

I’m A Writer

I’m a writer, there’s no doubt about it.

Winning NaNoWriMo was more than just winning a fun internet challenge; it solidified my identity as a writer and an author. I know who I want to be, and I’m confident I’ll get there.

Writing an entire novel and getting it published seemed impossible when I was eleven. But look at me now: I have 50,000 words and counting. I’m in the middle of accomplishing my dream. Wouldn’t she be proud?

Now What?

I’m sure many first-time winners ask, “Now what?” on December 1st. I didn’t necessarily feel that way because I still have a book to write! I stopped at 50,000 words on the dot, but my story isn’t finished. I’m at least halfway through it at this point. I intended to have thirty chapters, and I’m currently on the fifteenth, but I think I’ll change the ending and have fewer chapters. It’s hard to say how many words my book will end up being.

I haven’t worked on it since the 30th because I needed a break. I’ve never written that consistently before in my life. Although I enjoyed it and hope to keep up that kind of progress in the future, I’m not the kind of person who likes to jump in headfirst and go full-throttle to the very end. I need to pace myself, or I’ll wear myself out and lose interest.

But I’ve had five days of rest, and now I’m ready to jump back in. I’m aiming to write 800 words every day instead of 1,667. I would prefer to do 1,000 each day if I can, but I need a number that won’t stress me out on the days where writing doesn’t seem like a fun activity.

Let me make one thing clear: I will finish this book and publish it.

It’s a promise to you and myself. I’ve come so far, and I won’t let myself down. Not after what I’ve been through.

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Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? I’d love to hear about it!

For full disclosure, I intended to publish more NaNoWriMo tips posts, but it was a busy month for me, as you can imagine. Since writing is my day job, and I was writing almost 2,000 words for a novel every day, I was ready to sleep by the time I thought about blogging! My plan is to write them throughout the year and publish them next November.

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