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.