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Report from NaNoWriMo 2021

First, I apologize that I haven’t been updating the blog. My personal life has been, well, complicated lately, and if I’m honest, the blog is often the first thing to go when I need to prioritize. But let’s talk about how November went (and next week I’ll have some pedagogy content, I promise).

According to the NaNoWriMo website, this was my 17th year and 17th win. Every year is different, of course, and 17 seems like too many to me but I did the math myself and, yeah, it checks out. It was also my second year as an ML, and thankfully this year I had a co-ML. It was a different game, but it was a good thing.

Several hands of different colors along with pencils with a banner that says National Novel Writing Month Winner 2021
2021 NaNoWriMo winner banner

This year I barely won. My final count was something like 51,000. I hit the 50k goal with only about an hour to spare, which was actually earlier than I thought it would be. I wrote mostly every other day. There were a lot of days, because of grief, stress, or other factors, or just not being excited about the project, when I couldn’t bring myself to write. And that was ok.

If you follow my Twitch streams, you may have noticed that I abandoned the novel from November immediately. I only hung on an extra hour after midnight to encourage another writer who was in a timezone one hour behind me and was racing to the finish line (and crossed! It was great!).

Some years, the novel pours out. Sometimes it pours out beautifully, like a waterfall, giving life to everything it touches, and you just want to revel in it. Sometimes it pours out like blood from an open wound, hot and numb and you can’t stop it.

Sometimes, like this year, you have to force nearly every word. It squeezes out and doesn’t really go anywhere, like cold toothpaste. You can make it happen, but you have to make every moment happen.

Does that mean I don’t like my story premise? Not at all. I’ll definitely return to it someday. But that approach didn’t work. And that’s what I learned. It’ll take another start or two before I get it right.

And that’s the thing. Sometimes it takes a few false starts before it works. That’s true of a lot of different things.

Restarting a project isn’t disrespectful of the work you did before. Restarting a project can honor the work you did before, because it marked the path (or at least, it marked the paths you don’t want to take).

If you’re stuck on a project, be it fiction, research, or anything else, I’m giving you permission to scrap and start over. Sometimes starting over is exactly what you need so that you can be free of the burdens of the earlier attempts. Maybe you’ll use some material from the earlier attempts, but maybe you won’t, and that’s ok!

I’ll go back to that story. And I’ll write it very differently when I do. But for now, I’ll let it rest while I reset. I’m thankful to the novel for being there for another NaNoWriMo, but this was not its time to bloom, so I’ll give it a bit more space to rest and give myself space to likewise rest.

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