Lessons learnt from my third official NaNo


At the risk of sounding like a ridiculous humble-bragger, this was NOT my best effort for a month worth of writing. I know I can do so, so much better than this, and yet I had an even lower wordcount than last year’s 71K.

What went wrong, and what could I have done better?

I didn’t have any real time to do a full read-through of the pre-existing material. I was a NaNo rebel, going back to my fourth Russian novel, which I hadn’t touched since 30 December 2015. Therefore, a lot of important details, establishing information, and seeds of subplots were no longer fresh in my mind.

I didn’t even have time to do a full spellcheck! This applied to last year’s material as well, most of which had never had spellcheck run. It was really embarrassing to discover typos and bizarre autocorrects like “bothie” instead of “nothing,” “alway” instead of “always,” and a missing space between two words. I manually edited my wordcount to add that missing word!


Perhaps I spent too much time in research, instead of coming back to fill in the blanks with more details.

I temporarily forgot some details I knew very well during my first wind of this project. It was really embarrassing to realize I’d started a conversation between Igor and Violetta as though NYU were co-ed in this era. I knew Violetta was at the women’s Washington Square campus, and yet here I was writing like she and Igor could’ve taken classes together.


No time to go through my chapter-by-chapter notes to see if there were any details I should add, in light of new subplots which had organically unfolded. I also didn’t have much time to do subsequent revisions of my working table of contents, apart from adding a few new chapters and renumbering everything.

Forgetting to include chapters for kind of really important events, like the respective 30th birthdays of Tatyana and Yuriy. I also didn’t set aside any chapters or scenes for the mysteries behind Katya and Dmitriy’s new friends Dagmara (Marusya) and Zosim (Sima).

A certain event early in November which made a lot of us really lose our bearings for awhile. My normal daily wordcount suffered for awhile due to this, and some people on the forums even announced they were already giving up.


Not setting aside enough time in each day to do nothing but write without interruptions. My daily wordcount was below or barely above par on a number of days, not just Fridays and Saturdays. One of those days was due to having a cold, and then I had my old friend dysmenorrhea to contend with near the end of the month. (Warning to my male readers: I’m planning blog posts on dysmenorrhea, menarche, and menstruation in historical fiction.)

After NaNo, I went back to read through what I hadn’t already gone through, and began my first round of edits. For example, I finally was able to revise an unfinished scene with Mr. Golitsyn (a former prince) and the parents of his daughter Vasilisa’s new beau Dragomir. I’d planned to junk it entirely, since there was a lot of infodumpy dialogue, and it seemed more like an excuse to write a scene at The Dakota, but something held me back from deleting it. It reads much more naturally now, and plants the seeds of two great subplots.


Feeling too worn-out to pull another marathon final day as I did last year. I wrote over 7,000 words last year on the final day, in spite of having already won on Day 23, just to push my wordcount up as high as possible. This year I only was in the 2,000 range on the last day.

I know 65,524 words in thirty days is nothing to sneeze at, but I know I’m capable of writing a LOT more. Still, I’m now up to 149K total for this book (not counting back and front matter like the cast of characters, glossary, and table of contents), which is about a third of the way done.


Just as last year, my daily wordcounts and creative drive seriously amped up as I got closer to 50K. I needed some time to get fully back into the swing of things, in spite of having known many of these characters for over twenty years.

I also discovered some unplanned characters, like the Novak-Kolarov family from Yugoslavia and a former Marine captain who lost much of his right leg at Iwo Jima.


8 thoughts on “Lessons learnt from my third official NaNo

  1. Considering everything that was going on, the time elapsed, and the less than ideal chances for review, I think you rocked this thing (and since I was there for parts of it, it’s not an unfounded thought!).

    So, it wasn’t perfect, and things didn’t smooth out as much as you’d hoped – but you kept on and persevered, and, even if you didn’t get as far along or as well as you wanted, you’ve still made a solid chunk of progress.

    Sometimes it’s more baby steps than leaps, but, so long as we believe in ourselves, our passions, and our visions…does it matter so much, in the end?

    Liked by 1 person

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