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44,972 Words: My Personal Best Novel

This year I did not win NaNoWriMo and that’s okay.

Last night at our final write-in at IHOP, with an hour left until midnight I realized that I couldn’t keep my eyes open and that the “words” I was typing were pure gibberish. I had 5,028 words left to go and I just threw in the universal survival towel.

I am not a quitter by nature, but realizing that I’d been awake for almost 24 hours, that the platypus fetus was getting really uncomfortable and fidgety, that greasy diner food just wasn’t going to cut it, and that I’d technically finished the story some 3,000 words prior gave me permission to be done.

That’s why I consider this year’s novel my “Personal Best.”

This November a lot of life stuff happened.

  • My big sister got married in the Bahamas.
  • I had a cold for the entire month.
  • I am four months full of baby in the making.
  • Took said fetus to its first funeral.
  • As a result of said funeral, scrapped my two first attempts at writing this month’s novel and started over, from scratch, on day 14.

Yep. For this year, good enough is in fact just that

For the last five years, NaNoWriMo has become my personal tradition for November. I send my inner editor packing for the month and set out to write those 50,000 words of a beautifully  awkward rough draft. Over the course of writing a novel in a month characters appear and disappear. Names of places get changed, altered and expanded for additional word count padding and in the end I have some sort of sloppy story frame on which to hang future revisions.

Because after all, you can’t edit a blank page.

When this whole writing a novel thing caught on as an actual thing that people do, it spelled the end of the someday novelist. As in, “Someday I’d like to write a novel.” I first heard about NaNo while in college when a friend started talking about the novel she was writing. In a month. Like right before the end of the term. No big deal.

My jaw dropped a little because as an English major I think I was still holding onto this silly belief that you need someone’s permission to write something that big. You know, like a professor or at the very least, a publishing house. But that was before the Kindle and major online self-publishing made having an idea for a novel — no matter how caffeine-fueled and two-bit the idea is — a practical reality.

Or at least, that’s how I see the upward trend in NaNo’s popularity. There’s a young writer’s component now wherein middle and high school age students write novels in conjunction with their regular English class curriculum. They even have another month, and another event set aside for writing screen plays. And at the end of the day, the whole thing is run by an eight-person nonprofit. Really, it’s pretty epic.

I have found community through NaNo. In Georgia, I’m pretty sure that meeting the local not-Atlanta branch of writers and being adopted by them helped keeping me from going completely insane. Here in Colorado, it’s nice to know that once a year I can just drop in to people’s lives and be there without any other commitments attached.

So this weekend, my pirate mister and I are going to work on tending to the mountain of dirty dishes in the sink. Play video games, get out and go for a bike ride and resume being functional adults.

Maybe I’ll even get out of my pajamas.



About Amanda C.

Often described as "busy," Amanda C. is a mechanic with a B.A. in English; a mom who is doing OK; and a do-it-yourselfer who is sometimes clueless. She is also obsessed with roller derby.

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