My second official NaNo experience


I won my second official NaNo with 71,040 words, but I honestly feel as though that weren’t my best effort. Last year I did 74,971 words while dealing with a bad cold which turned into a violent, lingering cough that lasted over two weeks (and continued on and off until about April). This year I didn’t have that to deal with, and yet I still couldn’t equal or top last year’s word count. Even taking into account how I always lose almost all of Saturday and much of Friday, that doesn’t represent what I know I can do under normal circumstances.

I had a respectably strong start, writing 5,073 words the first day, hitting the 10,000-word mark on Day Three, and hitting 15,000 during Day Five.

NaNo Day 10 2015

The 20,000-word mark came during Day Eight, and 25,000 came during Day Ten. With that kind of momentum, I should’ve won a few days sooner than I did, and had at least 75K by the end.

NaNo Day 15 2015

Most days I was at least on par, though there were some days, most notably Fridays and Saturdays, where I was below even 1,000 words. Other days I didn’t write the at least 2,000 words I know I’m capable of. I also lost just about all of the 21st, a Saturday as well as the second day of a Cecil B. DeMille film festival.

On Friday, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church was kind enough to lend their beautiful sanctuary for a screening of the original Ten Commandments (1923), which was accompanied by two live organists. On Saturday, The Madison Theater screened Chicago (1927), Madame Satan (1930), and The Golden Bed (1925). The lattermost film (lost for over 40 years) had its world première, not counting a previous screening at the George Eastman House.

NaNo Day 22 2015

I knew I had to make up for losing the vast majority of Friday and Saturday, and so put in way more effort than usual that Sunday. After learning Cecil B. DeMille had a foot fetish (which explains why his films have so many foot shots), I made Igor’s first sight of Violetta her feet, from the other side of her library carrel. They met a few times as children, but this is their first real, adult meeting.

Since Violetta is (unbeknownst to Igor, but known to the reader from the third book) a polio survivor, it also makes sense she’d gussy up her feet in such beautiful shoes, stockings, nailpolish, anklets, and ankle watches. She’s lucky she can walk, after being almost completely paralyzed and spending a lot of time in an iron lung.

NaNo Day 25 2015

Just as last year, I got my win on 23 November. I’d forgotten that day was Harpo Marx’s birthday (1888), and the birthday of my dear little Amalia (Malchen) von Hinderburg (1932). Maybe that’s why I’ve struck 50K on that day twice now. Our soul sometimes chooses days for us, just like I decided to get born on the fifth night of Chanukah instead of on my original estimated due date two weeks earlier.

I ran myself ragged trying to get my word count up as high as possible on the final day. I even added in my table of contents and the cast of characters to bump it up a bit. That was not cheating, since I did tinker with the TOC during November, and I edited the character list as well. To be fair, I only included as far as characters introduced thus far, not the entire master list.

NaNo Last Day 2015

I seriously was just writing rambling nonsense by the final paragraph, wanting so desperately to get that word count up as high as possible, reach 71K since I was that damn close, and be #2 in my region’s Faces of NaNo graph. Someone made a pretty painful, obvious typo at the end, so I was bumped down to #3. Given her previous word counts, I’m pretty sure she meant 70,153 instead of 700,153!

As soon as midnight struck, I cleaned up what I’d written in the ending minutes. I also planned to delete a scene where Mr. Golitsyn (Ivan’s uncle by marriage and a former prince) goes to visit the parents of his daughter Vasilisa’s new beau Dragomir.  Now I’m not sure I still have the heart to expunge it. It’s not all backstory, and I love the idea of having a scene at The Dakota. It also hints at a subplot which really surprised me.

I quickly got annoyed by having to manually total my word counts, so I pasted all the chapters into a master file, and created separate chapter files. Now I can go back to only writing in chapter files instead of going back and forth.


Violetta’s present to Igor on his 19th birthday, Vasiliy Kondratyevich Sazonov’s First Meeting of Prince Igor with Olga. They were the first rulers of the Ryurikovich Dynasty after only Prince Ryurik himself, and Olga was the first of six women to rule Russia to date.

Violetta and Igor don’t meet till almost 50K in, which is where all the tension and drama starts collecting. I like to think of the first 100 pages or so of a saga as buildup towards the first inciting event, just as songs like “New Religion” and “Eminence Front” start with over a minute of just instruments. It builds your anticipation and hooks you. My conservative guesstimate for this book is 350K, so that first 71K is just a drop in the bucket.


12 thoughts on “My second official NaNo experience

    • I’ll never understand all the extreme overachievers who claim to have written hundreds of thousands of words during NaNo, even over a million. How is that even possible if you have a normal life? You’d have to spend pretty much 16 hours or so every day writing, without anything else to do, and no contact with other living things. Even I think that’s far too long for the vast majority of books, unless they’re counting multiple projects as one.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve written 397K in three months and 406K in five months, but I highly doubt I could’ve written those first drafts any faster! Some people say they take off the entire November from work so they can do nothing but write, but it doesn’t seem very healthy to spend your whole month doing almost nothing but writing, and putting THAT many words into one project, or a series of connected projects.


  1. I actually think you did great. Yes, I know, you expected to write more because circumstances were better than last yeat, but I think every story is different. Some stories are fast and easy to write, some other require more thoughts. Probably this was one such story.

    The most important part is that you did write it and now can revise and make it even better 🙂


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