NaNoWriMo 2017 Wrap-Up

amulet with iridescent blue eye lying on wooden table, title The Poet's EyeSo another National Novel Writing Month has ended. (That’s the challenge when your writer friends curl up in a dark corner to pound out 50,000 words, or roughly The Great Gatsby, in the space of a month.)

This was the fastest NaNo ever for me, as I finished about halfway through November. (In this case it’s important to note that “finished” means I hit my 50,000 words, not that the novel is done. The novel is definitely not done.) I picked up an older idea that I’d started but set aside — but that title is probably not final, and that cover is definitely not final.

Several notable and cool things about this year’s NaNoWriMo:

The Mostly-Annual Creative Retreat

My creative retreat happened again this year, albeit in a different form. Usually we like to go away for a few days, but this year we ended up mostly congregating in a single house, which I drove to visit. It wasn’t ideal — I still felt like I had my usual duties at home and work — but quite a lot of us got a lot done, and it’s always fantastic to be in an environment where everyone is pushing everyone else. Karmada Arts got a new comic completely written and sketched, ZJ Bickel put the hurt on a gorgeous street scene for Parlor Magic, and four writers beat down some words.

Collapsed rhino. Get the caffeine, but keep going.The NaNoRhino

The NaNoRhino made his debut. He was born of a gloriously terrible pun by first-time NaNo participant Kayla a year ago this week, and so we prepared for his coming in 2017. Each day the NaNoRhino made the social media rounds, spreading encouragement to all who needed him.

gooey cookie filled with chocolate with cup in background

The proper ratio of chocolate to cookie.

The Quirky Feather

Several NaNo events were held at The Quirky Feather Confectionery. This little gem makes such ridiculous fantasies as Crossroads Chocolate Chip Cookies (3 kinds of chips) and Turkish Delight hot chocolate.

I was told no one had ever ordered and finished a large Turkish Delight hot chocolate. So I ordered one and tweeted:

John Locke from LOST, shouting "Don't tell me what I can't do"

Because The Quirky Feather is cool, they tweeted back at me, even though I was sitting twenty feet from the counter. They were very supportive, and in the end they approved my victory.

bottom of empty cup

I’m not usually a coffeehouse kind of person, but the Quirky Feather has the potential to be very, very bad for me. Good news: it’s almost exactly on the opposite side of town from me. Bad news: it’s almost exactly on the opposite side of town from me. /sigh/

The House Cup for Nindy (Indianapolis NaNoWriMo Region)

I joined a Hogwarts house. My regional NaNo group each year hosts a House Cup competition, but I’d never participated in that particular venue. This year, however, I jumped in. While I’ve always considered myself a Slytherdor, I had to commit for this event, and Pottermore sorted me Slytherin.

My friend Kayla (of NaNoRhino fame) is a Hufflepuff.

Let the wars begin.

For some reason /cough/ the other houses don’t like Slytherin much. Might it have something to do with Slytherin winning for years in a row, despite consistently being the smallest house? Hard to say.

All month our region runs a Penny War, in which participants contribute pennies toward house points (five pennies means five points) and silver change and even paper toward other houses to deduct points (one dime means negative ten points). Four jars in house colors travel to all official region events for contributions. All proceeds are donated to NaNoWriMo’s non-profit, not only for the annual challenge but for their educational programs year-round.

As you might guess, the house pennies don’t raise nearly so much as the hate change from other houses. Kayla started it during our NaNoWeek kickoff party by ostentatiously planting a five dollar bill in the Slytherin jar. And it was on.

On Black Friday, I was at a local write-in when I saw the barista rolling coins from the tip jar. I went to her and asked if I could buy her pennies. “No one has ever wanted pennies before,” she said, perplexed, but agreed to sell them to me.

I sent this photo in a group text to my sister Alena (also Slytherin) and to Kayla (Hufflepuff).

roll of pennies sitting on jar with green lid, caption "Oops. My hand slipped."

Kayla sent a great reaction selfie, which just meant Alena had to escalate (she was a guest at a Doctor Who convention at the time, hence the Captain Jack costume):

Alena cosplaying Captain Jack Harkness with $15 in her mouth

Kayla called us “rude.” So I went home and found the jar in which I’d been collecting spare change for years. I sent a photo with the message, “My army is ready.”

pile of pennies in foreground, a hovering RPG dragon figurine, and ranks of stacked silver coins

And then I had to stop by on Sunday’s write-in, just to drop it off. I edited the video and sent it off to my Hufflepuff friend.

Oh, the salty faces…! Immediately someone pulled a five-dollar bill to throw against the Slytherin points. See how we inspire charitable giving?

This week, when the change was totaled at the House Cup meeting, Slytherin had more money contributed against them than the other three houses had in total. We started the House Cup at a full negative 10,000 points, about 6,000 points behind the #3 spot. All four houses were in the negative, actually, before the word wars started.

Then we started the House Cup word sprints, adjusted for number of participants in each house, to get a fair average. We clawed our way up over the two hours of writing. I logged just under 3300 words, myself, writing a climactic battle.

At the end of the night, word points and and penny points were combined to determine the House Cup winner, and…. The Muggle House? Yes, new this year, Muggle House is an option for writers who are not Harry Potter fans or don’t associate as a particular house. They sprinted hard and had the most points overall. Slytherin House came in second.

But wait. If you’re thinking that there were only four jars collecting points and negative points to start, so that the Muggle House was the only house to start without a negative score, well, you’re right. Slytherin came from ten thousand points below zero to finish second just behind the house which started at baseline.

So call us ambitious, sure, but we know our value.

green Slytherin banner

Note: We may take our fun very seriously, but it’s still all just fun. No Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, or Gryffindors were harmed in the House Cup competition.

We-ell, maybe a couple of Gryffindors. But nothing those goodie-goodies didn’t have coming.

So that’s it for NaNoWriMo 2017! I still need to finish the manuscript and get to revisions; expect more on that in the next couple of months. It’s a fun fantasy, and here’s the working description I had on my NaNo profile:

Unsophisticated farm boy Galen only steals the magical artifact to keep his family from killing each other for it—again. Saving them from themselves means ending up homeless, penniless, and finally partnered with an infamous sorceress/highwaywoman just to survive.

It turns out Galen and Lisveth make a good team, freelancing and picking up the occasional mercenary gig. But one of their jobs uncovers an invasion by an ancient and inhuman enemy which attacks every two hundred years—and they’re already here.

Galen and Lisveth find the danger is more personal than they’d realized, and the lives of thousands hinge on their actions. They will need feather-touch diplomacy to talk down a tormented antagonist who is being coerced into battle to save the lives of his loved ones.

Too bad they only have a sword, magic, and years of combat experience.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Tell me how it went!

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  1. Another nice blog and as always you motivate us to work harder.

    I didn’t exactly try to be a part of NaNoWriMo and instead chose to do MyPeNoMo (My Personal November Month).

    When I write I edit as I go. I will often go over a set of two or three paragraphs several times before moving on. On occasion I may do an entire chapter before going back and editing it, but I always find myself compelled to go back, read and re-read the work before I’m happy with it and move on. Then—from time-to-time—I will go back to the start of the story and read to where I left off to clean up little things and jump back into writing.

    I’m not arguing it’s the right way to write (or the wrong way for that matter), just the way I write.

    Because of this, 50,000 words in one month along with a very full time job was a pipe dream. Throw in my inability to write without being tempted by the art sirens and I decided to create my own personal goal of 5000 words.

    At 10:07pm on November 30 I finished for the night with 5,007 words. In truth, I got to a good stopping point that just happened to be over 5,000 words, but I was really hoping I would reach my goal.

    Along the way I also created several pieces of art. Most important of MyPeNoMo is I’m very pleased with the work I produced. I started my next book and have a good bit of work done on the cover for it. I also did a few other pieces—including a picture for the retired King and Queen of our local Medieval Fair which I happily gave to them.

    So, in a way—in my way—I participated in my first NaNoWriMo this year and I’m very glad I did. I needed a good kick in my creativity.

    It’s been fun. Thanks for motivating me to join the festivities.

    • “At 10:07pm on November 30 I finished for the night with 5,007 words.”

      Booyeah! Congratulations!

      NaNo Rebel is always a thing. My first year to participate, my goal was simply to finish a particular story, which was about 18,000 words. Last year my goal was to finish and revise The Songweaver’s Vow, so I didn’t make 50k words but did get a February release date.

      The real value of NaNo is not a number of words, but the communal adrenaline and the push to dedicate time to art.

      You’ll be glad to know I did manage a little drawing during the month:

      Thanks for reading!