What? You weren’t awaiting this post? Well, I guess that means you should skip it and come back next week. Yes, I said week. We’ll talk about that at the end.
Also, just the usual heads-up: This is a LOOOOOOOOOOONG blog entry. There is a lot for me to unpack. If you’re not interested in hearing about the neuroses of a random writer on the internet… you should also skip it.
BUT FIRST: The handy dandy chart thing that I post each year and always have a hard time remembering how to do in such a way that it’s properly formatted…
DATE DAY’S TOTAL GOAL COUNT COUNT 11/01 2,739 2,739 1,667 11/02 1,403 4,142 3,334 11/03 1,243 5,385 5,000 11/04 1,847 7,232 6,667 11/05 1,505 8,737 8,334 11/06 1,459 10,196 10,000 11/07 1,886 12,082 11,667 11/08 1,768 13,850 13,334 11/09 1,968 15,818 15,000 11/10 1,988 17,806 16,667 11/11 1,008 18,814 18,334 11/12 1,600 20,414 20,000 11/13 3,945 24,359 21,667 11/14 526 24,885 23,334 11/15 0 24,885 25,000 11/16 0 24,885 26,667 11/17 306 25,191 28,334 11/18 593 25,784 30,000 11/19 466 26,250 31,667 11/20 1,441 27,691 33,334 11/21 434 28,125 35,000 11/22 1,784 29,909 36,667 11/23 577 30,486 38,334 11/24 0 30,486 40,000 11/25 0 30,486 41,667 11/26 949 31,435 43,334 11/27 6,648 38,083 45,000 11/28 4,225 42,308 46,667 11/29 4,008 46,316 48,334 11/30 3,752 50,068 50,000
As you can see, there is much to discuss. There are highlights, as there always are, but let’s start with what was BAD.
DEATH OF A COMPUTER
On November 15, 2021, my beloved computer died on me. It was not unexpected; it was in its death throes from mid-October. I had put a new computer on order a little before Halloween, but kept my fingers crossed for survival through November, since the expected arrival time was November 29. All my work is constantly backed up via Dropbox, so I did not lose any of my novel. (That would have sucked.) I had back-up writing implements handy, and there was no doubt I would succeed. (More on that in the next section.)
About a week before the expected delivery of the new computer, I got a notification that there was a delay. It would now arrive December 10. Knowing I would not have a wrap-up entry done on time, I quickly posted the “delayed” entry.
Then, a week before the new expected arrival, I got another notification of delay. Fortunately, this one seems to have been just precaution on their part. The computer arrived December 9. I opened it after I got home from JOB the next day to discover I needed adapters. (Will hits never cease??) I only recognized one of the four slots in the video card, so I enlisted the help of my technically minded gaming friends. They told me what I needed, and I put it immediately on order, to arrive that Sunday (12th).
The story has a happy ending, and my new computer is up and running. But it put a bit of a damper on my NaNoWriMo experience this year, because without my computer dying there would have likely been no…
Obviously, the only person there really is to blame for self-anything is… well, self. Ultimately all of my decisions were my own. However, the tragic loss of a computer heavily contributed to the decisions I made, right up until I gave up.
My back-up writing device was a tablet I had not even used in two years. I had bought it a couple years before that — refurbished, because I was poorer then — for the purpose of taking it to write-ins.
In its two years of inactivity, it stopped wanting to turn on immediately. After two evenings of refusing to fight with it (resulting in 0-word days, something I try very hard to avoid in November), I finally fought it into submission enough that I could start typing. This is the device with the detachable keyboard, whose trackpad is the bane of my existence. Another couple of days typing on the now-unusable keyboard (I’ve forgotten how to adapt to that particular device), I finally pulled out the full keyboard from my dead computer. There’s a USB port on the tablet, which I had previously used for a flash drive, but it turns out that it works for keyboards, too!
I was in business! Sort of.
I want you to look at the 15-23 on the chart above. I’ve explained four of the days’ worth of horrendous numbers, but what about the others? Well, it boils down to having to fight with the machine EVERY BLINKING NIGHT I tried to write. Once I got the tablet going, if I hadn’t already mentally given up, things went well. I was able to flip back and forth from my Google Doc to my pace-keeping text file. I did not update my report card. I did not update my 2021 Goals sheet. I only tracked the numbers for later.
Oh, and the self-sabotaging part, other than just giving up when the machine didn’t want to work? I was watching episodes of Marvel’s Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man instead of caring about writing. For some reason, I tend to latch onto shows at the end of October and into November, which takes away my focus from the event sometimes. Usually I overcome it by wanting to know what happens next in my story. This time, I let Spidey rescue me from the villainy of my tablet. And the deficit grew out of control.
Writing was hard. The story did not want to come out. The machine I was writing on did not want to function properly. So I did not put in the full amount of effort I normally would. I went into Thanksgiving weekend knowing that I had to do another “miracle run” to have even the slightest hope.
November 24 saw the premiere of Hawkeye, which turned out to be a lot more engaging than I was expecting. I entered the long weekend watching Disney+ (I think I was on Ultimate Spidey by then) and got myself another 0-word day.
Thanksgiving Day, November 25. My memory of this day is a bit fuzzy, in part because I spent the majority of it unconscious. I forgot to set a mid-morning alarm, and when my usual 4:00-4:30 am alarms went off, I shut them off. Why get up? I didn’t have to work. Only, I did…. just not at JOB. I had 5,000 words I needed to write to try to get myself back on track. Yeah. I finally crawled out from under the covers around 4:30 PM and wrote the day off. More Spider-Man, another 0-word day, and all hope for me was officially lost. I was going to suffer my first NaNoWriMo defeat EVER.
(Part of me wonders after the fact if my brain self-sabotages me because I crave that sort of drama. I have vague memories of using that exact same sentence in last year’s wrap-up, where the issue wasn’t actually the writing but the sitting down to do it. I should see what my therapist thinks.)
Black Friday was another lackluster day, just going through the motions so I could pretend I hadn’t given up.
It wasn’t until Saturday the 27th that I saw some light. And wouldn’t you know it, that light came from none other than that bonetti guy who made last year so freaking EPIC. He was in our region’s Discord voice chat, and I popped in to say hi and tell him my woes. And then he made me math. At that point in the month I needed about 18,500 words. (For context, I should have only needed 6,667.) To write that many words in four days would have required 4,500+ a day for those four days. My brain revolted, of course. I needed to write at least 7,000 Saturday and 7,000 Sunday. There was no WAY I could write more than 4,000 words on a WEEKDAY.
But 7,000 on a weekend day?
I could do that.
For the first time in at least a week, I felt hope. I just had to be patient and fight the machine that kept trying to stymie me at every turn. I had already shown that once things were finally working, I could run through the paces. I just had to push myself like I had already intended to do that weekend (pre Thanksgiving sabotage) anyway. I just needed to push more than expected.
If you ever get a chance to have a bonetti in your life, I highly advise it.
Well, I obviously didn’t get the full 14k I was after for the weekend, but I was close enough that I decided to screw sleep for the first two days of the week. I was going to write for as long as it took to hit 4,000 words on Monday.
And then I did it. When I redid the math, I realized it was actually possible. If I could refrain from starting Spider-Man… I got home Tuesday, ate my supper, and fought tooth and nail with my tablet. I mean, hard-core, it almost felt like the tablet wanted to join my computer in the grave kind of fighting. I screamed at it. Yelled. Hollered. Insert your own synonyms. I was okay with losing NaNoWriMo — I had brought it on myself — but there was no way in HELL I was going to lose due to my fnarging TABLET refusing to do what it had been doing for three days straight.
When it started working, I got to typing. Nearly three hours later, I hit the word count button on the Google Doc… and I had surpassed the magic number.
Somehow, after all that feet-dragging, after FOUR 0-word days and one sprint that was written entirely to the ether — somehow, on the last sprint of the Saturday comeback, I had managed to land on the Google help page instead of in my document, and not ONE WORD of that sprint got recorded. I was so enraged I felt ready to quit again, but I did NOT), somehow I had won NaNoWriMo. For the 17th time. Somehow, I remain undefeated.
BAD MUNICIPAL LIAISON
Do you remember Episode 14 of Write a Novel in 30 Days, the NaNoWriMo podcast I did two years ago? If not, you don’t have to look it up. It was the episode about how awesome Municipal Liaisons are and all the wonderful things they do in the realm of NaNoWriMo. In that episode I lamented that the two MLs from this region had stepped down to pursue professional writing career opportunities. The ML that stepped in to take over did a good job that year. Then, last year when the pandemic forced the event to be virtual only, she stepped up to make sure we had virtual events. I know you know about bonetti’s involvement in that (more on him later — I’m saying that a LOT in this entry), but she herself had a weekly write-in that I wasn’t usually able to attend due to JOB commute. She made sure we were all kept informed of events and was an integral part of the 24-hour virtual.
This year? Not so much. In fact… not at all. There were ZERO emails sent via NaNoWriMo for our region. There were ZERO forum entries. There was minimal Discord contact, and that was to remind us that we are somehow responsible for the behavior of other people’s phones. There will NOT be more on that. It’s stupid, but the only reason I bring it up was it was the ONLY “official” ML communication she offered all month.
To her credit, she did plan a kick-off event, but someone else had to run it. I object. If she couldn’t be at the midnight event, she should have planned another event, because her “duty” as an ML is: A kick-off, a TGIO, and at least one write-in per week. Things SHE has to host. A kick-off party does NOT have to be at midnight Halloween night. Many regions do that, because it’s easier than planning two separate activities (Austin used to do that, so the kick-off could always be on a Saturday or Sunday, regardless of when Halloween was. Toward the end of my residence in Texas, they held the actual party two hours ahead of midnight Halloween night, and then went right into the midnight event. As in, even at that point, it was TWO SEPARATE EVENTS. They just happened to be in the same place on the same night.)
I would have forgiven the Kick-off oversight and the stupid phone thing if she had been at all present all month. The only thing she attended was bonetti’s Star Cruise (yup… more on that later), and she made me even madder because she spent the entire thing cursing like a sailor.
Look… I’m not a prude. I swear myself. I try not to in this blog, but if you’ve read either of my published books or spoken to me in person, you know. But here’s the thing: I don’t represent NaNoWriMo. I don’t think it’s appropriate for an ML to spend an entire NaNoWriMo event dropping f-bombs in every other sentence. (That’s a word I specifically try to limit in my speech for times that I’m really angry or otherwise upset. It loses its impact if that’s a person’s go-to word. It’s the reason I always scoff when people call Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs a piece of cinematic genius. No. It’s the f-word every other word. Any dummy can do that.)
If I had tried to turn to my ML when I was at my lowest, I would have lost. She just wasn’t there. At all. And you better believe that I let NaNoWriMo HQ know it when I completed the annual survey.
Don’t worry, though, kids, it wasn’t entirely bad.
WRITE THE (VIRTUAL) RAILS
Remember earlier when I said there would be more on bonetti later? Of COURSE he’s responsible for a lot of the highlights!
He had said on the record a number of times that this year he would do something different from the Write the Rails simulation that he made happen last year (and was so EPIC). Well, he had a last-minute change of mind. On Saturday, November 13, he did indeed re-run the trip from Los Angeles Union Station to San Diego that was such a blast last year. Sadly, I did not know he had changed his mind, and it was not on our official calendar (add that to the ML crimes — she did not put anything on the calendar). I arrived during the lunch break, so I hurriedly got something to munch on just in time for the write session at the beach.
To recap, in case someone NOT in the North Orange County region happens by, when we are allowed to do in-person activities, we take a train from Anaheim to Oceanside. We eat lunch at Ruby’s on the pier, do a writing session somewhere in the beach area when we have time, and catch the train back to Anaheim. Bonetti had found an open source version of a train simulator and was able to put together a FIVE AND A HALF HOUR video. The LA to SD trip in the simulation incorporates our entire real-world trip and just adds a bit to the front and back. It contains a half hour waiting for the train at Union Station, two hours from Point A to Point B, a half hour of a sea-side restaurant image, a half hour bench view (where we often write in Oceanside), and a two hour return trip from Point B to Point A.
I was glad for the rerun. It was an extra event we could do without extra work for bonetti, who had already put in the work last year. Plus, LOOK AT MY WORD COUNT for that day! Imagine how much I would have gotten done if I’d been there for the entire thing?
The following Saturday (the 20th), bonetti scheduled the Star Cruise. This was an all-new video he had put together using some rendering software he has been toying with. The video featured what looked like a view screen, with planet Earth taking up residence. As the minutes ticked by, the planet got smaller and smaller as we moved further away, ready for our two and a half hour voyage to tour other planets.
This was another EPIC event, and the one our ML actually deigned to attend. She didn’t publicize it or anything — that would have required her to do something resembling the job she signed up for — but I’ve already whined about that enough.
What rocked about this event was the timing. After about 20 minutes departing Earth’s orbit, we were treated to a Star Trek-like warp effect. The cruise line timed their trip perfectly, as we would orbit a planet for 20 minutes (the length of a writing sprint) and then we would warp away and arrive at the next planet 10 minutes later (the length of a break using our general Pomodoro-style method in North Orange County). We arrive at a new planet, writing commences. We warp away, time to chat. Lather, Rinse, Repeat until we arrive back at Earth.
My word count for this event was not as high as it should have been. There’s a reason. I was so fascinated by the planets bonetti had created for the event that I spent more time watching the video than writing. Honestly, I would have suggested 20-minute warp (we write in transit) and 10-minute planet (we chat while we orbit each planet. But it happened the way it did, and I am grateful that he put together another amazing virtual event for us.
Another victim of our ML’s lack of communication was that our annual 24-hour event may or may not have happened. I honestly don’t know. But bonetti to the rescue, as he so often was this year!
I hopped into the discord server that day — this was the Saturday after Thanksgiving — and he was there “just in case” it was happening. We chatted. He made me math. I wrote. We talked. It was groovy. When he departed to take a lunch break, I continued writing. At the usual time, I called my friend in Canada for our weekly chat (which we use for our own version of virtual write-ins each year), and she kept my head on my paper. No actual whips involved, but I swear I heard ’em cracking. More on her later.
After chatting with her, I returned to Discord, where last year’s NIGHT TIME train was running! It was near the end, so I lamented missing it even though it was for good reason. (Hey, Angie Chats are very important!) And do you know what he did? When the train came to a stop in San Diego, HE STARTED IT AGAIN! Just for me! Because he knew I had actually decided by then to put in the effort needed to win. Because he knew that it was events like this that always spurred me on to bigger and better word counts. Well, okay, also because he had nothing better to do.
I will tell you what I told him a couple of times throughout the month. He was an amazing ML in a year we didn’t have one. (Yes, we had one. But you wouldn’t know it if you were new here!) And the kicker? He wasn’t even officially DOING NaNoWriMo this year! He was mainly in the room for moral support.
I would not ask him to officially apply to be ML, because he has made it clear he might not be as involved going forward as he has been. The NaNoWriMo format, he has learned, does not follow his own writing methodology. You know that every writer is different. So not every writer is going to gel well with NaNoWriMo. I get that. I am at the point myself where I will always do NaNoWriMo officially. But next year, I may not go all in like I normally do. All my favorite North Orange County people are disappearing, and the ones who are left are not really my tumbler of Dr Pepper.
To sum up this section, I don’t know if there was a 24-hour event, but bonetti created one that was at least 15, even if we weren’t there the entire time.
PHONE WRITE-INS WITH ANGIE
Each Saturday in November, my writer friend in Canada and I managed to make our weekly-ish phone call. November is often hit or miss due to writing events in years where in-person is a thing, and sometimes even if not, when events are scheduled during call time. This year’s events were all in the morning (except the Night Ride), and boy, did I NEED the extra write-ins!
In November, our normal chit-chat, usually about how the event is going or things about the stories we’re each working on that month, are interspersed with 15-minute writing sprints. We usually manage three in each call. It’s a nice boost to each of our word counts, and that last week was especially kick-butt. As in, she royally kicked my butt to get me writing. I told her about giving up and how bonetti had talked me out of doing so, and she was basically, “Okay, let’s do another sprint, then.” We’d do one, talk for a bit, and then she would say, “Time for another sprint.” I mean, she was RELENTLESS.
And I’m grateful to her for that.
Last year, we were both convinced we would not reach our goals. We prodded each other into victory.
This year, it was not mutual. She had this the whole time, even if she’ll tell you otherwise. I was the one who needed my butt kicked. She helped kick it.
STATS NERD BRAIN ALERT!
(Really? There’s more??)
Relax. It’s almost over. And I don’t have sympathy for you. You were told up front you could skip this.
NaNoWriMo 2021 broke two records, both of them bad ones. It is my lowest word count, and took the entire month to reach the target. (Several years have seen 50k on November 29. This is the first time it was the 30th.)
It took 28.5 hours to reach that final number, with an average of 1,756 words written per hour.
The novel is not finished. I am approaching some kind of climax, I think, but there are still at least five more people to kill either before or when I get there. One person who was not intended to survive the book will prolly make it to the third book of the series. Another character’s fate is yet undetermined, since he’s so young. I should not have included someone that young in the book, but now that he’s there, I feel like he should be fair game. Even so…
National Novel Writing Month is never easy. It’s entirely doable, and most years, while it is a bit of a challenge, it is not an actual struggle. I’m sure if I go back to Facebook posts of years past, I would find whining about how much harder it is “this year” than ever before. And, I suppose, each year that is true. I have found it gets harder as time goes on.
And that’s it. 17 attempts. 17 wins. This time by the skin of my nose. By all rights, I should have suffered my first defeat. It seems that when you are determined to do something, you find a way to make it happen.
If only I could channel that determination the rest of the year.
NEXT WEEK: (See? I told you I’d get to it!) Since the calendar is flipping again, it’s time to look at the 2021 goals and make a few for 2022. Having a computer again should mean I resume the usual blog schedule. Thank you for your patience on this one. I know I said “or two” — but it took longer to get myself set up and acclimated to the new operating system than expected. Plus, this sucker is LONG and took significant time to write.
Until then, I hope you have safe and responsible celebrations when flipping your calendar. (Do people still have wall calendars? I buy one from time to time, but only because it’s of a geek franchise I like. I don’t actually put it up.)
Don’t drink and drive. In fact, it’s better if you don’t even go out. People are stupid, especially on New Year’s Eve.
Happy New Year, y’all! See you in 2022!