My first attempt at the NaNoWriMo writing challenge (National Novel Writing Month – 50,000 words in the 30 days of November) was in 2011 – it was for a novel idea which I’d called ‘On The Flipside’ (which I still think is a decent idea, maybe I should come back to it at some point!) but I didn’t put anywhere near enough planning in so I struggled up to 15k and had to call it quits. I was only 15.
In 2012, I won NaNoWriMo with the first novel I finished – ‘Type 3: Hyper-Intelligent’, my zombie apocalypse story was planned in advance and completed during my GCSE mock exams and my best friend at the time had major spinal surgery. It’s one of my proudest achievements to date and whilst I don’t think the story will ever quite see the light of day, it showed me that I had what it takes to plan a full on book.
In the ten years since then (I cannot believe it’s been 10 years), I’ve tried it a few times here and there – I’ve never had the right idea to turn into a full length story, let alone the inclination and motivation to do it and take it to fifty thousand words.
This year wasn’t much different – I was intending to use it as a planning period to flesh out a bunch of ideas that I could turn to next year, but I returned to my usual tactic of finding a thirty day word prompt challenge and writing a bunch of short stories – some barely covered the 1,667 word daily word count goal, some reached three or four days worth of word count. I only ended up using 16 of the 30 word prompts I’d found.
But I did it. 10 years on from my first NaNoWriMo win, I did it again – but not only did I write fifty thousand words, I did it in a month I got married, didn’t write on my mini-moon, my new husband then left to work on the World Cup in Qatar and I sank back into the worst depression I’ve had in my life (being fired in September has actually destroyed my mental health, but that’s a different story).
I hit the word count for three days, took ten days off writing then managed to hit 50k by the 29th – I wrote fifty thousand words in 19 days.
These last couple of months have been incredibly hard – my mental health was hugely suffering at the end of the summer, I changed new meds, I had panic attacks like I’d never had before, and then I got fired which snowballed everything into being a hundred times worse. I’ve not been able to sleep properly, it takes me hours to get out of bed and my anxiety has been manifesting into physical symptoms that make me feel ill 80% of the time.
I’m not looking for pity, but all these things rolled together meant I truly believed I was never going to be able to achieve a challenge like this – with no proper storyline, most of my writing only taking place between 10pm and 2am and barely being able to look after myself like a basic human, it didn’t seem like there was any way I could really do this.
But now I’m more inspired than ever – I did it; I did it 10 years ago in the middle of my exams, I did it this year with over a week of no writing and next year I intend to do it again. Although I intend to write more consistently and frequently next year (the goal is 1000 words a week!), I definitely want to do NaNoWriMo again in some capacity. Maybe it’ll be more short stories, maybe it’ll take an idea I spend the first 10 months of the year planning, who knows! But if I can win NaNo whilst going through all of this, hopefully next year will be a different picture entirely.
Thank you for reading,