NaNoWriMo 2021 Daily Log

This is the daily log for all the nineteen days it took for me to write my full novel.


The Nano ’21 project: Georgia Needs Work

That is the working title. I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the actual title, because don’t we all need work? Of course, whether it’s internal work or a job. Well, my girl Georgia is in desperate need of work because she unexpectedly loses her comfy job after seven loyal years. As she thinks of the next phase of her career, with the goal of finding the “perfect job,” she (literally) runs into Monette, the high school bestie who ditched her to hang with the cool kids. All of a sudden, issues Georgia has kept buried and unaddressed are re-ignited and stunting her in ways she never knew possible. Is Georgia still at heart that dorky reject she always was, or is she more and worthy of a happy, successful life?

I already have the outline and scene list for my novel. Other things I’ve done to prepare for this undertaking are:

  1. I made a detailed weekly schedule for the entire month using Notion;
  2. I created a workout schedule and a workout playlist of 20 to 30-minute high-intensity workouts (holla, PopSugar and Juice and Toya!);
  3. November’s meal plan ideas, a practice recommended by Sarra Cannon, my indie author guru;
  4. Social media prep. I’ve jotted down design ideas for my daily posts; I even pre-designed a few using Canva;
  5. I’ve downloaded books by authors that will inspire me. At night, if my husband and I aren’t watching Netflix, I’m reading in bed, while he watches videos of people falling off motorcycles. I plan to do most of my writing in the day so that I don’t have to sacrifice my reading time (and couple time); and
  6. I created a music playlist of 80s and 90s pop (I’m old) to energize me and, most importantly, to block out the noisiest neighbours anyone could ever live next to in Central America. These songs take me to my happy place and make me feel young and unstoppable.

NaNo is more than a race against the month-long clock; it’s a competition where you must dominate yourself—that nay-sayer in your head with excuses or a list of easier things to do instead. By not entering, would I have made a goal of writing a book in a month? No. In fact, I was thinking two months. To be a NaNo winner is to finish writing 50,000 words in November. For me to feel like a winner, I’d have to finish my whole book of 80,000 words. We’ll find out in a month if I, the slowest typist, can do this. So to keep me accountable, I’ll be updating this blog and the calendar with my daily progress and findings.

Ready, set, write!

November 1: 4310 Words

It’s 6 PM, and I write this feeling the pain in my wrist and back setting in. My weekday goal is 3000 words, and I wrote 4310 words today.

After my first hour of writing sprints, I was pleasantly surprised to find I had written over 1500 words. That was when I knew it would be possible to hit the goal of 3000 words. I think getting up at 5 AM to write was a really good idea. Just getting a good chunk of words in at the start of my day was really motivating.

Below is a screenshot of my writing sprint spreadsheet. I don’t know if there is a better way of tracking your word count; every author is different, I’m sure. I think this will work for me for now. If you’re studying the spreadsheet numbers, and you’re wondering why my word count start was at 45 words, it’s because it was for the title of the book, the chapter heading, and the opening line of the book. I already thought of the opener, and I just wanted to save it, so it’s been there for a while, with nothing else written. If that means I “cheated”—with 45 words out of the 80,000 I plan to write, then disqualify me, LOL.

If you think I’m bullshitting these numbers, I don’t blame you. I can’t believe I wrote all those words, but I really, really did! Here are some things that made writing the go smoothly today:

  • I’ve been using Google Docs to write, and it auto corrects a lot of your mistakes, which is nice, because I sure made a ton!
  • Before each sprint, I studied the scene and wrote down more details (not included in my word count!). Like an actor, I visualized the scene and how it would play out. Then I set the timer and started writing.
  • I know there are things in there I don’t want, but I won’t be editing any of that until I’m done the draft.

My brain feels soft, and I’m ready for some dinner and down time. I won’t be doing eight sprints today as I already surpassed my goal for today. Yay!

November 2: 4194 Worms

See what I did there? I didn’t edit the mistake in my sub-heading. I’m just kidding. I did that on purpose to see if you noticed. I bet you did; there’s an inner editor in all of us. So my cats made noise that got me up at 3:30 this morning. I could not go back to sleep knowing I had to get up shortly after to do word sprints. Exhausted, I did five today, but I got a decent word count for even fewer sprints today.

It’s 4PM now and I’m going to bed. Just kidding.

November 3: 2971 Words

Wednesdays tend to be the days I can’t get a lot of personal things done. I can’t trade stocks, and I for sure can’t write as much. It’s my husband’s day off, and that means my 6YO step-daughter is with us. She’s a pretty good kid, very mellow and low maintenance, but still…I don’t know how people with kids are able to write!

So if it’s not a day that we’re doing errands, we’re going to the beach. Today was errand day. I woke up a bit later than 5AM (that was intentional, I was so wiped last night) and did a word sprint. I managed to squeeze in three more sprints when I found the opportunity. I already have a lower word goal of 1000 words for Write-off Wednesdays, so I’m glad I managed to write more than I had anticipated.

It’s a miracle I got in four sprints. My cat Jerry had to go to vet for dental surgery. We picked him up this afternoon, and he’s been high as a kite, stumbling around everywhere like he’s wasted. He’s finally settled down and is sleeping next to the laptop as I write this entry. Awww…

It’s only my third day at this NaNo thing, and I dare say it’s going a lot easier than I had anticipated. This is the fourth book I’m working on this year, and the third Georgia book that I’m writing, so given that it’s part of a series, I’m still continuing on the same overarching story. I already have my story world, the main characters, and a general idea of where the series is headed. Having a pre-fab story (sort of) is a totally different process than starting from absolute scratch with new characters, new world, and all. It’s also worth noting that I’ve been writing and editing non-stop for almost three years. That experience, practice, and discipline counts for something.

November 4: 4056 Words

These sprints were tougher to write. I hadn’t planned out these scenes in detail, so I found myself pausing to make stuff up off the top of my head. I did come up with some interesting things, though. I am mentally spent. I don’t know how pantsters do it.

It’s day 4, and I’ve written over 15,000 words so far. 65,000 more to go.

November 5: 3064 Words

Almost ended up with only two writing sprints today, the ones I had done in the morning. I was struck with the kind of brain fatigue that no amount of coffee could help. It affected my trading, and I couldn’t think straight.

To wake up my brain, I started cleaning my kitchen, which needed a good scrub. I thought it would only take an hour or two, but it ended up being almost four hours. Then I did some research for my book, then I had to make dinner.

I heavily considered just leaving my writing at that, especially since I’m ahead of my daily goal count anyway. But ending the day with two sprints, with the only reason being “I was tired,” was not acceptable to me. So I had to do whatever it took to get my minimum of 3000 words in. And that I did in the last three sprints. I’m so glad I did.

November 6: 5014 Words

Tough day today, a lot of the unexpected happened throughout. For my final “sprint,” I decided to write while watching boxing until I hit my goal of 5000 words. Two knockouts so far, and now I’m ready to watch the Canelo Alvarez fight.

It’s day 6, and I’ve written 23,609 words. Not bad. I’m seeing the virtue of writing sprints.

November 7: 4000 Words

I’m pretty happy with 4000 words and it’s only 2PM. I might write some more later, but I made my word goal for today. To date, after seven days of using the writing sprint strategy, I’ve written 27,609 words; that’s more than a third of my 80,000 word book.

I’m a bit shocked, to be honest. I’m shocked at how effective it is to plot out your story and scenes in advance and to schedule writing sprints throughout your day. And I’m shocked at how relatively painless it has been. I dare not say “easy,” but it’s not as torturous to get these words down as I thought it would be.

I had heard and read about writing sprints before, and I thought, “Yeah, well, that’s if you don’t care about writing crap. I want to take my time and work on my craft.” And that sentiment worked for me as I was actually learning the craft of novel writing. And I still am—I don’t think that process ever stops. Now that I’m more comfortable with story beats, scene structure, character voice, and the technicalities of punctuation marks and grammar, I can afford to apply myself at a speedier pace because I’m less concerned about making those things perfect since I know I can fix them easily later on. Instead, I can focus on getting the story down and pushing it forward. I can see that I’ve become more confident as a writer, and with this writing sprint method, I’m taking risks I wouldn’t have if I were writing at a slower, more self-conscious pace.

Last night, when I was doing my last “sprint,” which wasn’t one at all, I was just trying to get in my word count in front of the TV, it felt like a big chore. I know I was only making things harder for myself by writing 1000 words over two hours. It felt like homework. Ugh. Going forward, I can’t see myself going back to my old ways. Instead, I’d like to see how else I can make my word sprints more effective.

November 8: 4182 Words

I’ve crossed the 30K threshold (31,791 words), and just a week in. It’s crazy to think that another 10,000 words means I’m halfway through. I’ve been having a lot of fun writing this part of my story. I’m well into Act 2, and it is a riot. I really look forward to the re-write because then I can really turn it up and add all the entertaining elements to the story.

It took six sprints today, one more than the other days. When I wrote fewer words this early morning, I knew I’d have to add another sprint if I couldn’t write that much more in the subsequent sprints. It’s all good. My initial thought going in was that I’d have to write 7 to 8 sprints per day to hit my daily minimum of 3000 words, which, thank goodness, has not been the case so far.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about writing this much and in sprints is this: I am sleeping more deeply now than I ever had in the past. Could this be the cure to my insomnia? Perhaps. But I am suffering from a new ailment: sore hands. I think I have early onset arthritis. (Maybe not “early,” I’m not exactly young.)

November 9: 4004 Words

I was so damn tired. I woke up before 4 AM to a catfight. I couldn’t go back to sleep knowing my cat was hurt. So I wrote feeling extremely tired. The whole day it was that way, and I knew I had to do all the writing I could before the day went on and I’d get more tired (I’m not much of a napper).

November 10: 3169 Words

Wednesdays are my designated slower days, but I honestly could have written more today. I wasn’t that busy, so you can say I phoned it in. I was a mess over my other work—I wasn’t ready in time when the stock market opened and I missed a trade I’d been sitting on since the close yesterday. Could have made my daily $ goal in the first five minutes of the open, but didn’t. Bleh.

Do I sound burned out? I’m not, but I’m approaching the mid-point, which is always tough. It’s where the story makes a sharp turn, so what happens right before and right after are really important. There are key elements that need to be in place, so I’ve been trying to get really clear on that before executing the Mirror Moment.

Also, I’ve been covered in distractions. My new neighbor’s miniature pig keeps coming over and trying to eat my cats’ food. His name is Bartolo, and he’s very cute. His hairless butt is very shiny makes him look like a toy from behind. I like him, but he shits everywhere. Pig shit and pig fart really stink! On top of that, I’ve been having a problem with the dogs of the neighborhood doing the same, only they bark at my cats, which is not okay. Anyone else dealing with a pig and dog problem?

November 11: 4016 Words

I’ve crossed the 40,000 word threshold! I was debating whether or not to celebrate with a little reward for crossing my halfway point, but then my husband said he wanted to take me out. So we are celebrating. Yay!

Today went by more smoothly. It really helps to know what I’m writing ahead of time. I was thinking hard about how my midpoint would go down. Just looking at all the scenes coming up for the second half of Act 2 makes me nervous. I’m not crazy about what I’d previously planned now that I have more of my plot actually written. That’s what I had anticipated, and that is normal. Sometimes you have to develop the story more fully in order to develop the rest of it. Making it all work will be super interesting.

Power on! Just over 40,000 more words to go, but soon I’ll be crossing that 50,000 word threshold for NaNoWriMo.

November 12: 4078 Words

I actually dismissed my alarm when it went off before 5 AM. I really wanted to sleep in. Then my cat scratched at the door ten minutes later, so I decided to get up and write. And I’m glad I did. I’ve told myself before, and now every day, being tired isn’t a reason not to write.

I gotta say, this level of commitment is getting harder. I welcome the sprints where the words come more easily, but now that I’m writing the second half of Act 2, I’m finding I have to change a number of scenes from my original plotline to line up with the first half of the story. Now before each sprint, I have to make new notes on the scene I’m working on, otherwise the writing sprint is going to suck. I’m just not a pantser; I can’t easily make up stuff off the top of my head. I think Act 3 will be easier because I’ve already thought it all through, and now it’s a matter of ensuring the scenes leading up to it will work.

I hope to write 10,000 words this weekend to get me as close to Act 3 as possible. I want to finish this book ASAP! Tomorrow morning, before my sprints, I’m going to really think through the rest of the upcoming scenes. It’ll make writing the 10,000 words so much easier.

Almost halfway through the month of NaNo! The question is: can I finish 80,000 words before November 30? I sure hope so. I want to wake up later!

November 13: 5037 Words

Today, I’ve crossed the 50,000-word target of NaNoWriMo. A NaNo victory for sure, but personally, I’m not done yet. I have another 30,000 words to go.

Man…5000-word days are tough. I know about writers doing 10,000 words in day. I can’t imagine it, but that’s something I’d like to try one day, when I have more experience writing faster. I’d have to start really early in the day and know exactly what scenes I’m working on.

I’ve lost range of motion in my thumbs. It’s not painful until I try to move them around. I need acupuncture.

November 14: 5057 Words

Just at the halfway point of the month, and I’m at 57,000 words. 23,000 words to go.

Today’s writing was a lot easier than yesterday’s. This morning, I wrote out the upcoming scenes in more detail, and that made it so much easier to write them out. I should note that I’m not word counting the notes I make on the scenes, nor am I counting the words I write on this blog. I’m a goody-two-shoes, not a NaNaWriMo rebel.

If I continue at my pace of 4000 words a day, I should be done this Saturday. (Unless something unexpected happens to trip me up or stop me altogether.) I’m kind of stunned at the thought of finishing an 80,000-word draft in just three weeks. Not because I will have accomplished what I thought was impossible, but because it means I haven’t been using my time as effectively this whole time—until now.

When I do sprints, I become aware of where I would normally stop and take a break and do something else. At the end of a dialogue. When I’m done a scene. Or when things get hard. I was working my creativity at a leisurely pace and not going for it when I could have. So if I’m to take away one valuable lesson from NaNoWriMo, it’s that I’m learning how to be more disciplined and driven as a writer. If I want to write a series as an indie author, I should be publishing a book every two to three months to keep up the demands of dedicated readers. I didn’t know how I could possibly do it, but now I’m seeing how I can.

November 15: 4132 Words

The transition from Act 2 to Act 3 has been exciting. The action is picking up, and I’ve managed to come up with a plot surprise that really works. My poor main character; she’s got it so bad. As it is with all third acts, things have to get worse before they get better. I know what’s going to happen, but I have yet to figure out how it’s going to happen. This was a fun writing day.

November 16: 4040 Words

I’m just over 65,000 words with 15,000 more to go. I estimate I have about five or six more scenes left. I’ve just written out in more detail the upcoming scenes, which will make it so much easier to write the rest.

As the scenes of Act 3 intensify, I’m feeling more intense too. Even though I’ve written the scenes down ahead of time, I’ve been surprising myself with more trouble to throw at my heroine. This is also the part where I tie in the payoffs for some of the earlier setup scenes in Acts 1 and 2. The good thing about writing a book in such a short amount of time is that it’s easier to remember what I had written in the beginning of the book. I’m tired and excited.

November 17: 3412 Words

This was a tough day writing. Lots of external factors, mainly excessive noise and activity around me. On top of that, I was waiting on trades all day and wondering if I could take my eye off the market for a sprint or two. I was really tired, so I knew it would have been best to get some sprints in there as early as possible.

I must confess, not all of these sprints were true sprints. I had to pause the timer several times. My step-daughter is with us, and when there’s a kid around, it’s very hard to get any stretch of time, even 20 minutes, uninterrupted. But I got in the word count I was hoping for, so that’s a win for me.

November 18: 4022 Words

I so badly want to sleep in! Tomorrow will be the last day of waking up at 5 AM to write 1000+ words. I hope to be done on Saturday.

Today was rough. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, especially with all the flooding that’s been happening back “home” in BC. Even though I haven’t lived in Vancouver since 2011, I still consider it home. That’s where my family and most of my friends live. They were dealing with crazy fires and unbreathable air last summer, and now this. I feel for those who’ve lost their lives, their homes, farms, cars, property. All the pets and wildlife. It will take a lot to rebuild and repair the damage. I have faith they’ll pull through. Canadians are a resilient bunch.

I was feeling quite emotional today and didn’t feel like writing at all. But then I remembered that “not feeling like it” was not a strong enough reason to not reach my daily target. I powered through, and I wonder if my book might fall short of 80,000 words. I’ll find out soon.

November 19 Status: Completed

Hoorah! I’m done!

It only took 2487 more words to complete it, and the whole book ended up being approximately 75,000. Now for the process of revision. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up keeping 70% of the content and changing the rest. And of course I’ll be editing the entire thing five times over.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with the story. It’s one I look forward to sharing with the world in a couple of months. So stay tuned!

Author: Donna Fernandez

Author of contemporary fiction.