A Knife to the Muse’s Throat (My NaNo Win)


I did it. I am an official NaNoWriMo winner. I brought in over 50k words in 29 days. I put a knife to the Muse’s throat and filled my pen from her opened jugular. On the thirtieth day, I rested.

At the end of week three, I was falling behind. In lieu of my closer to 2k words per day average, I was getting 600 and 700. It just wasn’t happening, and I was worried I might not get there. I was disheartened, and blew off posting a week three update. But I tapped the pen to the vein again in the final week, and I brought it in a day early.

I will spare you my daily word counts.

I’m glad I did it, even though I have some mixed feelings about the whole thing. I went into it with skepticism. I had no idea if I would be able to get anywhere near 50k words. I only had a rough idea of what this book, a sequel to the one I just finished in October, would be about. I hadn’t really had time to outline, or mind map a thing. And when I did sit down to attempt some kind of plan, not a whole lot came out.

So, it was daunting and I only had middling hopes. But I knew how it was to start at least. I was confident in that. So I jumped in.

My main takeaway from doing NaNo is this:

Before I decided I had to finish my first novel and sat down, determined to complete it, I would take my time writing. Too much goddamned time. I would let the story unfold when it wanted to. I would write when I felt like it. I would wait for the Muse to speak to me.

It took me ten years to finish that novel. And I’d still be working on it, if I hadn’t decided to get it done, and worked on it every weekday morning until I did.

Somewhere during that process, NaNo reared its head, and I thought, Hmm, that might be something to do for a sequel. Because if this is going to be something I do for my livelihood, I need a sequel to follow it up. And to be clear, this was nothing forced. I always saw my first novel as having a sequel, probably several. It’s written to be an episodic.

But if I was going to do NaNo for the sequel, I had to finish the first one by Halloween. So I did, with only one day to spare before NaNo started.

I didn’t feel ready at all. But I did it anyway. And here’s the takeaway part.

I now have a mostly complete second novel. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I have the story, and I mostly like it. Some exciting things happened that I never expected. And I think a lot of that was born from not having the time to sit and overthink it. I had a knife to the Muse’s throat and she had to produce. It worked. If I hadn’t done NaNo, If I had waited for the Muse to give me inspiration, I would maybe have a chapter or two, and would still be unclear as to where it was going.

So I’m grateful. I’m glad I did it. And now, I can go back and edit and rewrite and make it (even more) magical. Now, I can take more time to make sure the sentences flow and are tasty on the tongue. Now, comes the finesse, the gentle touch of the Muse’s hair on my face as we slow dance together under the moonlight. But not for too long; the knife is always there, just behind my back. Cue the creepy villain soundtrack.

In the end, I’ve found that it works for me. Maybe it doesn’t work for you. And that’s fine. We all have our ways. But I’ll be doing my best to stick to it. And of course, this process doesn’t have to be NaNo at all. It just has to be a deadline. That’s the edge of the knife: the deadline. I may or may not do NaNo again. I don’t really know. But one thing for certain is that I will be setting deadlines for writing. I will be putting that knife to the Muse’s throat and getting the words on the page.




2 responses to “A Knife to the Muse’s Throat (My NaNo Win)”

  1. It’s crazy how an artificial deadline can inspire and motivate. (Too bad I never have any luck imposing one on myself.) I finished NaNo as well, with 5 words to spare, but I don’t know how good I feel about it. Not the novel, it’s serviceable for a draft, but I’ve found little joy in the completion these days. There’s no more post writing rush. Instead of drinking from the Muse, she might be drinking from me a la the Chief’s bottle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congrats on finishing! I agree, it’s much harder to impose the deadlines on yourself, which is why NaNo is handy. It gives us some accountability. So if there’s another way to do that, with a friend or writing group, that might work too. I think you should feel good about finishing. Treat yourself to something in spite of how you feel, a little reward for doing it. It’s a great accomplishment and the Muse can’t take it from you, though you might be drained from the process. But that novel is on your desk, not hers. Own it. 🙂


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