NaNoWriMo Recap and Future Plans

So NaNoWriMo is over, and our TGIO party is tomorrow. It’s always a bit of a bittersweet feeling, coming to the end of November. This was a more difficult one than usual, as I mentioned at the beginning of the month. (Just before? I can’t remember anymore.) As usual, I always think that knowing the story–knowing the characters–all of that planning kind of stuff will help me. And it never does. I just get stuck because in my head, the story is already told and writing it all over again feels repetitious–and there are few things I hate more than repeating myself over and over and over again. (I have trouble with revision for this very reason. Go figure.)

So despite the fact that Manhattan and Damian are characters I know as well as any I’ve worked with in many ways, it was a battle to write their story. And yet again, 8 years running now, I’ve failed to actually finish the STORY in the month of November.

Some day. SOME DAY.

But what really struck me about this year was how much I genuinely love my position as both an ML and a sprint leader for the Twitter account. Though I didn’t get to do as much with the Richmond region this year as I might have liked, it seemed to be a city-wide thing. We were a quiet region this time around. Everyone seemed to be having trouble. Add in that it was my second month in a new job, I was still physically getting used to the demands of being a server…it was a bit of a mess. I was away from my usual writing spot (read as: my apartment) a lot, which always throws me off. But the Twitter account. That was my saving grace this year.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, but if you don’t know that, then may I point you in the direction of where you should absolutely check out the masterful 30-day, 50,000 word challenge that is this event, and then see the many, many blogs I’ve likely written about it) runs a Twitter account during the month of November (and during Camp NaNo months as well) where a group of dedicated MLs and former MLs (a few staff members as well I think, and long-term well-known Wrimos) run organized word sprints. A word sprint is identified as an established amount of time–for example, 15 minutes beginning as :15 past the hour–which the leader then times, announces beginning and end times (sometimes middle for longer sprints), and then collects overall word counts. The writers out in the world report back to us how much they wrote, we tell them how awesome they are (because come on, they ARE all awesome), and then we go again. We have sprint leaders from all over the world, and thus can almost map out leaders all 24 hours of the day, for all of November. It’s pretty spectacular, when you really look at the details.

Each year, at least for the past few, I’ve attempted to create a theme for both my emails out to my region, and for my sprint times. Last year I was a squire for a great kingdom! We had to take 50,000 paces toward the Castle of Letters and Light in order to save our sweet Novela! (Oh purple prose, how you were my friend.) I got a pretty good response from it; people seemed to enjoy being able to call back with the theme, and appreciated that I kept with the same theme all month. (That’s not always the case, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Many sprint leaders don’t need something like a theme like that to be memorable. @Labville and @JessAnn_ are two who come to mind…)

So this year, after talking to my co-ML Jean, I decided that spies/secret agents were going to be a good theme to go with. I had a lot of fun writing the emails, with INCOMING MESSAGE and all that jazz at the beginning, and MESSAGE WILL DELETE IN 3… 2… 1… at the end. Similarly, I’d ask INCOMING MESSAGE, SECURITY LEVEL ALPHA, ACCEPT? Y/N at the beginning of each sprint–then wait for at least one or two Wrimos to reply with a Y before continuing on. All of the Wrimos were agents, and we had to defeat WRITBLOK, the threat to all creativity who we can launch the greatest attack on (with 50,000 creative word quotas for each agent) in December. Since, of course, it’s in December when the exhaustion after November and the deadlines are all gone–and writer’s block is likely to strike.

I have never had such a strong reaction to a theme before.

I had people asking me when I was leading sprints next. People would specifically chime in when I was on the channel. I got routinely referred to as “sir,” which never failed to put a smile on my face. And my agents all did fantastically. I had a few tell me by the end that I was either their favorite or one of their favorite sprint leaders. It was like taking everything I loved about being an ML–being able to encourage writers, seeing that something I love doing was making an impact on others, being able to HELP people–except in a more immediate fashion.

I was able to help people from all over the world, all at the same time. I had a follower from Northern Ireland, one from Denmark, Nova Scotia…all over the US. It was amazing. I have never felt so blessed in my life, for all the things I’ve been able to do. I know that I have gifts in fields, and that I’ve been able to help people…but it’s never been so obvious to me. I’ve never had so many people say that they appreciate what I do, and that I’ve helped them, and that they’ll miss me while I’m gone.

It reminded me of what I chose this life.

Because I did. I chose to be a writer. I changed my major in undergrad to writing studies because NaNoWriMo taught me that I loved writing. I became an ML because I was passionate about NaNo and what they were doing. I wanted to share that passion with others. I loved my time as the New York::Elsewhere ML. I love being the co-ML for Richmond. I love being a sprint leader. And sometimes, when I’m tired and worn out from work, and I don’t know what I’m doing in my book, and everything just seems stupid and pointless, I could show up on Twitter or run sprints or just say hi, and I’d have people happy to see me.

People who only knew me for who I was as a sprint leader. Not people I know in person. (They’re usually happy to see me. I hope.) Just people who know me for my work, essentially. Who wanted to see me. Were excited to see me.

And sometimes, that’s all you need. Just one little thing to remind you that there are still things that make you that happy left in life. 🙂


So I’ve been working on my MFA in Creative Writing for a couple years now (has it really been like 3 years? Dang.) and it is all coming to a culmination on Friday, December 11th. I will be defending my manuscript to a panel at my college, and then presenting an open-to-the-public reading at Carlow University later on that day. (If you’d like to attend and you’re not friends with me on Facebook/haven’t been invited to the event page, hit me up here and I’ll get you details.)

I’m excited for this to finally finish. I love my college, and I would never trade a moment of my residencies, or the times I’ve spent with the friends I’ve made through the program. The last year or so has been…shall we say, rocky. But all I need do now is write my defense statement and go defend the darn thing. It’s especially fitting to defend in December, since SON OF THE REVOLUTION, the book I’ve been working on 6 years now, began its life as my ’09 NaNo novel. I know it inside and out, and I just hope my love of the project and the characters shines through in my writing.

But I’ve been working on this blog post for something like 2 hours now, because I keep getting distracted, and I have many a thing to do. So I’m going to cut this off now. I’m hoping to be back up to some kind of regular posting schedule MAYBE in December? but if not, then definitely in the new year. I haven’t had a lot of time to do much of anything the past few months, so just give me a bit to find my stride again and I’ll be back on the YouTubes and the blogs and all that jazz.

And hey, maybe I’ll finally complete a prompt call for once. *headdesk*

Until next time, I remain obediently,



3 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Recap and Future Plans

  1. A great recap, enjoyed your “sprinter/leader/writer” perspective on NaNo. I’m an artist and I jumped in to NaNo this year for the first time, after thinking about it for years. I’m one of the folks that sent you a note about your ingeniousness. I stumbled upon the sprints and they really helped me feel like I was part of the experience. The funny truth is that I didn’t even “do” the sprints as intended… I got a kick out of them themes and the creative use of Twitter. Good luck on the 11th! Thanks bunches!

    1. Thank YOU! I am all about the “non-traditional” approach to NaNo – I think it’s just a good time to buckle down on anything you’re creatively passionate about! I have an artist friend here in the city who was trying to use November for the same thing. I don’t know that he accomplished it, but it’s the thought, sometimes, that counts. 🙂

      Thank you again for your kind words. You are one of the reasons this means so much to me.

  2. I love this!!! I didn’t finish the word count goal for NaNo this year, but since I finished the first draft of my novel (AT LONG LAST!!!) halfway through the month I consider it a win anyway.

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