The Unreformed Mr. Darcy by Mei Wei Lin
Summary: Darcy’s Hunsford proposal gets interrupted so ends up not being so bad. Elizabeth ends up accepting because there’s a terrible guy wanting to marry Jane and she wants to protect her. Thus, Darcy doesn’t know Elizabeth doesn’t like him, nor why, so he’s unchanged for much of the story. Wickham, Lydia, and the new Mr. Caruthers cause problems.
Review: How the Hunsford proposal is interrupted, and how this, plus a twist in Jane’s life, makes Elizabeth reconsider her reaction to Darcy’s proposal is well done and believable. No longer in the heat of the moment, and with other things to consider, you can see that Elizabeth might give a different answer.
Darcy, not getting Elizabeth’s dressing down at Hunsford, is still the same haughty and aloof man he was until a circumstance with Lydia reveals Elizabeth’s true feelings the day after their wedding. Shifting this revelation of how his behavior affects others makes for some uncomfortable, angsty scenes. I appreciated that though he was still haughty, he wasn’t mean or cruel (in another variation with a similar situation, Darcy is hateful until he magically becomes nice after Elizabeth finally tells him off), so once he has his awakening, it’s not hard to believe his shift in behavior.
The second plot change involving Jane was a little unbelievable, but it was well done. Given the events, everyone behaved in character appropriate ways. I would have liked a little more of Elizabeth and Darcy after their reconciliation—showing them overcoming the awkwardness of all they’d felt and believed and behaved. It felt a little too quick that they went from I can’t look at you when we speak to let’s stay in bed together all day. (Not that there was any description of any intimacies—this is not a steamy variation).
Overall I liked this variation a lot and definitely recommend it.
Unwilling by Elizabeth Adams
Summary: Due to Mr. Bennet’s impending death, Elizabeth agrees to marry Darcy.
Review: What I like best about this book is that it firmly establishes believable reasons why Elizabeth would go against her nature and accept Darcy’s first proposal. I also really like how many different people’s points of view we get, that Jane is given a deeper story, and that Mr. Bennett is fleshed out more—all without diminishing the fact that this is primarily Elizabeth and Darcy’s story.
Pemberley in Peril by Arthel Cake
Summary: In this version, Elder Mr. Darcy is still alive and is friends with Mr. Bennet, who is a London solicitor. Elder Mr. Darcy’s impending death and Mr. Bennet’s fear that Lizzy will end up a spinster lead to an arranged marriage of convenience. Complicating matters are the appearance of a Darcy’s reclusive great-aunt, Lady Agatha Quintain, a series of robberies, and an attempted murder.
Review: Intriguing plot—had me thinking about Lady Agatha and her mystery when I wasn’t reading. I liked the novelty of ODC being more socially equal and being forced to marry without pre-formed opinions of each other. Unfortunately, in this situation, there was little tension, so while a nice romance, it wasn’t the most compelling part of the story. But there was more than enough intrigue from the Lady Agatha subplot and the Wickham subplot. It’s only too bad that ODC’s relationship seemed second-fiddle to the other storylines. I almost feel this story would be better served if it weren’t a P&P variation—change the names and then there wouldn’t be any disappointment at the lackluster Darcy and Elizabeth romance. But the writing was good, with minimal typos—very minimal, thank goodness!
This Disconcerting Happiness by Christina Morland
Summary: Darcy’s family knows about Ramsgate and took Georgiana away—she’s now miserable living with Lady Catherine. Mr. Bennet is dying. So when they meet at the Meryton Assembly, Elizabeth and Darcy react differently, like each other, and decide on a marriage of convenience—Elizabeth can save her family from destitution, and Darcy can get Georgiana back. Complications arise because Elizabeth is not good enough for the family.
Review: I really liked the first half of this book—the banter and discussions Lizzy and Darcy had as they got to know each other were fun and made their growing affection seem realistic. I also liked the mirroring of small details that showed their compatibility even when they didn’t see those things.
The author did a good job of keeping the pace and tension high throughout most of the book, such that I found it hard to put down.
What I didn’t like is that starting about halfway through the book (slight spoiler) after they get married, there are fewer interactions between Lizzy and Darcy. Also, at one point Darcy has a sort of epiphany, but then there seems to be little action taken to address this insight.
Also, I get that theirs is supposed to be this “disconcerting happiness,” yet the back half of the book, even the end, feels more melancholy than happy.
**Spoilers** What I dislike the most is not that Darcy asks Elizabeth to learn more impeccable manners in order to help him get Georgiana back, but that doing so somehow takes her confidence from her. And worse, when he realizes he has asked her to change herself in a fundamental way and should not have, other than defending her himself, he never sets her free from those constraints (other than to proclaim that they’ll just stay out of society where it won’t matter)—or if he does it’s not mentioned in any way in the book. I would have loved to have a scene where she could have been her true self with his family. It just feels like the author and Darcy clipped Elizabeth’s wings and never let them grow back.
The Scandalous Stepmother by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford
Summary: Mrs. Bennet died many years before the events of the story begin, and Mr. Bennet has remarried a Lady Augusta who made sure the five Bennet girls were more refined and accomplished than in P&P, but she was not a very kind woman. At the opening of the story, all five Bennet daughters come home from the Netherfield ball engaged to be married. Elizabeth has accepted Darcy more to escape her stepmother than from affection for Darcy. Darcy thought Lady Augusta was Elizabeth’s mother, meaning that Elizabeth came with great connections. He’s unreformed at the beginning of their marriage. So things are awkward.
Review: I always enjoy McMann and Hanford’s writing, and this is no exception.
Lizzy may not love Darcy, she doesn’t hate him because she hasn’t met Wickham yet and Darcy never interfered with Jane and Bingley. But Lizzy doesn’t really know Darcy. And he doesn’t really know her. Unfortunately, while Lizzy is more inclined to like Darcy, he’s not had his crisis of conscience, and remains aloof, snobby, and distant, making it impossible for Lizzy to get to know him.
I sort of hate these kinds of stories where Darcy and Lizzy marry before he’s had his personal epiphany. He’s such a jerk. This isn’t the worst version of this type that I’ve read, but it’s still not fun. I really wanted Lizzy to tell him where he could shove his condescending, “I’m a man and I know best so just shut up and do as I say” attitude.
As so often happens in these types of stories, his change feels too fast and unearned. This one almost pulled it off (here at least Darcy starts to realize that Lizzy isn’t the same sparkling woman he married), but it just didn’t take the time to really make it believable. But his change of heart is way more believable than hers where one action on his part is enough for her to suddenly be madly in love with her husband despite the fact that nothing has changed at this point—she doesn’t know more about him than she did before, he doesn’t give her more credit than he did before (those things come, but not until after she’s already decided she does love him.) It’s a bit frustrating.
Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston
Summary: Rather than responding as she does in P&P to Darcy’s insulting proposal, Elizabeth considers her situation and tells Darcy that she doesn’t love him, but will marry him anyway.
Review: The characterizations of Darcy and especially of Bingly are great, they feel spot on. I guess, in the end, I found the premise unbelievable—at least as presented: no clear reason is given for why Elizabeth this time wouldn’t let her temper get the better of her as she did in the original and without a compelling reason, it doesn’t feel true to her character. It is an engaging story—mostly. I finally got a little annoyed by how much the conflict was purely a lack of communication. This, too, I had a hard time believing, especially of Elizabeth as she doesn’t seem the type to hold back. I enjoyed the story, but Elizabeth didn’t feel like the real Elizabeth to me.
Mr. Darcy is found unconscious. Elizabeth sprains her ankle. Mr. Gardiner is attacked by highwaymen. Because of these injuries, and similar ones, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are given an opportunity to learn to see each other, and themselves, in a new light, bringing them to their “happily ever after.”
Here is a list of some Pride and Prejudice variations where an injury proves crucial to the growth of the main characters and sets them on their course to future happiness (As some stories use multiple tropes, books on this list might also be found on previous and/or future lists):
Speechless by Jessie Lewis
Summary: Post Netherfield and Pre-Hunsford, Mr. Darcy is traveling in winter near-ish to Meryton and has an accident. He wakes up snowbound, with a severe neck injury that prevents him from speaking, in an inn with Elizabeth tending him.
Review: I liked that though it was told in third person limited, it didn’t jump around to other characters, but stayed with Darcy. I have rarely seen this done and it was an interesting element to the story—I really felt the suspense and frustration along with Darcy.
Characterizations were all well done, the editing was excellent, and dialogue between Darcy and Elizabeth could be serious and playful (sometimes at the same time).
The Journey Home to Pemberley by Joana Starnes
Summary: Elizabeth goes to Lakes District with the Gardiners as originally planned, but they meet Darcy, who gets injured. As Elizabeth helps him recover, they fall in love. Once Darcy is well enough, they all go to Pemberley. When Elizabeth learns about Lydia’s elopement she wants to protect Darcy, so she doesn’t tell him, and she leaves.
Review: I really liked this variation. I liked that Elizabeth and Darcy talked to each other—at least initially and eventually. I liked the new character Arabella. I liked that the time of angst was relatively short from the readers point of view. And it was impeccably edited. My only complaint is that the part after the resolution and before the epilogue feels a bit overlong.
Falling for Mr. Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory
Summary: Shortly after returning to Longbourne after Jane’s illness, Elizabeth falls while out on a walk, only to be found, and aided, by Mr. Darcy. This seemingly simple interaction leads to changing attitudes in both parties sooner than in Pride and Prejudice. However, villains and obstacles remain.
Review: This variation had a very sweet “courtship” between Darcy and Elizabeth. It was a believable transformation of their feelings and change in their circumstances based on a small change to their original story. Wickham and Lady Catherine were perhaps worse than the original, but within believable bounds. I really liked the change to Mr. Bennett’s character—I’d love to believe this was true, but unknown, in the original. Overall a very enjoyable read.
A Hard Lesson Learned by Wendi Sotis
Summary: Post Hunsford, Mr. Darcy goest to the United States to fetch a cousin. Meanwhile, his private journal is accidentally mailed to Elizabeth who ends up at Pemberley recuperating from an injury while on vacation in Derbyshire.
Review: The characterizations were all good. Just the right amount of angst. Sotis did a great job building up the tension in scenes of impending confrontation—as when the Bingley’s unexpectedly arrive. I don’t know if this is a compliment or a criticism because in some ways I liked it, but in others it disappointed me, but I felt as if some things were set up to cause great conflict that ended up being easily resolved. Overall, I really enjoyed this story—character interactions were charming and the editing was well done, too.
An Odd Situation by Sophie Lynbrook
Summary: On his way to Netherfield to join Bingley and his sisters, Mr. Darcy falls from his horse and is found comatose. With no knowledge of who he is or where he belongs, he’s taken to nearby Longbourn where the Bennets care for him. Though in a coma, Mr. Darcy can hear everything, and gains insight and understanding of those around him as they speak freely, thinking he can’t hear them.
Review: Enjoyable read. It’s fun to see Darcy’s transformation as he learns more about his friends and the Bennetts. I only wish there were more dialogue—too much is told rather than shown, especially between Darcy and Elizabeth. I do love their alternate form of communication.
Disruption at Pemberley by Emily Russell
Summary: Traveling through Pemberley Woods at night after exploring the Peak District, Elizabeth and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, are set upon by bandits: Mr. Gardiner is injured and Elizabeth is nearly kidnapped, but Mr. Darcy, returning home early, happens upon the scene and chases the bad guys away. Mr. Gardiner and family are taken to Pemberley, where they remain while Mr. Gardiner heals.
Review: Real danger for Elizabeth makes this an exciting version, but the issues she and Darcy need to deal with remain and are handled well.
The Unthinkable Triangle by Joana Starnes
Summary: Elizabeth gets engaged to Colonel Fitzwilliam, just before Mr. Darcy comes to make his own proposal. Mr. Darcy leaves in despair. Col. Fitzwilliam struggles to defend his choice to his family, who withdraw funds from him, making it impossible for him to resign his commission, so he must return to the front where he is injured. He’s taken to Mr. Darcy’s house to recover, and Mr. Darcy brings Elizabeth and her father to Col. Fitzwilliam’s side.
Review: High Angst. This is a really good version—the moral dilemma of Darcy works well. My only complaint is it gets a bit tiresome to read over and over of Darcy’s anguish. I find it a little hard to believe that he would be so unable to exert himself to behave better towards his family and friends. Still—I liked this one because how slowly and believably Elizabeth realizes her mistake, and because the story doesn’t shy away from the consequences this entails.
Found in the Snow by Jaeza Rayleigh
Summary: To escape a nefarious cousin, G runs away into the snowy P woods where she is discovered near death by E who takes her home with her to her Great Aunt by marriage’s estate. Unable to say much, E & her GA won’t release G to D until she knows more. D is furious, says Hunsford proposal-like insults. GA tells him he’s a lot like the nefarious cousin.
Review: I’m not really sure how to rate this story—I like the story of how Elizabeth finds Georgiana, the rocky start E&D get off to and how they slowly (and with little angst) get to know and love each other. I also like the resolutions for Lydia and Anne—however, since they were not at all connected to the first part of the story, they have a slightly tacked on feel, as if the author just wanted to make sure there was a happy ending for everyone. Having said that, I did appreciate those storylines, even getting a little emotional reading Anne’s story (interesting interpretation of Lady Catherine as suffering something like Munchausen syndrome by proxy).
The writing is a bit stiff, and a little heavy on exposition and saying more than needs to be said. Yet it was an enjoyable story.
One of the most fun and dramatic, if barely believable, tropes in Pride and Prejudice variations is the kidnapping. In these stories, the change in Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship is set in motion by one or the other, or both, of them being kidnapped—or, in the case of at least one story, one of them having done the kidnapping.
The situations can be harrowing, but the stress of the situation tends to bring out the best in each of them and often grants them time and space to come to a better understanding of each other and themselves.
Follies and Vices by Emily Russell
Summary: Lizzy accidentally sees Wickham and others in the act of stealing from Bingley during the Netherfield ball. The gang leader decides to kidnap her; Darcy happens to see what is happening and tries to stop it, but gets kidnapped, too. Darcy claims they are engaged so that they won’t harm Lizzy.
Review: An exciting story, full of adventure and intrigue and humor. Elizabeth was witty and brave. Darcy was warm and protective. Their understanding of one another changed in ways that felt natural. Interesting ending for Wickham. Good editing.
Darcy’s Journey by M. A. Sandiford
Summary: Post-Hunsford, disappointed at missing a trip to the Lakes, Lizzy has befriended the Italian wife of an English baronet and accompanied them to Venice. Now there is cholera in Italy, and no news has reached Longbourn for months, apart from a cryptic note handed to a stranger. Darcy sails for Venice, to find Elizabeth trapped in a romantic intrigue. She longs to return to England, but first he must pry her away from the Italian family and persuade her to join him on the long journey home. Meanwhile, Napoleon has escaped from Elba, throwing Europe into confusion as Britain and her allies prepare for another war with France.
Review: Wonderful use of history. Though the premise is a bit far fetched, the story is compelling, and I really liked the traveling they did, the characters they met and their growing attachment to each other.
The Letter of the Law by J. Dawn King
Summary: A codicil of elder Darcy’s will means if neither Darcy nor Colonel Fitzwilliam marry before Georgiana turns sixteen then Georgiana’s guardianship turns over to Lady Catherine. Now Darcy has 30 days to marry. He heads to Netherfield hoping to meet someone better than the ton—enter Lizzy. This version also has Lady Catherine as a smuggler, a kidnapping, and pirates. Different outcomes for a lot of the characters.
Review: A fun story that took an unexpectedly dramatic turn. Some scenes made me laugh out loud. Elizabeth seemed a little more hot tempered than in Austen’s original. Darcy was quite endearing. Different take on Bingley that I appreciated.
Darcy and Elizabeth—A Promise Kept by Brenda J. Webb
Summary: Five years after the events of P&P, but without P&P’s happy ending, Bingley is married to Jane, but he is ill. He asks Darcy to help. Lizzy has been working as a companion to a woman with an abusive husband. Lizzy kidnaps the child when the mother is killed and they’re all left for dead as the house is burned. Lizzy treats the child as her own, and goes to live with Bingley and Jane.
Review: There’s a lot to like in this story: misunderstandings, mystery, action, historical drama, murder plots, an evil villain, as well as new characters, romantic gestures and stolen kisses. The editing was excellent. My only complaints are that the end drags on too long, and some of the dialogue between Elizabeth and Darcy after they’ve declared their love is a little too mushy (for lack of a better descriptive word). But I still recommend it. It was a nice change to have Wickham no where in sight!
These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston
Summary: Returning home from having secured the marriage of Lydia and Wickham, Darcy is kidnapped and sent overseas where he’s held captive and tortured. Meanwhile, the body of man of his same build is presented as his dead body, leaving everyone to believe he died. After being tortured, Darcy cries out in anguish for Elizabeth. He eventually escapes, but doesn’t know who to trust.
Review: Very dark—includes a scene of explicit torture.
High marks for the quality of writing (except for mistakenly calling the Atlantic Ocean the Pacific—oops!)
The mystery was involving and just convoluted enough to keep me guessing most of the time.
Interesting turn of events for Wickham.
To be honest I didn’t really enjoy this book—this is not what I come to Elizabeth and Darcy for—it was too dark. I’d rather read explicit sex scenes (though that’s not what I go to E & D for either) than explicit scenes of violence. I skimmed quite a lot of this book because I just wanted to see how things turned out, but it was too long and dark to read every word.
There are a lot of different tropes in the Pride and Prejudice variations: Forced Marriage, Marriage of Convenience, Kidnappings, Injury, and many more. So in continuing my lists of P&P variations, I thought I’d review some of the variations by trope.
First up is the Befriending Georgiana trope, wherein Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s sister become friends that throws Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy into each other’s path. Sometimes, Elizabeth and Georgiana meet first, or Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have already met independently of Elizabeth and Georgiana meeting. Other times, Elizabeth and Georgiana meet because of Mr. Darcy and then become friends against Mr. Darcy’s “better” judgment. However it happens, being friends with Georgiana gives Elizabeth more opportunities to get to know Mr. Darcy, and vice versa, leading to the inevitable happily ever after.
Through Pemberley Woods: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Emily Russell
Summary: Elizabeth is spending the Ramsgate summer in Lambton with Mrs. Gardiner’s relations. She happens upon Mr. Darcy in the Pemberley woods and is ordered off the lands. Elizabeth is offended. Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, thieves are said to be hiding in the woods, so Darcy is trying to protect everyone by keeping them out of the woods. Independently, Elizabeth befriends Georgiana which keeps Georgiana from going to Ramsgate.
Review: Low Angst. This was an enjoyable version. The many adventures are fun and unique in the readings l have done so far. I like that there are not pages and pages describing Darcy’s torment at wanting Elizabeth, but not being able to have her. I also like that at the end I didn’t start to feel that their attraction was almost more lust than love. My biggest complaint is the bad editing—it’s distracting to have wrong words and missing words. Overall I would recommend this to anyone who loves P&P variations.
Darcy’s Angel by Jennifer Kay
Summary: When disease strikes Longbourn, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet and thirteen-year-old Kitty are sent to London to live with an old friend of their father’s. While Kitty relishes in the change, Lizzy feels lost in her new world, constrained by society’s expectations, and dreadfully homesick. That changes when she meets Georgiana Darcy.
Review: An interesting premise for getting Elizabeth and Darcy to meet five years earlier, in London. While clever how much of the same people and/or situations arise (Elizabeth overhears an insulting comment from Darcy, Mrs. Younge is hired, Wickham tries to elope with someone for money, etc), I kind of wished things had been more different. Not that there aren’t differences—there are. It was the fact that I really liked the differences—Lady Lichfield, Darcy almost proposing to someone else(!), baby Bennet—that I wish there had been more.
Lovely Darcy; unhappy Elizabeth; baffling Mr. Bennet.
Some editing issues—especially wrong words, either misspelled or misused.
Overall, this is a really enjoyable story. I definitely recommend it.
Betrothals and Betrayals by Cinnamon Worth
Summary: After Mr. Bennet’s death (pre-Ramsgate), Elizabeth takes a job as a companion and is living in Ramsgate. When Georgiana arrives with Mrs. Younge, Elizabeth happens to meet and befriend her, ultimately helping to prevent Wickham’s elopement scheme. After this, Jane is hired as Georgiana’s companion.
Review: I like how slowly Darcy and Elizabeth get to know each other in this story. I like that the things that initially set them against each other are different from the original. I even like that though Wickham is still a bad guy—he’s not without the ability to find a usefulness.
The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams
Summary: When Georgiana Darcy comes to Netherfield to visit her brother, she becomes friends with a neighbor, Elizabeth Bennet. After Miss Darcy has returned to London, she invites her new friend to stay with her at the Darcy home in town … unbeknownst to Mr. Darcy.
Review: I enjoyed this book a lot—I loved Elizabeth and Georgiana’s relationship. And I thought Sir Malcolm and Lady Matlock were great characters. I am not sure I agree with the epilogue choice for Georgiana’s spouse. And some parts, especially at the end were a little too sappy for me. But mostly I really liked it—some parts were so funny I laughed out loud—always a good sign.
Found in the Snow by Jaeza Rayleigh
Summary: To escape a nefarious cousin, Georgiana runs away into the snowy Pemberley woods where she is discovered near death by Elizabeth who takes her home with her to the estate of her Great Aunt by marriage. Unable to say much, Elizabeth and her GA won’t release Georgiana to Darcy until they know more. Darcy is furious, and says Hunsford proposal-like insults. GA tells him he’s a lot like the nefarious cousin.
Review: I’m not really sure how to rate this story—I like the story of how Elizabeth finds Georgiana, the rocky start Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy get off to and how they slowly (and with little angst) get to know and love each other. I also like the resolutions for Lydia and Anne—however, since they were not at all connected to the first part of the story, they have a slightly tacked on feel, as if the author just wanted to make sure there was a happy ending for everyone. Having said that, I did appreciate those storylines, even getting a little emotional reading Anne’s story (interesting interpretation of Lady Catherine as suffering something like Munchausen Syndrome).
The writing is a bit stiff, and a little heavy on exposition and saying more than needs to be said. Yet it was an enjoyable story.
Darcy’s Melody by Jennifer Redlarczyk
Summary: While staying with the Gardiners in London, Elizabeth gets involved in the charity work her Aunt Gardiner does with an organization headed by Mr. Darcy’s aunt, Lady Matlock. Through this work, Elizabeth meets and befriends Georgiana.
Review: This story is quite different from the original in that many of the characters and issues in the original are not here at all. Elizabeth is shown to be quite competent at things we don’t get to see in the original. The plot is pretty good, but the dialogue is not great—it tends to the syrupy side. The ending seemed to drag. There were also some editing issues. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed by this one.
I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time this year. NaNoWriMo takes place in November. It’s sort of a competition, but really more of a challenge. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. There’s no “one” winner. Anyone who achieves that goal is a “winner.” The prize is a certificate, and bragging rights.
The idea is to create a profile, set your goal, and then update your word count everyday. Along the way, to encourage you, there are badges that can be achieved by reaching certain milestones: words written (5k, 10k, 25k, etc), days in a row updated, and updating multiple times a day. There’s a page that calculates your daily average word count, how fast you write, and when you are projected to reach your goal, plus there are graphs to show your progress.
When I was thinking about whether or not to sign up for NaNoWriMo, I saw a video by Shaelin Bishop for Reedsy (link below) about deciding whether or not to participate. One of the reasons she listed in favor of participating is the social aspect. NaNoWriMo the organization really promotes the sense of community and shared experience, too. They encourage you find groups and buddies to help you stay motivated and enthused.
I’m not the most social person in the world, so I wasn’t sure how much I would need that, but I decided that if I was going to do this, I may as well do it all.
I started with finding any local groups in my region. I found three, but my most local one was not active—there wasn’t what NaNoWriMo calls a Municipal Liaison (ML) to create local events. A nearby community was very active right away, so I signed up for activities, like an informational, virtual meet and greet, the week before NaNo’s official start.
I also went to the NaNo Forums and started looking around. I looked in forums for Newbies, and romance writers. I ended up joining two groups.
All three of the groups I ended up joining (the locals, the romance writers, and another less defined group), switched over to Discord servers, where we could post our progress, or lack thereof, ask questions about writing, get help with plots and dialogue, and just generally be there for companionship, camaraderie, and cheerleading.
When I first signed up, I told myself that it didn’t matter if I won—I just wanted the extra motivation. To be honest, in October, the idea of writing 1,667 everyday sounded nearly impossible. If I dwelled on that, I wouldn’t do it. So I gave myself permission to fail, but to do it anyway.
One of the things that worked out for me, personally, is the fact that due to COVID-19, all of the local meet-ups happened via Zoom. I live about an hour from the local group I joined, so meeting at a cafe or library, as was done in previous years, is not something I would have done. But I can meet via Zoom, so I did.
And it turned out to be a really great thing. Even though all we really did was say hello and ask about each other’s progress and then put ourselves on mute for two hours, it was nice to have those people there to say hello to and to share the joys and trials of trying to write something.
The other thing that was great about the virtual write-ins, as they called them, was the schedule. They happened everyday at the same time, so they helped me, and others I think, to make writing a regular part of my daily schedule.
Before I started NaNoWriMo, I had already written about twenty scenes in the novel I’m working on. It had taken me a few months to write them. I would come to a scene where I knew what needed to happen but didn’t know how I was going to write it. I’d spend a week or two, sometimes three, thinking and agonizing over it. Fretting. Sometimes I’d be so intimidated by what I needed to write that I’d start rethinking my whole story outline instead of working on that scene—as if somehow that would make the way forward more clear.
This was one of the reasons I wanted to do NaNo—to give me the push, via the daily word goals, to move forward.
Fortunately, I also found a quote attributed to Jane Austen (my favorite author) which said: “I am not at all in a humor for writing; I must write on until I am.”
So as I was faced with the daily challenge of writing 1,667 words, but feeling as if I didn’t have a clue how to move my scene forward, I did what Jane Austen said, and just started writing something. And if I didn’t like it, I rewrote it (but kept the bad versions to add to my daily word count—because I wrote them so they counted!).
And I learned probably the most important thing: you don’t have to wait to be inspired or to “know” what you’re going to say—if you just start writing, eventually you’ll find what you wanted to say. Or at least get close enough to move on.
The other thing I learned is you can always go back and edit later—that’s what December and January are for!
So I also learned that writing 1,667 words in one day is not as daunting as I first thought. Not that I made it everyday. But some days I wrote over 2,000 words. So after the first week, I realized that I could actually reach the 50,000 mark—I could win. And once I realized I could, then I wanted to.
The stats page on the NaNo website helped with this. I didn’t like seeing the my line go below the goal line on the graph. And when my estimated day of completion changed from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, I would work harder to get extra words in and raise my daily average.
I also learned that I am not probably ever going to be a really fast writer. There are some people who can get their daily word goal in an hour or two. That’s not me. I don’t even think I can think that fast. And that’s okay. I don’t have to be a fast writer. I just need to be a writer.
In case you’re wondering, I did “win” NaNoWriMo. I ended up getting 50,735 words before the end of November. And it felt great! In one month I wrote thirty more scenes. But I didn’t finish my novel.
So I’m going to keep on writing everyday. But I have adjusted my daily goals. I know I can write 1,667 words a day, but being a slow writer, that means that’s all I’m doing all day. I have some other things I want to do (for instance, making a slipcover for a chair has been sidelined long enough), so I’m reducing my daily goal by about half.
And some of the groups want to keep going, which is great because we can continue to help and motivate each other.
Which is another thing I learned: writing doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor.