I documented my daily progress while writing a novel during the month of November. A crazy endeavour, right? Yes, agreed. So, why would anyone do such a thing? Because it’s National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.
That’s hardly a legitimate reason… but also, why not?
Note: if you already know about NaNoWriMo, and what the book I wrote is about, you can jump straight down to the daily progress updates, the final results, or find out what’s happening next.
Image courtesy of NaNoWriMo.
Now, the target wordcount of 50,000 words (say, 150-200 pages of a paperback?) is shorter than many novels you’ve probably got on your shelf. However, the idea isn’t to have something ready for publication on 30 November, but to kickstart your writing and motivate you to slam that first draft down. No quibbling over pretty sentences, forget sensible grammar, just write those words (1667 per day!).
At 50,000 words you’ll have a good chunk of a book done. And later on, you can edit those words at your leisure, because what’s one thing you can’t do?
You can’t edit a blank page.
I’ve heard a fair few authors much cleverer than me say that writing is rewriting. No matter how much I’ve agonised over a first draft, it’s not till the second, third or fourth draft that it really comes together and comes to life. Why not get that first draft out of the way ASAP?
And so, this year I decided to make my very first attempt at NaNoWriMo… It all started with a public declaration of sorts at the end of October (witness my optimism here), so there was no backing out or slinking away after that!
Hang on, what’s this book about?
Yes! Before I get into the daily updates, a few words about what I’d planned to write…
I mentioned cosy mysteries in a recent post (Cosy up with a cosy mystery) – I know I enjoy reading them, so I thought I’d have a go at writing one! Cosies tend to include so many things I like to put in my stories anyway – fun characters, antics, banter, perhaps a little romance – so why not throw in a murder too?
Turns out there’s a fair bit involved in pulling off a good cosy mystery (or cozy mystery, for the Americans)… You’ve got your victim (of course) and your suspects, your clues and red herrings, truths and lies, all swirling about. The difficult bit in making it a great read is knowing when to put what where and why…
But (!!) in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I didn’t let myself get bogged down trying to line up my ducks before I’d even found the ducks. So, I quickly pulled together a few likely characters, bullet pointed a bunch of things that may or may not happen, then jumped right in. I discovered as I went, knowing I’d come through later and sort it out.
So, for NaNoWriMo 2021 I wrote a cosy mystery with a gay main character set in New Zealand.
The day-by-day documenting of my novel’s first draft
To keep myself on track I committed to tweeting my progress at the end of each day. This held me accountable by preventing me from quietly stepping into the shadows and away from public scrutiny.
Some days I proudly announced my progress, and some days I humbly flashed my feeble word count for all to see. No matter what, knowing I was going to post the numbers frequently spurred me find the energy to get back to the keyboard and get those words down.
Scroll on, my friend, for the daily progress tweets with word counts, charts and images. Or, jump to a specific milestone: end of the first week, murder, 25k words (halfway!), zero word day, 40k words, the cosy setting’s naming ceremony (finally!), and that sweet, sweet finish line.
Note: I’ve copied out the tweets’ text for my ease of searching later, and you can click through to the tweets on Twitter if you like (give them a like, follow yours truly, all that good stuff x).
NaNoWriMo Day 1
1767 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 1 🥳
Though… it’s all outlining because I was so very not prepared to start, but I’m counting it! And tomorrow will include actual, legit, manuscript words 🤞
NaNoWriMo Day 2
Today’s update is brought to you by: an earthquake, corporate overlords, and a vibe…
1879 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 2. Some were me finishing up the outline (so I have some idea where I’m going!) but the rest were real words for the real story 😱
NaNoWriMo Day 3
1985 words today which included a phone call from an unknown number, a Christmas card, and a polite yet scathing insult.
Day 3 of #NaNoWriMo and still on track! #LGBTQWriMo
NaNoWriMo Day 4
Day 4 brings a nice round total of 7400 words. Averaging 1850/day, keeping it above the 1667 target. Long may it last!
And today’s update was brought to you by legal bills, celery sticks, and Wellington’s Kapiti Line 🚂🚃🚃🚃 #NaNoWriMo #LGBTQWriMo
NaNoWriMo Day 5
‘Only’ 1400 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 5. Still tracking a few hundy over the month’s target trend though 👌
As well as writing, today I looked a little more closely at the setting for my story with the #LGBTQWriMo prompt:
I’ve pinned down the real region for my imaginary small town, but haven’t decided if I’m going seaside or riverside…
Manawatū (Google Maps)
Manchester Square, Fielding (Google Maps) [EDIT: typo, should be Feilding]
#NaNoWriMo #WritingCommunity #LGBTQWriMo
NaNoWriMo Day 6
Still ticking along on the sixth day of #NaNoWriMo with 1754 words 🙌
Today’s wordcount was brought to you by gingernut biscuits, fussy little frameless glasses, and a mint green cardigan.
NaNoWriMo Day 7
1817 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 7 😎 One week down, three and a bit to go 😅
Today we’ve encountered, amongst other things: an old set of keys, room-temperature sushi, and psychedelic 1960s décor.
NaNoWriMo Day 8
#NaNoWriMo Day 8 produced 1895 words! At this rate I might even cross the line a day or two early 🏁
Today’s update was brought to you by keeping your eyes open during work meetings, expired milk, and ‘Fancy Fine Feline Cuisine’.
NaNoWriMo Day 9
Day 9 is my first day breaking 2000 words/day for #NaNoWriMo. Now only 111 words away from that one-third mark!
Today’s writing featured another botched plan, a great wall of pamphlets, and a prospective thief.
NaNoWriMo Day 10
1778 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 10. It was a slog, but we got there!
Today’s content included fish and chips for dinner, a squeaky wheel, and what we’ve all been waiting for… MURDER 💀
NaNoWriMo Day 11
Ding ding ding! Another 2000+ word day for #NaNoWriMo 💅 And at 24ºC it’s really starting to heat up around here ☀
Today our main character was all out of sorts, then HOUNDED by the boys in blue. Note, that’s hounded with an H, not a P – this is a cosy after all, folks. Gosh.
NaNoWriMo Day 12
Oof, just under 1000 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 12, which in any other month would be amaaaazing 😅 But, still ahead of target!
Today was all about stitching together a tricky interview and included a raised eyebrow, a shocking discovery, and too much TV.
NaNoWriMo Day 13
1244 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 13…
Today’s words included sensory deprivation, a clear head, and an unimpressed cat 😾
And today’s excuses for not hitting the daily 1667 word target: travelling out of town, 27ºC heat, and a birthday party to attend tonight 🚗☀🥳
NaNoWriMo Day 14
After two days of undercooking the #NaNoWriMo word count, I’m back on track with 1773 words for Day 14!
Today’s update included some native flora and fauna, Marmite, and a cream donut.
NaNoWriMo Day 15
Part way through my #NaNoWriMo Day 15 writing session and just checked the total word count… over 25,000! That’s halfway folks 💪🥳
Halfway through the month, halfway to the target 😌
NaNoWriMo Day 16
A bumpy few days on the word count front, but still on track to hit that #NaNoWriMo target before the month’s up.
Day 16 brought in 1701 words, including bad chat, a murderous debrief, and half a cream doughnut stuffed into a face.
NaNoWriMo Day 17
2058 new words for #NaNoWriMo Day 17 ✍🥳
Today we had a coffee-flavoured confection, a hideous accusation, and an opportunistic cat.
And now, it’s time for Lotería!
NaNoWriMo Day 18
I noticed #NaNoWriMo were lacking in a 30K badge, so I made one myself (thank you MS Paint). I added a bonus gold star because why not ⭐
Today’s gold star winning words included an asymmetric bob, a looky-loo, and a juicy beef burger.
NaNoWriMo Day 19
#NaNoWriMo Day 19 update: 1278 words. Below par, but still on trend 📈💅
Today we endured Monday morning meetings, wiggled the mouse, and then found ourselves at the pub!
NaNoWriMo Day 20
#NaNoWriMo Day 20: 0 words 😅
Yesterday’s lack of words was brought to you by:
- Dustiness after Friday night
- A day in the sun wandering the annual Cross Hills Gardens Country Fair, gardens, and maze
- Reading a graphic novel
- A takeaway dinner
- A horror film
- Early bedtime
NaNoWriMo Day 21
1793 words today for #NaNoWriMo Day 21. It’ll take a little more to get back up after yesterday’s day off, but I’m still hanging on and will hopefully back on top tomorrow!
Today’s update was brought to you by a little nudge, a piece of the puzzle, and some whispered gossip.
NaNoWriMo Day 22
2101 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 22 for a total of 36,354 words this month (so far) 😱 I’m on track!
Today’s words included a parting remark, an absolute farce, and a cup of tea with side of sleuthing.
NaNoWriMo Day 23
Another 2000+ word day for #NaNoWriMo Day 23 to keep that 50k target well within sight!
Today we were introduced to His Royal Horsiness the Horse of Horse Horsington, came out better off than when we went in, and used the word ‘vamoose’.
NaNoWriMo Day 24
1755 new words today took me over the 40k mark on #NaNoWriMo Day 24! Only 6 days and 10k words left to victory – I can almost taste it 😋
Today we dealt with a long-standing grudge, a connection to Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa, and having your cake and eating it too.
NaNoWriMo Day 25
A humble 650 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 25 😬
I was too busy preparing blog posts and a very exciting mailing list email (scheduled to go out in ~10 hours).
But, of those words I got down, they included hard evidence, plausible deniability, and a trip to the grocery store.
NaNoWriMo Day 26
#NaNoWriMo Day 26: another slog of a day to get 1187 words 😫 Still, only half a day behind on total wordcount which I will make up this weekend! 🤞
Today we had a vocal landowner, fizzy pink vino, and put on a good face.
NaNoWriMo Day 27
1961 words for #NaNoWriMo Day 27. Just under 6k left to hit that magic 50k mark, with 3 more days to do it!
Today we had more pork, a violent scuffle, and an unexpected swim.
NaNoWriMo Day 28
Just over 2k new words for #NaNoWriMo Day 28. Only 3.5k more required to hit that 50k target, and a whole 2 days left to do it!
Today we had some over familiarity, a terrible host, and a lecture on the benefits of urbanisation.
NaNoWriMo Day 29
1714 words for Day 29, the penultimate day of #NaNoWriMo, with ‘only’ 1860 left to go tomorrow!
Today, big news, I finally named the main setting for my cosy mystery 😆 Welcome to… Milverton! The name pops up around the place as a park, street, stats area, and more.
NaNoWriMo Day 30
2268 words took me over the line on #NaNoWriMo Day 30 to hit 50,408 words for the month of November!
Today’s words included a gentleman caller, a handwritten note, and fake tan.
The awkward part is I’m still ~10k away from the end of this first draft… Roll on December!
The final results
I made it! The full 50,000 words in 30 days…
And nearer the end of the month I also jotted down some thoughts about NaNoWriMo, that zero word day I had in the middle, and writing advice in general: You must write every day! Or not?
My daily word count graph
A bit lumpy, and with one notable zero-word day, but still much brisker progress than I’d usually make on a first draft.
My overall progress graph
Despite the uneven daily word counts, I managed to keep that cumulative word count on trend (or thereabouts).
The winner’s banner
So, what’s next?
Well, this is a bit awkward… But I still need to finish the story! I hit the 50k milestone, but I reckon I’m about another 10k away from the end of the first draft. It would be a very unsatisfying story if I cut it off where I am right now.
So, roll on December…
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