If you’re familiar with National Novel Writing Month, particularly if you or someone you know has done it, you’ve likely heard some of the horror stories that seem to crop up each year. People lose notebooks, flash drives, hard drives, files, and every piece of technology they own crashes. That’s why National Novel Writing Month even has a “Back Up Your Novel Day” on November 13 or 14, depending on the year, to remind participants to back up their hard-earned words on an external hard drive, flash drive, or in the cloud, because bad things do happen to good writers.
The closest I’d ever come to that was losing about 60 pages of a work in progress in high school because I was writing in spiral notebooks and lost one of them. But that was before the genesis of my adventures in NaNoWriMo. Other than disasters of my own making, like giving up too early, nothing like that had ever happened to me. Before this year.
Looking back, mistake number one was letting myself get so far behind. I was far ahead early in the game, but a pretty bad week at school got me to eight whole days without a word written. By the time I went home for Thanksgiving break on November 22, I was already 3000 words behind, and I didn’t write for the next few days. By the 25th, I was almost 7000 words behind, and I was getting a little worried.
I wrote some that week, but by the 28th, I was still over 3000 words behind, and then the unthinkable happened: my computer died. It shut itself down on a car ride and refused to boot itself back up.
Enter panic mode. It was two days before the end of NaNoWriMo, and I still had 7000 words to write. There was no available appointment at the Apple store until the 30th, but I was flying back to Pittsburgh early that day. With my computer refusing to respond to anything I did, I was worried. I have a tablet, but typing on a tablet is tough, and I didn’t have a good word processing app to use.
Still, I kept going, writing my novel on my tablet–luckily I’d saved the document on Dropbox, so I still had access to it. Getting a word count was tough, but I managed. On the morning of the 30th as I headed to the airport, I had two flights, a layover, and about six thousand words ahead of me. I steeled myself for an intense day of touchscreen typing.
I’d written little by my layover, so I went to a tech store at the airport and spent more money than I wanted to on a keyboard for my tablet. I’m a very fast typist, and I did want a backup in case of more computer malfunctions, so I justified it to myself. I also bought a real word processing application that would upload my edits to the cloud.
On the next plane, the keyboard definitely helped. I wrote way faster, pounding out probably about three thousand or so words total that day by the end of the flight. Then the long bus trip home, after which I would finish my novel.
But when I got home and went to get on my tablet, it wouldn’t turn on. I tried plugging it in. Nothing. Again, I panicked. Four hours and about three thousand words from the end of NaNoWriMo, and I had virtually no technology. Even if I could write enough words, how would I validate it?
Several minutes of despair later, my mom in her infinite wisdom suggested that I try hooking the bluetooth keyboard to my smartphone. I downloaded the same app I’d used on my tablet and crossed my fingers, hoping it would work. Somehow, my tablet had managed to upload all my words to the cloud between the time that I got off the plane and whenever it died, so there were my words. I spent the last several hours of NaNoWriMo feverishly pecking out three thousand words on a bluetooth keyboard hooked to my smartphone.
It is now December 1. I am a NaNoWriMo 2013 winner. I am writing this blog post on my tablet, which simply needed a hard reset. My computer is at the Apple store having its entire hard drive replaced because the hard drive failed. I’ll lose all the files that I didn’t back up, but everything important is on Dropbox for just such a contingency.
All of this is to say, TGIO (Thank Goodness It’s Over), and no, your excuses don’t cut it. These stories have to be written, even when everything goes wrong and all your technology inexplicably craps out at once. For the last two year, I failed NaNo for one reason or another, but this year, I refused to. Or maybe my story refused. Either way, NaNoWriMo is now over, and I can concentrate on finishing up the semester (hopefully with a fixed computer). After that–National Novel Editing Month, anyone?