NaNo What Now?

Finding your editing process, revising your NaNoWriMo book and building a writing career through publishing and beyond

Building a Writing Life

start a writing habit, find time to write, discover your process and commit to your writing dreams Non-Fiction

I went into Camp NaNoWriMo’s July session with low expectations. My only word count goal was to try to hit 50,000 words as that would make it my highest word count month for this laid back, low goal year and be good practice for NaNoWriMo proper. As for what I was going to write, my focus was to try to write a bunch of blog posts I’d been meaning to do for a while and then spend the rest of the month writing down random stories from my two decades of selling online, a project I’ve nicknamed my eBay memoirs.

And I did manage to write and edit enough blog posts to last me a full year on The Whine Seller and through the end of the year on this site (though I haven’t edited those yet). This was a small but satisfying thing because I’ve missed blogging and I like that I can coast the rest of the year on this stockpile of articles I’ve built up for myself.

Then I wrote over 30 stories for the eBay Memoirs project. That project is something that’s been on my To Write list for a really long time and I kept putting it off because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with the stories and therefore the right angle to write them from when I finally just realized… I should just write them any old way just to get them down, share them on my blog for now, and figure out what, if anything, I want to do with them later. After all, publishing them on my blog is still publishing them So I’ll be sharing those on The Whine Seller in the coming weeks and if I later decide to do something else with them, awesome. Either way, it’s a really good feeling to be able to check off something that’s been on my To Write list for so long.

As for my word count goal, well…

Out of 50,000 words I wrote… 93,091 words. So, not only way more than I meant to write, my second highest word count in a single month and my fourth biggest writing month overall (ie including editing) IN MY ENTIRE WRITING LIFE. Or, I guess, since I started keeping track in 2010 but since I didn’t write as much before then I feel comfortable saying IN MY ENTIRE WRITING LIFE.

I mean, look at this…

Yellow cells are dates from this writing year that made it on the All Time Charts while red cells are dates from the last 30 days that are in the top ten for this year.

I added these Top Ten All Time charts to my big writing word count goal spreadsheet thing because I thought it might drive me to write a little more. For instance, if I knew I had to write over 7k words for it to be the highest word count day for the month and I was already at 6k, it might push me to write a little more and it’s been working rather well. But what’s really wild is to look at how many of my wordiest days this year were all in this month AND how this month was one of the wordiest of all time.

So, what happened? Honestly, I don’t really know but I have a few theories.

  • Non-fiction is my comfort food. This same thing happens every time I get into a fiction funk. I wallow, try to force myself to work on fiction for a while and get nowhere and then finally run back into the comforting embrace of non-fiction. Particularly when I’m writing as The Whine Seller (as I was writing the eBay Memoirs), I feel so comfortable in my writing skin and confident that words fly from my fingers and I wonder why I ever try to write anything else.
  • I was having fun. I love the fiction stuff I’m working on but trying to edit it with as little time as I have had and my schedule all over the place has made it all super not fun. Add to this that I haven’t let myself work on anything else because I was sooo desperate to get those projects down and out of my face that it’s been a real slog. But I was so excited to write these eBay stories as I thought of them that a lot of times I was writing two at the same time, literally going back and forth between two documents at once, because the words were coming out so fast. It’s been a long time since I’ve been as excited about a project as I was with this.
  • It was easy. What’s easier than writing a bunch of stories about your own life? I didn’t have to think or plan or plot, even with the blog posts. It was how non-fiction always is for me, like chatting with an old friend.
  • I had a plan. I wrote up a whole long list of stories and blog posts I wanted to write this month and having that list to refer back to and check things off as I went really helped make the whole process feel more automated. On the nights when I didn’t really have any gas, it was easy to pick something off the list to write anyway. And watching the unwritten list shrink bit by bit  was itself very motivating. I usually just wing my non-fiction because it comes so easy for me anyway but this made me realize I’d probably benefit from more prep work and outlining here too.

So, while I would love to say that I had some kind of writing epiphany this month or cracked some new writing code, I really didn’t. I just remembered that non-fiction is easier for me so maybe I should just focus on that for now until I’m in a place where I can work on fiction again. Which kind of makes me sad, because I really want to be done with those works in progress and there are so many fiction things I still want to write, but also makes me happy because it’s nice to be productive at all again, even if it’s not exactly what I had planned to be doing. Writing an absurd number of words a month is what feels normal and natural for me, weirdo that I am, so it’s been like getting back to myself in a way.

The other nice benefit was that by giving myself a tough deadline and increasing the amount I wrote this month meant decreasing the amount of time I was freaking out about current events. Like I suggested in this post, I’ve been limiting my news reading / rep calling / sobbing in fetal position about the state of the world to just 30 minutes a day and then getting right back to work. It’s a nice distraction, honestly, and staying in motion helps me from sinking.

Which is why I’ve decided to just lean into what’s working right now and continue this way. Instead of forcing myself to keep doing those futile start and stop edits I’ve been trying to do all year with what little time I have, I’m going to cut myself some slack and take the easier route. That means I’m going to outline several non-fiction books I’ve been meaning to write for a while and just keep going full speed ahead on those. While I’m shooting to have two of them out rather soon, I’m content to just work on the rest in the background whenever I get stuck on fiction. If nothing else, it ensures I’ll have something to work on for NaNoWriMo so I’m not just wasting my time like in the past.

And, of course, the weird thing is that once I started to mentally shelve all the fiction stuff for now, the fiction stuff, after months of sulking and locking itself in its room comes out to peek over my shoulder like, whatcha working on? Is it me?

Very annoying. Predictable, but still annoying.

But, as always, a big thank you to the fine folks at Camp NaNoWriMo for giving us this great event to motivate and get that extra push. This was the very last Camp NaNoWriMo event in this format until it’s all folded into the new site next year so this seemed a fitting way to send it off, with an absolute boatload of words.


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About the Author

Hillary DePiano is a playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer who loves writing of all kinds except for writing bios like this.

Books and Plays by Hillary DePiano