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Tales of NaNo Past. 2003: The Year That Started It All

Every so often I’m going to dip into my memory and regale you with stories of previous NaNos. As far as I can remember anyway…

The story of how I came across NaNo and what that first year was like for me seems like a good place to start!

I was sat in class one day, doodling, dreaming, clock watching (as you do at 16) when all of a sudden, a UNICORN (no joke) came into the classroom. As everyone stared (and I thought I’d fallen asleep), it trotted up to me and bowed its head. There, on it’s horn, was a miniature golden halo. Inscribed on the halo were the immortal words: National Novel Writing Month.

No? Oh, fine…

Actually, a friend of mine told me she’d heard about this novel writing challenge online and as I wrote a lot, she thought I’d like to try it. (See? Doesn’t the above story sound much more exciting now?) I liked the idea, looked up the website, signed up and that was that! It was mid-October and I was totally into forums at the time so I loved it before it had even started. My username was ‘ShadowedWhispers’ and I was ready to go.

November begun. It was my only year of hand-writing the novel. We had a family PC at home but that meant I didn’t always have access to it if someone else was using it. So, I wrote a lot in my free periods at college (for any Americans reading, 6th form college is like the last two years of high school) and at night in my room. I actually, insanely, also typed up what I wrote when I did have access to a PC so I could have it officially validated! Back then I didn’t know about the Luddite Clause so essentially, by the end of November, I’d written twice as much!

I remember desperately wanting to prove to everyone, especially myself, that I could do it. My family didn’t get what I was doing, but my friends were supportive. November that year was a total roller coaster. I’d never written so much, so fast. It was exciting and scary and yeah, I’ll admit, my schoolwork took a bit of a hit that month. Luckily, I didn’t have any exams or major deadlines until December. (And I’m not recommending you put NaNoWriMo ahead of school, kids!)

I remember the thrill of validating my first NaNo novel. Picture the scene… It’s November 30th, I had just turned 17 (my birthday’s in November) and my curfew on the computer was when Mum went to bed, which was usually about 10:30/10:45pm. I still had a thousand or so words to go before I reached 50K when she came into the dining room and told me to get off the computer. I was horrified. I begged, actually BEGGED, to stay on it longer. I swear, I was this close to getting down on my knees. I’m not sure if she really understood my urgency but she reluctantly allowed me to stay on, with stern warnings telling me to be off before Dad went to bed. This was it. I was on it. My typing speed these days is about 80 words a minute, but back then, it was probably more like 40 or 50 words a minute. I typed. I just wrote, frantically. I was racing the clock. At 11:45pm, I struck 50,000 words and rushed to validate.

Now, any newer members of NaNo won’t remember the days when the website would crash under the numbers of members trying to validate before midnight on November 30th. My memories of those days are immensely fond (veterans know what I’m on about) but on that particular November 30th, I was in fear that I wouldn’t have my novel officially validated in time.

At 11:55pm, my novel validated. I had never been more happy.

I began a tradition that night. I saved my novel to a USB drive and wore it on a lanyard around my neck until I went to bed. It was my pride and joy. I remember trembling from the slight adrenaline rush I had got.

I had written a novel.

I wrote some typically teenage angsty stuff, which has become the source of several jokes between myself and my friend who read it afterwards; but even so, I had written a novel. I was on top of the world.

And I have never looked back. (Except for the purpose of this blog…)

What’s your first NaNoWriMo story?

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