Winning NaNoWriMo for the Second Year in a Row

This November, I took the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge for the second year in a row. I’m over the moon to share that I reached my goal of writing the entire first draft of my new young adult fantasy. After typing away for thirty days straight, I finished my draft at 72,766 words.

Writing a whole book in a month is both rewarding and a roller coaster ride, and I did this twice now. I’m excited to share my NaNoWriMo 2023 journey, from the day I got the idea for my story to celebrating completing my draft after typing, The End.

Getting the Idea for My NaNoWriMo Project

Deciding what I wanted to write for NaNoWriMo was an adventure of its own. For months, I had been planning a young adult locked room thriller, which I would still love to write one day. Even though I had done a ton of work planning the story, I realized it would be too involved to draft in one month. Simply thinking about doing so gave me anxiety, and I didn’t want to rush a project when I knew squeezing it into thirty days would be a nightmare. So, about a month before November started, I made the decision to write a different story. Only, I had zero clue what to do.

One day, I got an inspiration lightning strike. Out of the literal blue, I had an idea for a young adult cozy fantasy. Now that I’ve drafted it, I’m not sure if it falls into the cozy fantasy sub-genre anymore, though it has some of the key elements, because the story has taken on a life of its own. More on that later.

Since the book I wrote during NaNoWriMo last year is a Little Red Riding Hood reimagining with Greek mythology, I wanted my new one to have an original magic system. In a nutshell, the story is set on a fictional island just north of Antarctica, where magic comes from birthstones. I knew I settled on a great idea when I found myself thinking about the story nonstop and couldn’t wait to start preparing for NaNoWriMo.

Preparing to Take the Challenge

I had a blast developing my story’s idea. From choosing character names to doing original world-building, my imagination led me down so many paths and I fell in love with the planning stage of the writing process all over again. Along with being creative with my characters, setting, and magic system, I did a ton of research on gemstones, the antarctic landscape, and more real-world elements. Even though the story is extremely imaginative, it’s still contemporary fantasy and has undertones of realism.

Since having a chapter outline helped me immensely the first time I took the NaNoWriMo challenge last year, I dedicated a lot of time to my plot, making sure I hit all the story beats and had a strong character arc. Outlining is one of the most magical parts of working on a new book because I love seeing the seed of an idea blossom into something more. By the time November rolled around, I had a solid enough chapter breakdown to feel confident about drafting the book.

NaNoWriMo Threw Me Curveballs

Last year, I stuck to my outline pretty closely. This time, though? Yikes.

My book took on a life of its own. Though it was so cool to see this story unfold in a way I never imagined, I had to overcome a lot of obstacles. From writing extra chapters and splitting others in half to completely cutting or reimagining scenes, writing this story wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Still, I realized I had to follow where my characters were taking me, rather than forcing the book to reflect my initial outline. Despite the challenges I faced, being able to adapt and keep writing forward showed me how much I’ve grown as an author. When I got thrown curveballs, I paused and tweaked my outline, until I was on track again. The biggest lesson I’ve taken away is how I’m still able to reach my goals and hit a deadline, even when things go a bit off the rails. I may have deviated from my original plan, but in the end, I still drafted the whole book and feel super proud of my first draft.

My Biggest Mental Block

Aside from dealing with the curveballs my story threw me, I developed a mental block on the first day of NaNoWriMo I had to consistently push through. After revising three manuscripts from January to October, I had been so immersed in revised stories for ten months before I started my new book. For this reason, my brain was wired to see shining prose, not the chaos of a first draft. I found myself judging every word I wrote, rather than taking off the pressure and allowing myself to experience the wonders of drafting.

A way I managed this struggle was taking time to edit as I went. I know the point of NaNoWriMo is to draft and some of my author friends think I’m nuts for editing too, but I literally couldn’t bring myself to write on, knowing the last chapter I wrote was a dumpster fire that needed to be cleaned up. By revising each chapter, I began to see my writing in the way I was used to after reading my polished manuscripts nearly all year. This helped me to not be so hard on myself and reminded me I’ll have the chance to edit more in the future. Since revising is my favorite part of the process, I’m looking forward to diving back into the story and doing a full revision soon.

Hitting 50,000 Words on November 22

The NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words during November. Since my personal goal was to draft my whole book, I knew it’d be more than 50,000 words, especially since it’s a young adult fantasy. Still, I was delighted when I won the official challenge on November 22. I loved adding my information to the winner’s graphic.

NaNoWriMo 2023 winner graphic stating Demi Michelle Schwartz, author of The Precious One, won the challenge on November 22

Also, I ordered this year’s winner’s shirt, and I can’t wait to get it in the mail.

Reaching the End of My Draft on November 30

Even though I hit 50,000 words on November 22, my book was far from being done. Given my final word count is 72,766 words, I had over 20,000 more words to write before I finished the draft.

I did it, though!

After writing every day, even when I wasn’t in the mood, I finally wrote, The End, at 8:51 PM on November 30.

I obviously celebrated with a cake.

Demi is smiling with her cake, which says NaNoWriMo 2023 in purple icing with flowers

This book has my whole heart, and I’m beyond proud of myself for writing it during my second NaNoWriMo. Along the way, I discovered how far I’ve come since writing my first book, being able to adapt when the story evolved into something I never imagined and forcing myself to write at times when I wasn’t inspired. I can’t wait to start revisions soon and see what the future holds for this story. Hopefully, it’ll be on shelves one day.

If you’d like to read more about my author journey, click here for my bookish blog posts. I can’t wait for what’s to come.