My first NaNoWriMo experience


As of midnight on the final day of NaNoWriMo, I had 74,971 words. That final day was my all-time best, with 6,571 words written. I achieved my win on Day 23, and validated with a bit over 51,000 words. If I hadn’t been zapped by that mystery bug for two weeks and had a lot of my energy taken away, I probably would’ve written at least 80,000 words. Remember, I wrote a 397,000-word first draft in three months and a 406,000-word first draft in five months, so I can definitely write very prolifically in a very short time when I’m motivated.

I went to the final two writeins for my area, and was able to get a lot of words in thanks to all the sprints and lack of distractions. I’m very happy to learn this group does year-round, weekly writeins, since I haven’t really belonged to a real writers’ group since Creative Writing Club in high school. I was one of two overachievers in this group; the other overachiever wrote at least 150,000 words.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to set insane goals for other NaNo projects, or try to crank out the first 50,000 on the first day. I’m a realistic overachiever, not taking the challenge to an unrealistic extreme. I happen to naturally write very prolifically, very quickly, but I’d never force myself to complete the challenge within 24 hours or write over 300,000 words by Day 30. That takes away the emotional experience you get from the journey of writing your story at a natural pace, over a longer period of time.

I’m glad I finally signed up, after a few times of starting books in November but not officially joining NaNo. Had I known you only need to write 50,000 words to win, and aren’t expected to write a book complete at that scant length, I would’ve been signing up a long time ago! Now that November is over, I can go back through the book in the normal order, and fill in all the deliberate gaps and unfinished chapters I left to get back to. I just didn’t have enough time to properly research some of these things, and I went in without any sort of outline or notes.

The original 1996 material (can’t access the somewhat fleshed-out 2001 version) was a hot, shapeless mess. It definitely came from a well-meaning place and a great idea, but it just wasn’t executed properly. The narration style was a beyond-awkward gimmick, character and plot development were paper-thin to non-existent, there was no real historical accuracy, and there was no real story arc. Things just happened, with no real motivations or gradual development propelling them along.

During this near-complete rewrite, I even changed the name of the unlikely Tsaritsa from Varvara/Varya to Arkadiya, and the names of two of the Imperial children from Stepan and Darya to Yaroslav/Yarik and Dina. I already have a Darya and don’t want to reuse her name on another character, and I just don’t like the names Stepan and Varvara that much. Although Arkadiya’s baptismal name does happen to be Varvara, since there’s no Saint Arkadiya that I know of.


This is one of those stories of my heart, like Little Ragdoll, that I just felt compelled to create. My conscience never would’ve forgiven me if I’d left this story on permanent hiatus and never returned to it. I wasn’t ready to write it the way it needed to be written at only 16 or 21. From the time I began learning about Russia’s last Imperial Family at age 15, I was just drawn to Aleksey in particular.

Maybe it was because he was the closest in age to me at the time, along with my natural preference for male company over female and a mothering, protective instinct for this sickly child who was denied a full life. And Aleksey also happens to be one of my three favoritest Russian male names, the others being Ivan and Boris (when pronounced properly, not in their ugly Anglo manglings).

At any rate, I just had to give him a happy ending in an alternative version of history. A number of contemporaries observed he probably would’ve made a better Tsar than his inept father, since he had a greater sense of compassion, was highly intelligent and sensitive beyond his years, was a more natural leader, and was getting more appropriate experience from a young age. And he actually became stronger and healthier as he got older, with more time between his hemophilia attacks. I truly believe he could’ve lived to adulthood and been an amazing Tsar.

I’ve always been a deeply spiritual person, long before I was ever religious. Perhaps, from the other world, he wanted me to give him the happy ending he was denied in this life. That’s a really humbling thought, and a sacred, beautiful trust I can’t betray.


6 thoughts on “My first NaNoWriMo experience

  1. Congratulations! I was always interested in little Aleksey, too. I find the idea of him getting a happy ending to be wonderful. I think that’s why people are so taken with the tale of Anastasia. It’s nice to believe one of them could have survived. My father-in-law was a hemophiliac who wasn’t expected to live into his teens (that was the expected life span at that time). He lived into his late fifties. 🙂


  2. I think I just *might * be the other overachiever (I owe it all to the Vulcans, really. Not only are they fascinating and logical, but they’re also bit bossy!).

    I love the realistic part of your description. I don’t feel like an overachiever, and I don’t drive myself to write. I just love it, and, when the story is flowing, the words can really pile up. I also happen to have a life that makes it easy and valuable to embrace my passions.

    But I don’t want my writing to make me an absent wife or mother. So, there was a birthday party, a swim, a workout, a date, and other stuff sprinkled through my month. The first day of NaNo in found me in central New Jersey, because that’s where my kids like to be on Halloween, – and then there was a five hour drive home…

    I am also extremely left-handed, and I was about the same age when I became fascinated by the last Tsar and his family…I can’t wait to read this, when you’re finished! =D

    So glad to have met you this year, and hope to see you at some of those write-ins along the way!


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