NaNoWriMo Mid-Point Check-In

Whoa. I’ve just had a revelation.

Seriously. A big, possibly writing-life-changing revelation.

For a few years now, I’ve been reporting my NaNo progress here on the Ruby blog…’cause, you know, I find the threat of public shame to be a really great motivator. This is my sixth annual NaNo, and I’m coming in with a record of three wins, two losses. I pulled off a win last year even though the usual craziness of my teaching / mommy / prone-to-minor-but-temporarily-debilitating-weird-health-issues life kept me from writing on 15 out of the 30 days.

Here: let me show you my “winning” final bar-graph daily word count from NaNo 2013:

 2013 finish

Sure, I won. But notice the long stalls early on, when I was making no progress, and the panicky binge-y days at the end, when I was churning out somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 words a day? Yeah. It was like that.

So I came in to NaNo this year thinking, “Okay, if life gets in the way, as it inevitably does, I can do the binge writing thing, I can catch up.” I also had a vague sense that, in past years, I’ve usually been pretty close to being on par with my daily word counts at the halfway point of November.

Well…I went and looked at my old progress bar graphs today. In the picture above, you can see where I was on Day 15 in 2013. You’re supposed to be at 20,000 words, but I was hovering around 17,000-ish words, stalled for the fifth day in a row.

And here’s my mid-way bar graph for 2012:


At least that year, I was making rapid binge-y progress for the fourth day in a row after being stalled out earlier in the month. But I was in that same 17,000-ish zone.

As for 2011, I didn’t do a blog at the midpoint, but you can see where I was on Day 15 in my final “losing” graph:


I was halfway through a four-day stall, and hadn’t even reached 15,000 words yet. (And despite fairly steady progress from Day 21 onwards, I didn’t make the 50,000 word goal.)

Before I started NaNo this year,  I didn’t go back and look at those charts again. I knew I’d won slightly more than I’d lost, but I didn’t care too much how I won. And I didn’t think I was doing anything particularly unusual this year.

But look at my progress bar graph for NaNo 2014:


That’s where the “Whoa” comes in for me.

I’ve been….making (gasp!!!) STEADY PROGRESS. (Well, except for a couple days when I didn’t make it to the keyboard at all.) But I haven’t missed more than one day in a row, and I also haven’t had any crazy-wow-binge-y days, despite assuming I would do both….since alternating total-loser-crap-out days and crazy-wow-binge-y days has always been basically my M.O..

You have no idea how new this is for me. Like, shockingly new. Like suddenly growing a prehensile tail new. And especially remarkable since I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

I know lots of you sensible, logical, reasonable types out there are rolling your eyes right now and wondering how I made it through childhood without hearing the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare. (I heard that fable plenty, BTW. I even enjoyed it. But I was too busy bouncing around Hare-style to actually absorb the lesson.)

Maybe Aesop’s Fables didn’t work on me, but something did, and I think I know what it was: the September Hour-a-Day Accountability Challenge (which became the October Hour-a-Day Challenge.) It looks like…maybe the Challenge did what it was supposed to do: taught me to do a little bit every day rather than binge and stall.

Wow. I may actually have learned something, for once. Thanks, Accountability Group!!!

Will this slow-and-steady-wins-the-race thing actually stick in my ADD brain long enough for me to….well, win the race?

I don’t know.

But I’m excited.

I’ll check back in in early December after NaNo’s done and tell you how it goes…..

29 responses to “NaNoWriMo Mid-Point Check-In”

  1. Elisa,

    Love hearing your tale of revelation and progress. But I want to point out one thing for you: in both of the “LOSER” graphs you put up, you still had over 40,000 – 45,000 good words on board! While that may not be a whole manuscript, it is more than half of one, and it is great!

    So while NaNo is great for instilling the habit of daily writing (and although I do not sign up—I’m just not a singer-upper—I am writing daily) to get all of us thinking about our word count goals, it is a fact of creative life that some days are naturally going to be better than others. So please don’t say those days are losses! The best take-away is that you are excited about writing. And that is always a win. 🙂

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth!

      I never really did think of those “losing” NaNo years as losses–I did have get lots of new words in 30 days (which is a big part of why I love NaNo).

      But the daily writing habit thing….that’s been harder for me to do.

      The excitement I felt when I compared my charts truly came from NOT EVEN HAVING REALIZED I was doing something different this year. Just have to keep myself in this groove….

  2. Great info Elisa : ) And a great reminder. I have been so behind in my writing this month (I’m not doing NaNo)due to LIFE (not the board game but just as hilly). Anniversary trip, kids sick, craft fair/book signing, ovarian cancer education gigs, etc that I’ve fallen off the write-everyday wagon. In fact I’m lying face down in a ditch with pebbles and dirt in my mouth. Sigh…

    I need to start up again. Just an hour a day to begin and then work back up to m 3 hours a day.
    Thanks for the reminder : ) And congrats on the epiphany and your amazing progress. Yay!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Thanks, Heather. You have sooo much on your plate! And you totally deserve to ramp down for the month and give your full focus to those things. Makes me think of Jamie’s super thought provoking post early this week. PRIORITIES!!

      But, yeah, getting in that hour a day (or more, if you can swing it), is a powerful thing.

      Given my day job and life generally, I have to do NaNo in just an hour or two a day for most of the month anyway. And an hour or two a day even outside of NaNo should not be impossible. This is actually the complementary piece of the feminist issue Jamie was talking about the other day: I have a right to ask all my other obligations TO LEAVE ME THE HECK ALONE for that little stretch of time so I can do something that matters so deeply to me.

      • Tamara Hogan says:

        Instead of asking, you might have to TELL. There’s a subtle, yet critical, difference between the two. Asking gives the other parties power to deny your request. Telling puts you in the driver’s seat.

        Have you tried invoking La Nora’s “blood or fire” rule? 😉

        • Elisa Beatty says:

          LOL, I have to try the “blood or fire” approach.

          Unfortunately, in my tiny Kleenex box of a house, my writing computer is out in the main room, right near where my kids are hanging out. So “being left alone” is metaphorical at best.

          I can’t tell you how many love scenes I’ve written with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blaring on the TV two feet from my ear.

  3. Laurie Kellogg says:

    You’re my hero, Elisa. I’ve been binge writing for the most part this year. I really need to get into a routine. Thanks for making that so clear.

  4. June Love says:

    Elisa, congratulations on your revelation and your success! However, you never did too shabby with your binge-y years either. 🙂

    Slow and steady has always worked best for me…now to just do it.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      “Now just to do it.” Ain’t that the hitch?

      I think you and I are so much alike, June.

      But grabbing a buddy and heading into the chat room can work wonders to make the work happen….

  5. jbrayweber says:

    Awesome post, Elisa!
    I’m am concurring with the masses. Slow and steady. Or at least, going in a forward motion, no matter how small the steps.

    That said, accountability has always been a friend to me. I encourage writers to join up with others to make blood pacts…ok, not really. But being held accountable does wonders for word counts when you have to report your progress to others.


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Accountability makes all the difference in the world!

      However you do it, even super short term, like going into the chat room and joining a writing sprint, can make the difference between a stalled day and a productive day.

      Especially for the ADD-afflicted among us. Group focus is a powerful thing.

  6. Lynda Bailey says:

    Great job, Elisa! So, so proud of you! 😉

  7. Kate Parker says:

    This is a good reminder for even us usually slow but steady turtles that we need to keep up that habit all the time. Welcome to the turtle pond!

  8. Kim Law says:

    Very exciting, Elisa. And great job!! It funny how many times I’ve told myself to just work that way, yet what do I do? Binge. Hmmm…maybe I should join your accountability group.

    Keep going. You’re doing great!!!

  9. Shoshana says:

    Yay! Congrats on your slow and steady progress. Except, I’m not sure 1,700 words a day counts as slow. 🙂

  10. Excellent post and impressive charts! Love an ah-ha moment!

  11. Kat says:

    This is so cool to see the numbers visually as they relate to your process.

    very helpful for me as I struggle with bursts as well.

    THANK YOU for being brave enough to share it.

  12. Stephanie Scott says:

    I’ve been binging and stalling; I was in a good habit of almost daily writing for a year. I gave myself a break in October and it’s been tough to start up again. though I’m not too far behind, so still hopeful!

    No question though, a little bit a day helps so much.


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