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An Incomplete Journey of a NaNoWriMo Newbie – Part 2

By: Benjamin X. Wretlind

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 1: And So It Begins…

The alarm went off at 4 AM with a note: “NaNoWriMo Wake Up.” Right. I said I was going to do that. After coffee, a look at the news, a moment of meditation to rid myself of the stink of the news, and another cup of coffee, I managed to whip out 1,747 words in the morning. I added another 1,052 words around lunch and more in the afternoon. This does put me on pace of >= 1,667/day.

Oddly (or perhaps expectedly), I spent the previous night wondering if I picked the right story. It was just the day before that I considered the possibility of writing something completely different.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 2: I Need Stinking Badges

NaNoWriMo is built with gamification in mind, meaning as I complete various milestones, I am awarded a badge. I like badges, even if they’re only for me. The psychology behind this thinking is well-known and has been around for a while. I was able to punch out another 1,316 words before having to jump on work calls at 6:30 AM. I now have 6 badges. (Update: another 1,075 words in the afternoon.)

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 3: Work Sucks

I am glad I plotted this out. I don’t think I would be able to keep this pace if I had to think about what came next. It does not help that this week my workday starts at 6:30 AM every morning except Monday.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 4: Why Didn’t I Try This Before?

Life. It gets in the way sometimes, as it did today. The dogs needed grooming and work took its revenge. All I could manage was 1,056 words in the morning and a meager 569 in the afternoon. Still, my running mean is 3,081 and I could conceivably finish by the 20th.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 5: Stats!

I love statistics. That’s not to say I loved the class and all the math. Rather, I love seeing patterns in the chaos that is around us, of taking something creative like writing and reducing it to means and histograms. The NaNoWriMo site gets me. There is a page of line graphs and means and more.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 6: The First Saturday

As hoped, Saturday lent itself to an increased word count. Over the course of the day, in spurts of 30-minute to 1 1/2-hour writing sessions, I managed to come up with 4,373 words. They aren’t the best words, but this month is about quantity not quality.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 7: One Benefit to Time Change

The fact that NaNoWriMo occurs during the month when you get an extra hour of sleep (or have an extra hour to write in the morning is noteworthy. For what it’s worth, I wrote a little more. I think the 5,002 words I typed up are close to a record and I am 49.6% done (with the competition, not the book).

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 8: A Thought

I’m over 50% done (55.4%, to be precise) and now have 10 badges. It dawned on me that the only way I could have written this fast was if I was motivated by a) the gamification of NaNoWriMo and b) the fact that the story was thoroughly outlined. But can I keep up this pace?

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Days 9 through 13: Not Always Easy

The middle part of any project is often one that languishes just a bit. There is an initial excitement to get going and a frantic rush to the finish line, but in the middle comes a doldrum. Even NaNoWriMo seems to acknowledge this as I received an email on the 12th day that said “We know the Week Two slump is all too real. The shiny newness of your novel can feel like it’s fading. Don’t be discouraged!”

It’s like they know me.

I managed to write each day, but occasionally the words didn’t flow. This might be the subject matter (more romance than adventure in the middle) or it might have several hours-long Zoom meetings. I did finish the week closer to the goal than I started, and that’s what matters.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 14: I Feel the End

The novel I’m working on is broken up into three Acts with a total of 17 chapters. For those who might be wondering why this is important, allow me to point you to the Wikipedia article about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I am now into Act 3, and that means I can feel the end.

Kind of like a journey, if you ask me.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 15: So Close…

Wow. If someone told me I would be able to write nearly 50,000 words (47,200 as of today) in just 15 days, I would have laughed. It would probably be a sad laugh full of regret, but a laugh nonetheless.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 16: Well…Hello, there!

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Days 17 through 18: Not. Quite. Done.

The elation of “winning” NaNoWriMo 2021 has not worn off, but I still have a few more chapters to go. Looks like this will end up being around 57k words, 7k of which I will probably cut before adding another 5k just because. Yes, it’s a short novel, but so was The Alchemist.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 19: A Novel I Have Written

It may not be the best novel in the world–certainly not anything I would let the world read at this point–but that’s a first draft for you. As of today, The Beans of Anafi is complete. It stands at roughly 54,506 words, which means it fits into the category of novel just as much as any other novel out there. Being used to scifi and fantasy, it is only a fraction of the length of those genres, but this is literary fiction.

Now to clean up the prose.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Days 20 through 24: A First Pass

The NaNoWriMo site keeps teasing me with a badge I haven’t earned yet (update progress every day). I am a completionist (to use their terms), and I must have that badge.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 25: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, and I can do so with sincerity. I thank the NaNoWriMo people for putting together a program that helped me reach the finish line. I also managed to “carve out” a few words today.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Days 26 through 29: The Second through Sixth Pass

All subsequent revisions tend to remove words and sometimes whole sections. This is a good thing and helps me learn about all the ways I’ve artificially increased my word count in the past.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 30: Done

NaNoWriMo is only once a year (excluding the “camps” they hold in April and July). There is an app out there called 4thewords which appears to use the same gamification concept. I will try this out soon, as January approaches.

The Beans of Anafi now stands at 54,422 words, and after six passes, it is ready to be sent to some beta readers for comments.


Read Part 1 HERE
If you would like to read Benjamin’s NaNo creation, you may contact him at

Benjamin X. Wretlind

Benjamin X. Wretlind ran with scissors when he was five. He now writes, paints, uses sharp woodworking tools and plays with glue. Sometimes he does these things at the same time. A retired Air Force veteran, Benjamin currently builds and facilitates leadership courses for staff at Yale. He has penned a few novels, deleted a few novels, edited a few novels and is, of course, writing a few novels. Owing his life’s viewpoint to Bob Ross, he has also painted a few things, thrown a few paintings away, and probably has a painting on an easel right now. You can find Benjamin on his WebsiteTwitter and Facebook.

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