NaNoWriMo X: Half a Million Words

Last night, as my sweetie sang a victory song for me, I submitted for verification my NaNoWriMo effort for the year. Overall, I’d say it was a success; I think the crap-to-merely-bad ratio was better than in several of my other NaNo attempts.

This was my tenth NaNoWriMo. Back in the day there was no word-count verification, and we used Yahoo! groups for the forums – which proved to be mighty inadequate. In 2001 there were about 1100 participants total, if memory serves, and it was the first year that people clamored for some kind of system to verify their word counts. This caught the organizers unprepared, since the whole thing is on the honor system anyway — it’s not like you benefit from lying about it. The thing is, it’s a tangible reward to submit your work and get a “hooray!” message back. It’s not about honesty, it’s about breaking through the ribbon at the finish line. I made a little AppleScript that could take an email, count the words in an attachment and return an “official” count, but I didn’t push it as a real solution.

My, how things have changed. As NaNoWriMo grew and its infrastructure improved, I made a bunch of friends on the message boards. I even found a sweetie there. Then, as NaNoWroMo grew yet more I stopped visiting the boards entirely. It’s too noisy for me there.

But now I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo ten times, and ‘won’ every time. Last year was close; it took a huge effort over the last three days to get me over the line. But I did it. At 50,000 words per year, that makes half a million words typed in November. The actual total is much higher, of course; there was one year where I wrote nearly 100,000 words. Still, half a million has a nice ring to it.

There was a period this year when NaNoWriMo started to feel like a job, like I was doing it this year just to keep my streak alive. I think there were about 100 winners in 2001, so at most 100 other people in the world can have a ten-year streak. But really, is that any reason to write something?

Then, at the end of the month, I wrote a couple of really good scenes, including an actual ending for the story (some of the middle is missing), and while it was not the ending I was imagining, it turned out really good. And sad. But good. It’s an ending that would probably piss off most action-adventure/mystery/detective/crime/whatever readers, but it resonates with me.

Now I’m all stoked about writing again. Sometimes after NaNoWriMo I hit a low spot, but I don’t think that’s going to happen this time. Note to self: Next year, make sure to put on a strong ending.


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