You know me. I love National Novel Writing Month, that madcap event where thousands of writers try to pound together 50,000 words over the course of a single month. This thing has been part of my consciousness since I learned of its existence in 2004, and with only one exception I have participated every single year. Each time I have played, I have won. Including this year.
This year, I wasn’t sure I was feeling it. I had no idea what to write. I was still feeling the “meh” about writing I’ve been feeling all year. Last year’s ML-less shenanigans still had a bad taste in my mouth, not to mention the reports of “my crew” not playing this year.
And then shortly before Halloween, it managed to click for me. I had left the North Orange County Discord server when the crew was expected not to play, and then I got a message from Titania saying two of the three were chatting in one of the voice rooms. I immediately rejoined the NOC group, and the magic was suddenly back.
And as soon as the clock struck midnight to signal November 1, The words started flying. A little slowly at first, but eventually they started coming at a pace that made me think I was back in my heyday.
But before I get too far into the weeds, here is the Handy Dandy Chart I have trouble formatting every year.
DATE DAY’S TOTAL GOAL COUNT COUNT 11/01* 1,340 1,340 1,667 11/02 1,274 2,614 3,334 11/03** 1,710 4,324 5,000 11/04 2,742 7,066 6,667 11/05* 942 8,008 8,334 11/06* 2,232 10,240 10,000 11/07 0 10,240 11,667 11/08 1,696 11,936 13,334 11/09 1,688 13,624 15,000 11/10 1,860 15,484 16,667 11/11 3,010 18,494 18,334 11/12* 4,107 22,601 20,000 11/13* 2,491 25,092 21,667 11/14 1,113 26,205 23,334 11/15 1,930 28,135 25,000 11/16 2,025 30,160 26,667 11/17 1,465 31,625 28,334 11/18 2,014 33,639 30,000 11/19* 2,192 35,831 31,667 11/20* 4,541 40,372 33,334 11/21 1,170 41,542 35,000 11/22 576 42,118 36,667 11/23 1,831 43,949 38,334 11/24* 3,239 47,188 40,000 11/25* 2,965 50,153 41,667 11/26* 4,440 54,593 43,334 11/27* 0 54,593 45,000 11/28 0 54,593 46,667 11/29 0 54,593 48,334 11/30 0 54,593 50,000 * Days I did not have to JOB ** Days I was supposed to JOB but stuff happened.
So to explain the double asterisk, not that anyone asked, there was a brief bus strike in Orange County. It was a strike of maintenance workers, and the OC bus officials decided (rightly) that it was not a good idea to send buses out if there is not a maintenance team checking to make sure all is groovy.
From my perspective, it happened without a lot of warning. I found out about it when I was at the bus on that Thursday. Enough time passed between when the bus was supposed to have arrived and the next bus was supposed to have arrived that I checked the website and learned that the bus was not operating that day.
I went home and called my supervisor, who advised me to stay home. She would be in my office the following day, so I would need to show up and she would bring me home.
I now have a Lyft account and hope I never have to use it again. For a one-way ride on Friday morning, I spent almost as much to get to JOB as I pay to ride to and from all month long on the bus. Luckily, by Monday the buses were going again, though as of December 2, the website still shows that an agreement has not been reached and that a strike can be called again at any moment.
But that’s not entirely relevant to this report. There is much to discuss. Follow me, please…
MUCH MORE GOOD THAN BAD THIS YEAR
Full disclosure: I went into NaNoWriMo 2022 with zero expectation of having a Municipal Liaison. I knew we officially still have one, the same as last year, but because it was the same one as we had last year… well, you know how I feel about last year.
My entire intent for the WriMo (once The Crew was established to be playing) was to show up for virtual events and MAYBE one or two in-person things if The Crew would be there.
And so it came to pass.
WRITE THE RAILS AND STAR CRUISE, EXPANDED EDITIONS
It is important to note that the usual real-world train we would normally take for this event is not currently running to its end destination of Oceanside due to some environmental factors that make it potentially unsafe. In addition to that, the diner we would normally have lunch at on that day has closed, and someone would need to investigate nearby eating places to find one that would be able to accommodate a group our size on relatively short notice.
Guess who to the rescue!
Bonetti knows how much I love the train write-ins. He knows so well that he had about twenty of them ready to run at a moment’s notice. (That’s an exaggeration, but because he updated his computer set-up, he was able to run the train simulator in a live stream instead of having to render it into a video.) We had three or four train runs at varying times throughout the month — that I know of. He even timed one of the official ones to coincide with my off-week for gaming and not to conflict with my Angie write-ins.
In addition to that, he ran two of the Star Cruise trips instead of just one. He had tried to create new renders for an updated video, but he wasn’t able to get that done in time because of how long the rendering process takes in his graphics program. Even so, re-running last year’s cruise was still pretty groovy. And on the second one, I even managed to rejigger my visual layout so that I would have my magnifier working for me and still be able to look at the planets. I recall that one of my problems at the Star Cruise last year was that I kept watching the planets because I couldn’t look at both that and my text. This year, I fixed that. I hope I remember how so that I can do it again next time we do one of those.
LIVE AND IN PERSON
For two years straight NaNoWriMo had to be virtual-only because of reasons. (If you don’t know those reasons, congratulations on waking up from your three-year coma! I hope your recovery is swift and complete.) For 2022, we were allowed to do in-person events, although many events remained virtual. Personally, I prefer virtual these days because it means I don’t have to get on a bus and travel for an hour or more to get where I need to be. Don’t get me wrong, I miss hugs, which was why I did plan to do an in-person or two, but safety first is my motto.
That said, Titania made her annual trek to California for Thanksgiving week. I got to meet up with her that Wednesday, and we went to a Starbucks to do a sprint before it got too cold for her. She brought me LOTS AND LOTS of Aero chocolate bars. The big ones. You know, the ones you are supposed to share with people but I hog all to myself? I love Aero, but it is not that easy to find for me, unless I shop online and pay way too much. Which I have been known to do from time to time. You’re welcome, Long River Store.
I have not seen Titania since November 2019, and I must tell you that hugging her after all this time was like hugging a long-lost sibling. Lots of warmth and affection, not wanting to let go, and the temptation is there to flick the back of her head just because. I didn’t do that part. She is so much fun to be around, even when we are sitting in complete silence.
The two in-person official events I went to were both Friday Night Lights, the week before and the day after Thanksgiving. I did not go to it the first week because of the bus strike (no way to get there), and the second week Nyx was in Texas for her own annual pilgrimage, so there was no point to it for me. Nyx picked me up from near the bus transfer point on Week 3, and Titania picked me up from home (did not have to JOB – Black Friday) on Week 4. All three of my crew were there on Week 4 (yay!), and so was the Municipal Liaison (meh). I was a good kid and did not read her the riot act for her lack of existence last year or for her apparent lack of significant effort this year. She did enough to satisfy the minimum requirement. No major complaints.
Because ML was there, I got the official stickers for this year plus the previous two… so on that front I have to give props.
And now for the downside to all this in-person cavorting. I had to write on my itty bitty phone screen using a Bluetooth keyboard.
NaNoWriMo 2021 was won with the barest of margins on November 30, and I was fighting my tablet every step of the way. Instead of fighting with that tablet, I decided I was going to use my Amazon Fire tablet instead. (Bought the keyboard for that purpose.) When the keyboard came and I was ready to test it, I learned a horrifying truth: The Silk browser does not allow (that I’ve been able to find) overriding websites to have Dark Mode. Unfortunately, Google Docs and Dropbox, my two online-auto-backup doc sources, do not have standalone apps on the Amazon App store — only can be accessed on the web.
Now before you hit the COMMENT button and scream at me about how you can put the Google Play store on the Fire and override all that stuff, save your breath. I know it can be done. I’m just not smart enough to do it. I know that GDocs has a dark mode. Dropbox Android has a dark mode. They all have dark modes. But not on my Fire.
Luckily, the Bluetooth keyboard paired with my phone with no problems, and I was able to do all of that there. It’s just not ideal. Even sitting at my computer to type these days is not ideal, because my vision has gotten so bad that I have to shove my face right into the monitor, even with the magnifier, to see it.
So hugs are groovy, but writing is not. It is my curse for now.
We had it. It was official. Unlike last year, when Bonetti and I were looking at the thumbs we were twiddling and asking each other, “Is it?” and replying to each other, “I dunno.”
This year the 24-hour write-in happened on Discord from… I want to say noon? the Saturday after Thanksgiving until that sane time Sunday. (It might have been 10 or 11, but it was definitely somewhere in that time frame.)
I had already finished my novel on Friday. Knowing I would have at least this one event to attend, I decided to start Axe To Grind with the original Romeo & Juliet premise. I think I’ve figured out how to do it. My original thought was that it would be a slasher story like I enjoy writing, but the original story retold in a modern setting (oh, that’s never been done before!) would work better. Just because the climax will involve an axe fight doesn’t mean the entire thing has to be axe-murdery stalker goodness. Although if I can figure out how to make the story work with it, I’m not against the idea.
Anyway, long story not quite so long (too late), I had something to write during the time I was present for the 24 — and the other thing I would be doing for a couple of hours that first day.
I ended up writing 4,440 words on it, too, which was kind of impressive when you stop to consider that I hadn’t intended to write any words on it at all before that day. And since those words were written during November, I counted them. You think they shouldn’t count? Doesn’t matter. I still won, even without them.
Around 8pm, I hosted some Jackbox Party Pack games in the Secret Passage Behind the Portrait. When I first posted that I was thinking about doing it, someone came into the room even though it was still two hours away. That was pretty exciting. She left shortly after that; just wanted to verify that I wasn’t playing some kind of joke and that I really intended to do Jackbox.
I would NEVER joke about that!
I wrote and wrote, and when Bonetti came in to see what I was up to, I mentioned that I should have checked with him (since he was the event organizer) before just blurting out my intent. He said it was fine with it and he was there to play.
But it’s not until– and I looked at the clock. Oops. It was already time to start and I was in the middle of a sprint wrap-up phase. (Marking current count, mathing to get sprint count, updating my tracking sheet to know how many words I still need for the day (0), etc., and so forth.)
And I ran some Jackbox. There were five people including Self at one point, and we played multiple games each of Blather Round and Trivia Murder Party, and even a game of Fibbage. The intent was to game from 8:00 to 10:00, but then people started getting antsy. Some nonsense about needing to get back to writing during this write-in. And I went, but it’s only– and looked at the clock. It was already 10:40. Oops.
I ended up writing until around midnight-ish before calling it quits and going to bed. I checked in the next morning to finish out the 24, even though I did not write another word for the rest of the month.
ANGIE PHONE WRITE-INS
The last event I want to talk about, and the other reason I started Axe To Grind, was the weekly phone chat and write-in I had with my writer friend Angie.
(Incidentally, se published her third book, Healing Hands*, earlier this year. This one is a fantasy quest story of loss and revenge, and it’s pretty danged good. You should check it out.)
I’ve said most of what I need to say in other wrap-up entries. She struggled a bit this year, and I wanted to make sure she had at least an hour of writing while we talked on that last week, so I was the one with the whip this time out. Hey, we’re friends. Sometimes she cracks the whip, sometimes I crack it. And it all works out for both of us. When I mentioned in email that I had finished my book, she was concerned. She didn’t want to be the only one writing on our write-in, and I told her that I wanted to start Axe.
I don’t happen to have my sprint stats up just now, but I’m pretty sure I wrote more than half of that 4.4k words during our write-in that day.
STATS NERD BRAIN AND OTHER WRAPPING UP THOUGHTS
Bringing up my report card(s), it looks like Group Therapy (pseudonymous title of 2022 NaNo project) did not break any records. While I did have a some pretty good writing days, none of them were outlandishly amazing. The novel itself clocked in at 50,153 words, and the month gave me 54,593.
That 54k took 29.5 hours to write at an average of 1,850 words per hour. There was a single 0-word day before I ended for the month. It put me behind, and I fought tooth and nail not to be behind again once I’d caught up that weekend. I ended NaNoWriMo on November 26, writing on average 0.98 hours per day (1-30).
What I learned about this story is that it is not a novel. I was only about halfway through when I was ready to wrap it up. Everything else is technically filler, but it is filler that in my mind helps me solidify the caricatures. If I do anything with it, I will most likely turn it into a long-ish short story or a short novella. I put 50,153 words into it, but it is not a 50,153-word story.
(Like my blog entries, there is much drivel.)
Out of 18 NaNoWriMo attempts, I have now written at least 50,000 words on 20 novels and finished 12 of them. (Finished referring only to the first draft, of course.)
ENDING THE POST
I didn’t even get to the fake bullying that may or may not lead to a sequel to my 2019 podcast. I did not talk about all the things I’ve been (not) doing since my April “Woe is Me” post. So much gaming news! And yet not.
I intend (brace yourself — that means it will likely not happen, if past me is any indication) to come up with some kind of process that will have me on the computer at least once a week. I need to find a way to get back into the habit of writing. NaNoWriMo is a good primer, but then I “take a break” that ends up being me on the sofa watching streaming services. I’m not saying I intend to stop doing that entirely. Just devote some time to the writing, too. I’ve said it before. If I can sit at my computer every day in November, there’s no reason I can’t do it at least a little the rest of the year.
We’ll see how it goes.
My next blog entry will most likely be a look back at 2022’s goals. (SPOILER ALERT: The writing goal has NOT been met.) In February I hope to talk a bit about what the heck happened to me this year, if I can put words to it, and then in March hopefully we’ll be back to our fun and lackadaisical selves. (I still keep that mouse in my pocket for first-person plural emergencies.)
Public statements of intent aside, I hope you had a wonderful 2022, that your holiday season goes well with lots of food and fun and family. I hope NaNoWriMo was a success for you, if you did it.
Most of all, I hope you continue to be a bright light in the darkness that is this world. Be the best you that you can be, and the people around you will thank you for it.
Until next time!
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