Nanowrimo and social anxiety

As I’ve discussed in many past posts, I’m a pretty anxious person about things that don’t really matter at all, but oddly chill about big issues that affect not only me but society at large. This anxiety leaks into my social life in ways both big and small.

While a lot of my social life revolves around NaNoWriMo, it wasn’t always that way. I grew up as a socially awkward kid who was known at school for being smart but never popular, and didn’t have see too many friends outside of the confines of the school day. Outside of informal get-togethers with the friends I had roped into doing NaNo, I didn’t go to a single NaNoWriMo event until going to college in a large city–to be specific, a large city that I had chosen specifically because of its active NaNo region and the existence of a creative writing major that I would never end up pursuing. (Priorities, you know.)

I started attending write-ins and events in college, often at the coffee shop down the street from my alma mater. That was over ten years ago, and the only other students at those write-ins were other people I dragged along. Even though most of the attendees were adults, we still got along well, and many of us are still in touch to this day.

After finishing college, I stayed in the area, with one year moving back in with my parents. Unemployment and graduating in the worst of that great recession are the pits, yo. Eventually I moved back to this NaNo region, and it’s the same region I’m part of now (and even MLed for a year). That’s where my social life and NaNoWriMo started becoming more and more synonymous. More and more of us started hanging out in the then-new regional chat room, and a few of us stayed in the chat room after NaNo ended. This led to get-togethers outside of November, many of them having more to do with food and games than writing. Over time, the people attending many of these events (a lot of them at my house) grew closer, which became evident during events.

Just as with the NaNo forums, I was fortunate to be there when the group was young and not yet as established as it is now. This put me in a position to contribute to the underlying culture of this community and help build the group into a community I wanted myself and others to be welcome in. Did I succeed? I’m still not sure.


One of my major sources of anxiety is trying to fit into an established social group. The group can be for anything–board games, events, writers, even approaching a person(s) at an event and saying hi. If everyone else already knows each other and I’m the one new person, I find myself worrying about fitting in and saying something dumb and not sitting there sounding dumb when everyone else is talking and trying to befriend some of the people in the existing group and making myself appear as positive and wonderful as I see myself on my best days.

Surely I’m not the only person who feels this way at events that often include established social groups. Things like NaNo, for instance. Reaching out is hard, whether you’re the new person or an established member who has trouble reaching out to others. Even more fun, it’s not immediately obvious which people are feeling awkward or anxious when they’re the new person in a group, or who needs that extra nudge to feel welcome.

As one of those people who is bad at reaching out to new folks while also struggling with approaching the existing people, making new people feel welcome at events is hard. There’s a certain comfort zone associated with staying close to existing known people, yet events like NaNo attract lots of new people every year. Which is great! But it’s also easy to stay with those known people at the expense of introducing yourself to new people. Or if you’re the new person, it’s easy to stay off to the side by yourself and think everyone hates you when really, many of us are a bunch of awkward nerds who did the same thing in the past. And once you feel unwelcome at an event, it’s easy to think this is how everyone acts all the time and therefore never return. I’ve seen several people at NaNo events only once, and despite my trying to reach out to them (an effort in itself), they’ve never come back–at least to events I attend.

These exact circumstances that make large events like kickoff and TGIO super-awkward for awkward people are the same circumstances that make write-ins an ideal social situation, at least in my experience. At write-ins, it’s perfectly okay and even encouraged to ignore everyone while tapping away on your project. You can even go off to a corner by yourself and write if everyone else around you is talking. In fact, if you do so, you’ll probably be viewed as one of the more productive people there. All this social anxiety is one of the reasons I’m no longer an ML. Having to be socially “on” all the time during a write-in was too exhausting when all I wanted to do was ignore everyone and write. Hosting write-ins as a regular participant and not an ML means that I can still look around for people who look lost, but there’s no pressure to be the one in charge, making it perfectly fine to lose myself in the words.

So here’s a question: how do we make NaNoWriMo communities even more welcoming to those who aren’t super willing to jump into an established social group when some of us have the same quirks? From local in-person events to the forums (including the private ML forums), jumping in can be intimidating while existing members suck at reaching out. What can we do to make sure everyone who wants to play a part in the thriving NaNo community can do so?

This is something I’ve been struggling with for years. I don’t have any good answers to this question in part because I’m a tragic noob when it comes to social situations. What about you?

The NaNoWriMo countdown is on

The end of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo means that the main November NaNoWriMo event is mere days away. Sure, it’s not October yet, but the countdown is already down to the double digits, which is exciting in itself. This time of year also means my mind goes directly to NaNoWriMo–well, even more than usual. There’s so much to be done before November arrives, and no matter how well I plan, not all of those things get done. Heck, not all of those things get done after NaNo is over.

There are Wikiwrimo updates to be done and Is It NaNo Yet? code to be fixed and meals to be cooked and books to read and runs to go on and shenanigans to get into and NaNo flyers to acquire and hang and on and on and on… Oh, and the weather is starting to cool down, which means festival season is upon us, not to mention training for that half marathon I’m running in December. Let’s say that training during NaNo will be interesting, with three of the four weekends already booked for out-of-town events.

And then there are the repeated tasks that I can’t do in August and then declare done through November: making sure my house isn’t more of a mess than usual, for instance. Timing my laundry for minimal actual laundry-doing in November.

I’m already planning easily freezable meals for November, taking into account that I won’t actually be at home for nearly half the month. This also means I need to acquire more plastic storage containers soon; living with people means that my current collection, which I used most of last November, won’t cut it for freezing all these NaNo meals.

While “I sold my soul to NaNo” mode won’t come into full swing until Wikiwrimo becomes a part-time job in September, NaNo planning mode is already gearing up for everything except my novel (or novels, as it seems to be these days). With a goal of reaching 2 million lifetime NaNo November words, I’ve got a lot to write–about 250k words, to be exact, which makes up half my 2016 writing goal. So no pressure, self. None at all. (Fortunately, I’m on track for my overall 2016 goal once my very wordy November is taken into account.)

I haven’t figured out when or where to host my usual intown write-in for NaNo yet. This year will be particularly challenging due to all the travel in November, but I’ll figure out something, even if it means doing regular client work while hosting a write-in.

So… is it November yet? What about now?

NaNoWriMo 2015 Wrapup

Hello, December. Missed me?

Let’s get the thing most of you want to know out of the way: my total NaNoWriMo 2015 word count was 302,203 words. This is a personal record that I won’t be topping anytime soon.

And I don’t want to top that record anytime soon, either. Writing that much in a month is HARD. I worked full-time this November, and my only days off were weekends, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday. This meant that I was barely on track for a lot of the month and played epic catchup on the weekends and over Thanksgiving. Even my other 300k year, when I didn’t have a job, sitting down to write that much every day was a challenge. Completing 300k with a job meant almost giving up the NaNo forums entirely and completely giving up reading and non-novel writing (hence why this blog went so neglected during the one month of the year when people are actually paying attention to me). I set a minimum of 5k per work night and devoted the weekends to writing as much as possible. This isn’t sustainable throughout the rest of the year, but that’s okay–the creative freedom and inspiration NaNo provides more than makes up for whatever I’m cutting out (including lots of silly phone games, let’s be honest here).

To add to the challenge, I had trouble coming up with a plot for NaNoWriMo. You may remember my confession back in October about not having any ideas for NaNo. I wound up writing three novels, so I bet you’re wondering: what happened?

My first novel was about a 20-something who feels like she’s wasting her life, so she moves to a new city and gets into shenanigans. This is eerily similar to the huge NaNoWriMo 2010 novel that put me over 300k the first time.

My second novel starred a high school high achiever whose life goes to hell during junior year: her best friend moved across the country, her dad is never home, she doesn’t have any other friends… and then what? This premise started out a lot like my very first NaNoWriMo novel, but I like this version a lot better. In fact, that I’m thinking of editing this novel. Not bad for a novel I started at a write-in and came up with on the way to that write-in.

I started writing the third novel on a road trip back home. It was supposed to be a third draft of 2009’s pumpkin novel. That lasted all of a thousand words. The rest of the novel told the hippie art teacher’s story and doesn’t really have a plot; it just bumbled through this person’s life as things happened.

Even though I don’t plan on touching the first and third novels again, they served as learning experiences: while I’m a pantser, I need more than a super-vague premise to succeed at writing a story. This goes back to my fear that I am in fact out of ideas, despite doing so much to gather ideas and inspiration.

Two more things of note:

I wrote at least 2,000 words every single day in November. I am damn proud of this. This is the first NaNoWriMo that I recall writing every single day in the month, and I plan to continue writing my many other things–this blog, more personal essays, a paper journal, editing my fiction… Stay tuned for another post on this topic.

And second, I’ve written 300,000 words for two of my 14 NaNoWriMos. I didn’t complete a single 50k day during either of those years, and I think this contributed to my consistency throughout the month. The 50k days burned me out for about a week after each one. Even though I hated everything at the beginning of the second day, I still managed to crank out nearly 5,000 words that evening after work. Consistency is much more valuable than pure volume, something I’m keeping in mind in December.

How was your NaNoWriMo? Did you reach your goal?

Is it NaNo yet? No? What about now?

Well, is it NaNoWriMo yet? Here’s an answer.

It started with a tweet, as many ideas do.

I’m not sure what prompted me to look for Is It Christmas? besides a train of thought possibly resembling this.

“Hey, Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow.”
“Wouldn’t a countdown site be neat?”
“Hey, what about that Is It Christmas site? Except Is It NaNo Yet?”
“Forkable code! Victory!”

With the open source code in hand, I got to work modifying the Is It Christmas code, building it at home and at a programming group (and a little at work… shh). The main challenge was creating a countdown timer so visitors could see how far away NaNoWriMo was (or how long until NaNoWriMo ended). I registered and threw the code up on Github with its project pages feature. And thus, Is It NaNo Yet was born, and you can find out just how far NaNoWriMo is.

So… Is it November yet? What about now?

NaNoWriMo 2014 so far

I never seem to blog in November, do I? Funny how that works; I know a ton of folks who do manage to blog during NaNoWriMo, and some do it much more often than others.

Let’s get out of the way what a bunch of you are probably wondering: I’m at 145,400 words right now. Cool? Cool.

This year’s NaNo has been much different than any of my past years. This year is my (lucky?) 13th of participating in NaNoWriMo. Every year has presented its challenges to overcome and its achievements to unlock. This year was no exception. I got NaNo 2014 off to a fun start with making the executive decision not to start the month off with a 50k day and in fact wrote “only” 12.5k on the first day and 25k on the first weekend. This resulted in only good things, actually. In the years of a 50k day, I would find myself too exhausted to write any substantial amount for a week afterward. This year, I kept up the pace of over 10k a day for over a week, reaching 50k on day four and 100k on day eight. Coincidentally, day eight was NaNoWriMo’s Double Up Donation Day, and since doubling my donations and total word count were out of the question, I doubled my daily quota up to that point to reach 100k total.

And then I hit the wall.

Remember when I said this year brought its own challenges? Well, one of those challenges is that I wasn’t writing any new novels from scratch of my own creation this year. My first novel (finished at 70k on day six) was the plot chosen by my top Night of Writing Dangerously donor. But this year I decided to do something different. I had no idea what to write after finishing that novel, but doing a rewrite of my alternate worlds novel was lingering in the back of my mind. This is exactly what happened.

You know what? I loved rewriting that novel. Sure, it fell apart at the end because I had to start thinking about the plot and the science in science fiction, but overall I loved writing it. More importantly, I have a draft to work with that’s much less confusing to follow than my first draft, which was exactly what i wanted out of the rewrite.

But then the crash happened. Even though I loved writing the story, the pressure was on to make it, well, less sucky. This led to me writing a little more slowly and agonizing over every word… even if I know full well that word choice agony is at least a third draft problem. It also led to me trying to make the right plot choices the first time, even though there would be many many drafts where many of the plot points would change.

Who cares? I eventually had to tell myself. Just write The End and worry about it later. And that’s what I wound up doing.

Meanwhile I still needed an idea for what to write after the rewrite was over. Some plots need too much reworking on a short timeframe, others didn’t capture my interest at all right now… the list went on and on. Finally I settled on my 2006 Nano novel, a good premise that didn’t work so well now that the Internet is part of everyone’s lives. Come on, we have computers in our pockets! Surely my main character would have just Googled the person she was looking for.

So I started that novel, even winning a word sprint at the Night of Writing Dangerously while working on that novel. And then, after poking at my novel for days while writing a few sentences at a time, I realized something.

This story was boring. Sure, there are lots of things I could make happen in that story, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care enough about the characters or the plot to do so. In fact, the majority of the plot from the first draft had already happened.

It wasn’t just boredom with the story either. Everything else in my life, things I had ignored in November, suddenly looked so much more appealing. My big stack of books to read. My suspended library holds, which end December first and mean more books. My adventures in code and making things and maybe playing with the NaNoWriMo API. (There’s a write API this year. Exciting!) Writing in here. Writing in my paper journal. Wikiwrimo. Not to mention the pressures of real life pushing down on me and needing to be taken care of in the near future.

Part of me still feels bad, though. Even though I’ve already verified and won, actively quitting a story feels like quitting Nano. This is a different feeling than getting nowhere near finished with a story but still writing to the end, like I did last year. This year feels like I’m quitting, despite winning. I’m not sure how to feel about this. I know what I’m capable of and know that my main 200k goal for this year is still possible, but I want to do everything but work on that story.

“Why don’t you work on something new?” you might ask. That’s the problem. I have plenty of very vague ideas that could spark story ideas, along with at least two more Nano novels I’d like to finish or rewrite. But I have no idea what to do with them, what needs to happen… suddenly I find myself wanting a plan instead of taking a vague idea and running with it. Am I becoming a planner? Dare I say it… maybe. I need a month to flesh out some of those ideas before next November. Maybe that’ll be a camp project. That could be fun.

But for now? I’m going to attempt to resume my other life activities and use all this newly learned info to not burn out next year.

P.S. And for those wondering how the Night of Writing Dangerously went… it was amazing. There will be a post for that. And now that I’ve said as much, it’s going to happen.

P.P.S. This post is longer than what I’ve written in the novel today.

Farewell, #50kday

For the past three years, I’ve completed the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo in the first twenty-four hours. Before completing the challenge, I finished 50,000 earlier every year, so trying to reach the goal in one day was the next step. (Also, alcohol bribes were involved.)

Every 50k day is wonderful and terrible in its own way, but last November first was my last single-day attempt. That said, I am still doing NaNo this year. Just not in 24 hours.

Not that I have to justify my choice to anyone, but in case you’re wondering, I do have a few good reasons…

My body isn’t getting any younger. 50k day is a painful endeavor. Not just for the wrists (though my wrist braces help), but for the rest of my body. My posture is atrocious, meaning my shoulders and back hurt for days after a 50k day. It’s time to end that.

I like sleeping. I really like sleeping. You know how sleeping goes out the window during NaNo when you’re staying up to write enough words to hit the next thousand words or to get ahead of someone else? It’s so much worse when you’re trying to do 50k in a day. Most of that is because 50k day almost has to be done on no sleep. It’s theoretically possible to sleep a normal night’s sleep and still complete 50k day, but the reality looks much different. I’ve finished all three of my 50k days with less than two hours to go, which leaves very little time for sleeping. When you include the very short nap taken on All NaNo’s Eve, this usually means I’m awake for around 40 straight hours, with the exception of a couple of very short naps. I can’t do that anymore. Now I get sleepy before 10pm and sleep about ten hours a night. I really, really like sleeping, and 50k day ensures I get almost no sleep over the course of two days. My body can’t take that anymore.

The emotional recovery takes even longer. The 50k day experience is a roller coaster… and I’m getting off the wild ride.

If you’ve done NaNo before, you’re probably familiar with the week one fresh excitement, week two blues, week three “Hey, I can do this!”, and week four victory. It’s a roller coaster of emotions all crammed into a month of noveling. No wonder we need December to recover from NaNo!

50k day crams all those emotions in 24 hours. And let me tell you, there are few things less exciting than hitting the week two blues at 6am on the first, knowing you have 35k to go, especially on no sleep over the past 24 hours. You know how emotions seem to exaggerate themselves when you’re hungry or tired or otherwise uncomfortable? I’m usually tired and hungry and frustrated with my plot at 6am, and all that combined with the lack of daylight sends me into the 6am blues. And just like NaNo, the only cure is to keep going. And maybe take a quick nap.

But that’s nothing compared to the days following. I barely write for about a week afterward because the 50k day took such a physical and emotional toll on me. Granted, I’m usually trying to start a new novel, and after 24 hours of sitting in a chair and writing, sitting back down and starting something completely different from the last novel feels like the hardest thing. That week it takes for me to get back to writing is a week I could spend, well, writing. And in less pain.

It’s highly unlikely I’ll finish NaNo any faster. I’ve done NaNo for awhile–since 2002, to be specific. And every year I’ve completed 50,000 words earlier, from 6pm on the 30th in 2002 all the way to around 10pm on November first last year. Even my 50k days were completed earlier and earlier, where I shaved off minutes instead of days. And now I’m not sure I can go any faster. Last year’s attempt was my first with zero non-NaNo activities planned around the day, making it was my most efficient attempt. And I still used almost the entire day to write.

Am I quitting the 50k day while I’m ahead? Maybe. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

To all of you attempting a 50k day, or even if you’re just thinking about it: I salute you and your wrists. And I’ll probably still join in on a 50k weekend this year.

50k Day: how I did it

I completed a 50,000 word day on November first for each of the past three years. I fully recognize the ridiculousness of this feat and have wondered how people have done it in the past before my overachieving days, so let’s talk about how I did it.

Before beginning: I know several other people who have done a 50k day in the past, and one who went beyond this crazy to do a 75k day. At least one has written up their tips on completing the challenge. Besides the sitting down and writing part, all of our approaches are different. What works for me might not work for them (or you), and vice versa.

So without further ado…

How to write a novel in a day

Plan your novel beforehand. Or don’t. It’s up to you, really. Just be okay if that outline you painstakingly thought through weeks in advance gets tossed out the window at 5am because your main character decided to go on a killing spree. Not that this has happened before or anything. It is a very good idea to have at least a vague premise unless you’re REALLY good at making stuff up as you go along. And make sure it’s something you’re excited about writing. You know how you find yourself hating what you’re writing and the world sucks and why didn’t you just write 2k for day one? Well, imagine that feeling at 6am when you’ve barely slept for the last day. It sucks. But just like the week two blues, you can get past the 6am blues.

Take care of important tasks due during the first week of NaNo before November gets here. Chances are good you have some bill due at the beginning of the month. For me, that’s rent. Send out those bills before November first so you don’t realize they’re late on the second. Especially if, like 2014, the second is on a Sunday.

Tell everyone you know. Well, tell everyone you’re normally in contact with that you have some big plans for that day and seriously, don’t contact you unless the house is on fire or something equally in need of your intervention. If you normally work on the day you’re attempting this, I highly recommend taking a day off from work if you’d otherwise be working because you need all the time you can get.

Take a nap the evening before. This is where I usually fail miserably thanks to putting off everything until the last minute. But if you can manage it, finish all your prep before All NaNo’s Eve, then do whatever you need to do to fall asleep until around 11pm.

Sleep–but not for long. Our bodies need sleep (unless you’re already a cyborg, in which case TELL ME YOUR SECRET). But let’s be real here, you’ll probably need almost the entire 24 hours to write that 50k. Sleeping takes up a lot of time. My recommendation: catnaps. Set a timer and sleep for 15 or so minutes at a time. It won’t be as refreshing as a full night’s sleep (especially if you didn’t follow the tip about the evening nap), but it might be enough until you get that second wind.

Drink fluids that aren’t caffeinated. Caffeine is great, but too much caffeine isn’t. Water is a good thing to have too. I like to alternate tea with water or hot chocolate to hit all these needs. If you do go with coffee or soda, watch the intake.

Eat. And not just candy or chips or whatever you can get your hands on. You’re staying up for at least 24 hours straight, and your body needs long-lasting nourishment to do that without keeling over. I wake up starving every morning, and the only thing that keeps my stomach from eating itself in the middle of the night is that part where I’m sleeping. As for 50k day, I make a big pot of soup a day or two before and eat off it throughout the day (after breakfast, of course). Be prepared to eat at unusual times, like those times just before dawn when you might otherwise be sleeping.

Write consistently. That’s the only way you’re going to get this done, after all. But considering most folks need to write for almost all the 24 hours, it’s a good idea to have a consistent writing schedule and set goals for yourself. I wrote for 45 minutes, then took a 15-minute brain break. You can do this or a 15/5 or 10/5 or whatever you want as long as you sit down and write consistently. I used my fifteen minute breaks for Internet and brain and stretch and food breaks, then watched the minutes pass and thought “Hocrap, better get back into writing mode” as the top of the hour grew closer.

Pay attention to your body. This includes your wrists, your elbows, and posture. Make sure you’re writing in a comfortable and ergonomic writing environment. That means shoulders relaxed, 90-degree angle at your elbow, sitting up straight. Most of my pain didn’t come from my wrists (though there was some–the wrist braces helped there) but from my shoulders and back because my posture is atrocious. When something starts hurting, stop. That pain’s there for a reason.

Reward yourself. Who doesn’t like rewards? You can do mini-rewards or a big one at the end. Last year I had five bonbons left and ate one for every 10,000 words. My first attempt, I had a bottle of wine ready for the end. Do whatever works for you.

Stay strong. Never give up. Be awesome. No matter how much you write, you’re doing something amazing. Own it. Then when the calendar turns to November second, go to sleep, wake up later, and do something else awesome.

Why I am not a NaNoWriMo ML

Before I get started: these reasons have nothing to do with my co-MLs, Wrimos in my region, or the NaNoWriMo staff. Seriously. They’re all wonderful.

I didn’t meet any fellow NaNoWriMo particpants in person until my fourth NaNoWriMo. This was primarily because of growing up in a small town in the hills of north Georgia, so the few fellow Wrimos I knew, I had told them about NaNo myself. (One of them is still doing NaNo over ten years later!) So when college application time came, I based my college choices almost fully on creative writing programs that I would never complete and active NaNoWriMo regions.

That was how I wound up in Atlanta, a large city with plenty of Wrimos and plenty of classmates to spread the NaNo news to. I remember attending my first in-person event, a kickoff at a coffee shop within walking distance of campus. And even though there weren’t any other spring chickens like me in attendance, there were writers of all ages, a Municipal Liaison (ML) giving out stickers, and people I would see regularly at write-ins and kickoffs and TGIO parties over the next several years. I would host write-ins at this coffee place over the next several years.

It was during this time I thought of how much fun MLing would be. Besides being in charge, I’d get to meet all kinds of Wrimos and help them toward their goals. Sure, this was something I was kind of doing on the forums anyway, but in-person encouragement! Meeting other Wrimos! The highlighter yellow shirt! Over the next few years, the Atlanta region grew by leaps and bounds. I graduated from college and did an internship, but still found myself back in the boonies where I grew up by 2010.

But I’m not a small-town girl, and I had no desire to live in a lonely world. So after nearly two years of scraping by, I sold some possessions and started taking up freelance gigs in the hope of moving back to Atlanta before NaNoWriMo 2011. This prompted the current Atlanta MLs to invite me to apply as a co-ML. I did and became one of the NaNoLanta ML Quartet, then moved back to Atlanta just before Labor Day weekend. It was ON.

…until I actually got to work on ML tasks.

Since my ginormous region had four MLs that year, we decided it was time to do all the programs. Reaching out to schools, complete with a custom guide to getting NaNo enthusiasm in schools. Adopt a Day. Goodie bags and prizes. Our first local Night of Writing Dangerously spinoff, the Evening of Writing Wildly. A customized Google map of all our region’s writeins. Customized newbie and mentor pairings. And a bunch of other things that are slipping my mind now.

It was going to be the best NaNo ever! I was excited and idealistic… and then the panic and freak out mode started.

I was living on a shoestring, and while some of my co-MLs were pouring in money for prizes and goodie bags and other exciting things, I would risk missing some important bills if I tossed money around like that, and my Night of Writing Dangerously plans weren’t helping with that. Even though I know now it didn’t make a difference to how my co-MLs saw me and my MLing duties, nor did they expect me to pour in a bunch of funds myself, back then it only increased the guilt and stress.

That year my attention was divided into four major areas: MLing, the NaNo forums, Wikiwrimo, and Night of Writing Dangerously planning, compared to the only two (and previously, one) that I was used to. I spent my days working and looking for better work, while my nights were devoted to pairing newbies with mentors and writing a school guide and answering emails/messages and plotting write-ins on a map and trying to check in on the forums and updating Wikiwrimo and about a thousand other things.

Slowly but surely the ML duties took over, leaving the forums and wiki neglected. Around mid-October I told myself I was never ever doing this again, and that feeling only intensified as the month went on. I might have sobbed on my co-MLs on multiple occasions and to myself on a daily basis.

Because while I was good at encouraging local Wrimos and hosting write-ins and many of the ML duties, I didn’t feel like I was doing enough for the rest of the NaNo community. The forums had kept me company during my first few NaNos, and NaNo season is incredibly busy for Wikiwrimo. But in my MLhood, I found myself connecting to and getting to know fewer Wrimos, not more as I had hoped. I remember reading the ML forums and seeing stuff like “You know you’re an ML when…” and I had related to a bunch of those things for years. (In fact, a few folks thought I was already an ML!) Was I gatecrashing the club? It sure felt like I was, especially in a community where so many people already knew each other–probably the most awkward social scenario for me.

And on top of that, 2011 was the year of the big relaunch, when the NaNoWriMo site was rebuilt from scratch with Ruby on Rails. While my fellow beta testers and I tested everything we could on the beta site, but a few bugs returned or just went unnoticed. The ones relevant to MLs led to a LOT of (understandable but still irksome for me) complaining on the ML forums. Can’t everyone just be friends (or at least friendly acquaintances) forever?

October went from the second most exciting time of year (after November, of course!) to the most stressful. And I was not okay with that.

It wasn’t all bad, and November was a breeze compared to the constant nervousness of October. The midnight write-in I hosted at my house was a jumping board for many of my good friends now. I met several far-flung Nano buddies over a weekend. Despite being broke, I attended the Night of Writing Dangerously and had a blast. (Pssst, I’m going again this year.) I joined the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter team (and have stayed there since–word’s still mum on this year). I watched as so many Nano buddies crossed 50k (and more!), a few in the first 24 hours. I joined them. Oh, and I wrote 234k over three novels–my second highest NaNo word count of all.

But even a fabulous November couldn’t make up for the October stresses, so I swore to myself never to ML again, if only to turn October back into a fun month. Plus this means lots more time to forum and wiki and encourage even more Wrimos, things I can do and am good at. Even my September wiki panics are nothing compared to my ML panics of 2011.

Still, sometimes you have to find out the hard way.

If you want to ML, I absolutely encourage it! Don’t let my tale scare you away. The NaNo staff and other MLs are wonderful, supportive people, and chances are your Wrimos are too. Just remember the first step to MLing: take care of yourself and don’t take on more than you’re comfortable with. A happy ML leads to happy Wrimos, and that’s your goal: encouraging Wrimos to the finish line.

NaNoWriMo 2014 relaunch approacheth

And I think I’m ready. Almost everything that needs to be fixed on Wikiwrimo has been fixed or updated. There are lots of things that need improvement, but I’m okay with the current state of things. I’m not running around like a headless chicken trying to finish all the things, and this is a very good thing. Some things can wait until after NaNo.

My Night of Writing Dangerously fundraising page is almost halfway to its goal. YAY! If you donate, you could be in one of my novels. As @Dammit__Woman said on Twitter, I’ve figured out immortality. So donate and be in my novel.

As for plot… yeah, about that. I still have nothing. And considering I’m shooting for 200k this year in my attempt to reach 1.5million words over all my NaNos to date, I should probably get on that.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

NaNoWriMo changed things, but it’s okay. Really.

Chances are good you know me from National Novel Writing Month, a writing challenge where participants write a 50,000-word novel from scratch.

Wait. Scratch that.

From the NaNo FAQ:

Do I have to start my novel from scratch on the first of the month? Can I use an outline?

We think NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. However, what’s most important is being excited about what you’re writing. If you want to work on a pre-existing project, you have our full support!

Wait a minute, that’s not “from scratch”.

This change is a recent one that will start to take effect for NaNo 2014. You don’t HAVE to start your novel from scratch anymore, but it’s still encouraged.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. It’s not a rule change, it’s a rule adaptation, one that adapts to the needs of the community because people were already continuing works for NaNo. Even ten years ago returning Wrimos were invoking the completely unofficial Zokutou clause to win NaNo by completing a first draft. They were a small group, but over time more people started using NaNo and its inspirational community to get started on a project or heck, finish one. This is a wonderful thing. Not only are more people writing, but they’re writing more types of things, from novels to scripts to academic theses to poetry collections. And they’re sharing their knowledge and process with the NaNo community, cheering others on, and contributing to the overall camaraderie.

NaNoWriMo believes your story matters, and you’re the only one who can tell it. Not just the one you started on November first. Your story. That includes your existing story too. Neither one is better, though one may be more challenging depending on your writerly disposition. They’re both valid ways of finishing your tale.

All this said, I plan on continuing to start my NaNo novels from scratch, so those unfinished books will have to wait for camp. As for you? Start from scratch or pick up an existing novel. As long as you’re writing, that’s what matters.