Michaeline: NaNoWriMo Weekend #1 (2020)

The cover from a pulp magazine featuring a lady fortuneteller, a pale smoky vision in distress, and a young man looking seriously and dreamily up as if thinking his own thoughts. TEXT: UNCANNY, SPOOKY, CREEPY, TALES. March Ghost Stories. The MAN with the FOUR ARMS. The PSYCHIC DETECTIVE. MUMMY NUMBER 249.
My Project Cover, via Wikimedia Commons. If I run out of ideas, “The Man with the Four Arms” could be the next story I write. 25 cents!

It’s a very weird NaNovember weekend if you are an American citizen or care about one. I feel like the race could be decided at any minute . . . but I also feel that we won’t really hear any significant news until Monday.

I’m going to go with that last feeling – it allows me to get some writing done for more than 15 minutes at a time. At any rate, being cautiously optimistic is doing wonders for my motivation, while the tension is producing some deliciously weird effects in my writing.

As I mentioned in the post title, it’s the first weekend of National Novel Writing Month, which has become a bit of a misnomer. The game started in 1999 with freelancer Chris Baty and a few of his friends who decided they’d like to try and write A Great American Novel, or at least a novel, in 30 days. By 2000, the game was international, according to Wikipedia, with 140 participants.

The website also started in 2000. I’m a nine-time player (including this year) and one-time winner, although “winner” is also misleading. Finishing a story makes you a winner in my book. I am also a multi-time “cheater” – the basic rules Baty set out was that the novel must be new, must not be co-authored, and has to be submitted in time to verify the 50,000 word count.

Sometimes I followed those rules; other times I tried working on second drafts as a “NaNo Rebel” (officially recognized on the website, too, as a rebel). I do have to admit, I never won (and never even completed a story) the times I tried working on a second draft. Only with fresh, new material did I complete a new story . . . usually coming in at around 40,000 words and with a fairly good through-line for my plot.

This year, though, NaNo has gotten very casual with the rules, and I fully approve! Your “novel” has been rebranded as a

project. That project can be in in prep, in progress, or drafted (I think – those are the logical choices in the Status menu. The other two are completed and published, which I don’t think can count for a current project! But, if, for example, you change your penname and account, you can add old NaNo projects with the new categories.)


Your project also doesn’t have to be a novel. The menu includes short stories, memoir, script, nonfiction, poetry and other. Musicals are getting a special push this year! Then you choose if you want the project associated with a NaNoWriMo event, or not. This means you can use the fun tracking features for anything you are writing! If it’s not attached to a NaNo event, you can choose your word count goal, the starting date, and the ending date.


The tracking features are also very helpful this year. Of course, you keep track of your word count each time you write. There are badges for specific goals, such as writing and recording three days in a row.


A young woman holding a Sheaffer's Pen and contemplating a blank piece of paper.

Writing Month! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Stats tell you specifically how many words you’ve written (a table as reported by you), how many words you need today (calibrated by the number of words left in your goal, and the number of days left in your month), and how many days you’ve had a writing streak for. The second row of boxes gives your status updates, and a chart showing your progress against “ideal” (1667 words/30 days) progress.


NaNo’s website keeps track of when you report, so if you report right after you write, you get an idea of when your most productive times are. And, importantly, this is showing up in MY time zone.


The table of how many words you write a day is also presented as a graph, so it helps different sorts of learners visualize the information in a way that feels more visceral to them. A different box shows your daily average, and next box is when you’ll complete your word goal if you keep going at the pace you’ve set.


I find this last one strangely comforting. Sometimes, I feel like, “Goodness, I’ll be writing until 2022 at this rate!” But no! My little box tells me that I’ll complete 50,000 words (10 to 15 stories) by January 18, 2021. Not a “winner,” but not a loser either!


The last two boxes report your writing speed and your feelings. I haven’t figured out how to toggle these, but I’m not sure I care. Maybe if I can get on track, I can spend the last week of NaNo figuring out the writing speed.


So, that’s my NaNo. I’ve finished one short story, and am about 1/3 of the way through the second. I’ve been writing every day this month, and even though I’m behind, writing 2000 words a day does not seem impossible . . . I just need to be home and write two or three times a day. (Besides, I only need 1899 words a day at this point, LOL!)


NaNo or not, how is your writing going? It’s OK to say it’s not . . . there’s plenty of story fodder in the news and real life to be absorbed during these times. Maybe you can say you are in prep. As long as you are still thinking about writing and story, you are winning.

2 thoughts on “Michaeline: NaNoWriMo Weekend #1 (2020)

  1. I’m NaNoing too this year. I didn’t write yesterday, but I have written every other day. My goal was to write every day – I had no intention of getting to 50,000 words (although that would be a bonus). And I’m not logging my words on the website. I’ve never done that. Like you, I’ve “won” once. Unlike you, it was finishing a book. Which I then never went back and edited. I think it’s a really good story, but now I’m so far removed from it, getting back into it seems herculean.

    • Did your buddies disappear this year? I only had one from last year carry over, and I suspect that that person may have re-connected. I will look for you!

      I have quite a few stories that finished the first draft. Some I just have no interest in, others I’d like to go back and see what I can do about them.

      I do like NaNo a lot. This year, it’s very much about getting into a daily writing habit that can produce three or four stories a month. I’m trying not to fret too much about the actual number of words . . . .

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