Posted in Atlantic City books, Word Count, Writing

IWSG—Lessons learnt from my ninth official NaNo


It’s time for the last Insecure Writer’s Support Group meeting of 2022. The IWSG convenes the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles.

I feel almost like my NaNo win was cheated, since a fair amount came from creative nonfiction (journal entries, blog posts, etc.) and material that didn’t make it into my master file for Almost As an Afterthought. I also didn’t spend as much time writing each day as I should’ve.

However, I did redeem myself for my humiliating wins of the last two years, where I only crawled across the finish line on the final day. I also finally got back to writing in my journal Mary every day, after another few months of hiatus. (I’m long overdue to write an updated, improved post about my journalling history!) With the obvious exception of 29 November (George Harrison’s 21st death anniversary), 99% of my journal entries were about NaNo and my writing habits.

You can tell which days are Saturdays from the sharp drops! I don’t use my computer from Friday sundown to Saturday nightfall.

While I was writing to Mary (named after The Monkees’ song “Mary, Mary” and Pete Townshend’s solo song “Mary”), a major realisation about my writing (or lack thereof) in recent years dawned on me. Because lockdown wrecked my mental health and normal daily wordcounts, I turned my primary focus to editing books for publication and working on slightly tweaked new editions. During the two years pre-lockdown, I also spent a lot of time on that pursuit.

Hence, I somehow latched into permanent editor mode and forgot how to write the way I did for the previous 35ish years of my life. Joyfully, uninhibited, letting books write me instead of the other way around, saving the rewriting and editing for later, just focusing on getting the raw story out first.

I became all about writing slowly, carefully, cognizant of what’s worth keeping, what’s trash, what should be moved to a later book, what could be repurposed for later in this book. Hence, writing and rewriting a phrase or sentence over and over. Deciding to junk lines that don’t work. Realising as I’m writing that a scene, section, or dialogue is clutter or crap that doesn’t belong there, and moving it into a file of deleted material or only keeping it in the NaNo file.

That never happened to me before. With chutzpahdik confidence, I thought every last word was gold and would automatically remain. Only during edits would I look at the material with fresh eyes and sort out the clutter.

I ended up going the total opposite direction and approaching all first drafts with the critical eyes of an editor as I’m actively creating them.

While I stand by my decisions about what to work on and not work on during NaNo, and am glad I got a solid start on the near-total rewrite of Afterthought, I do feel in hindsight that perhaps it wasn’t the most ideal time to start. I eventually began writing out of order and leaving chapters unfinished to get back to later, since the words weren’t flowing as effortlessly as I hoped, and some parts needed slower and more careful writing due to incorporating research.

Also, I was writing without the context of a completed rewrite of The Very Last, esp. considering there are several very big changes in Cinni’s life in the second half of TVL.

During the last 20 minutes or so, I was frantically typing rambling, incoherent nonsense and clutter I knew wouldn’t make it into the master file. I just wanted to get as many words as possible before midnight and get to the next goal of 62K.

Not bad considering the last two years!

Once December started, it was like a veil lifted, and my normal writing finally resumed with my resumption of TVL. One of this year’s winner prizes is a free title upload at IngramSpark, so I’m hoping to have that book all polished and ready by the 15 March deadline. I obviously won’t rush if it’s not ready by then, but it’s a good goal to work towards.

Did you do NaNo this year? What was your experience like? Have you ever redeemed yourself after a bad patch or disappointing experience?


Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

7 thoughts on “IWSG—Lessons learnt from my ninth official NaNo

    1. So true, Alex, about patterns.

      It does help to have insight – and ways to break or bend the pattern.

      If you find yourself thinking about the fifty thousand as a minimum…

      Carrie-Anne did this when she was writing “out of order”.

      And editing is a good thing to do under lockdown or other adversity.


  1. First: I would like to say “Congratulations, Carrie-Anne”!

    Second: I can say I can relate very much to that whole “joyful and uninhibited” writing way, even though it was for a very limited period of my writing life [which in perspective is more than some people have had hot dinners].

    Third: good luck with IngramSpark! My local library has released a set of competition short stories under that press all about COVID-19 and people’s experiences of lockdown.

    Fourth: stories are like recipes – they have their own ways of cooking and baking. [yes, this is a reference to the Slovakian Bake-Off recipe].

    Fifth: last I saw you you had some 60,000 words.

    Sixth: It would be really great to read about “Mary” and what has been going on since you started journalling again in handwriting.

    Seventh: March is a good time from a marketing and promotion point of view.


    “Did you do NaNo this year? What was your experience like? Have you ever redeemed yourself after a bad patch or disappointing experience?”

    [I can see question 3 is much more about general writing life than under the high pressure environment of NaNoWriMo].

    1. I tried to do NaNoWriMo this year. I got as far as a title and a genre. And that it would be {narrative} non-fiction.

    [and, yes, the title was THIRTY-FIVE YEAR RULE. Commonwealth nations have the TEN-YEAR RULE or the THIRTY-YEAR rule when it comes to Cabinet documents or Freedom of Information requests].

    2. My experience was … I went to some of the regional forums shortly before the Melbourne Cup.

    3. Yes, I have. “Disappointing experiences” for me are more common than “bad patches” – as are the reasons for them and the emotions which are contained in them.

    In a sense my present writing life is an ongoing redemption from experiences in the mid-2000s and late-2000s.

    [I did not expect to have a writing life this last decade at all – or really past 2017].

    And from the point of view of 1987: I should not have had a writing life or a creative life at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Incredible. So analytical and truthful, so much work done, whatever its chutzpah content rating.
    NaNo ? [;aceMe ? Friend and I really considered having a first go, but the friend ran into a major resources crisis ( their workplace sacking as many university staff as possible) Friend focused on keeping job, NaNo and their WIP on hold.
    Me ? Plan A looked good, hole in roof to be fixed at last me to take a fortnight off, on guard, while builders worked. Two weeks, solo, writing all day.At the last minute, they cancelled, the rain didn’t. Major repeat surgery for somebody close, Writing took a back seat, especially in Scotland, climbing hills.,
    So far, December’s another world. Even a favourite Monet for my calendar. Friend kept their uni job, is sad for colleagues. Builders promised a new date and the rain’s stopped at last. At – 8C, even puddles are art work. George Harrison ? As everybody said, the Beatles are dying in the wrong order.


    1. Esther:

      I too found this INSECURE WRITERS’ GROUP December post analytical and truthful.

      [and, yes, chutzpah counts].

      Did you mean “Place”? Weird keyboard!

      [or perhaps you use a mobile phone/smartphone where the feedback and attack is slippery]

      Hope your friends’ university colleagues are able to move forward in their lives.

      And best wishes for repeat surgery.

      Hill-climbing and writing.

      Snow and frost are definitely artwork – especially with the puddle situation.

      What is your favourite Monet?

      Interesting idea that “The Beatles are dying in the wrong order”.

      [it is probably not an idea that circulated in some of my Beatlefan circles over the years]

      If you are thinking about eldest to youngest: Paul “should” have died first.

      John and George dying when they did was sort of a major warp in the weft.

      And Ringo is still of course very much alive. I would feel a Ringo-shaped hole in the universe.

      [he was probably my favourite Beatle before I knew he was a Beatle…

      Thinking about the university situation again.

      There is a good book by Alex Miller called A BRIEF AFFAIR.

      I cannot help but think – so many Good People put out to pasture as if they were so many heads of sheep or of cattle.

      [Livestock can be so deindividualised]

      Rain recognises no cancellations or checks…


  3. Odd spelling ? Weird keyboatd ? Neither. Tears (functional, not emotional) Allergy to something, fogging my contacts.

    Friend survived, sad for lost colleagues.
    Love ice as art work.
    Monet ? Impossible to have a favourite.
    Ringo ? Definitely.


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