The Déjà Vu Writer: July Camp NaNoWriMo Days 1-2

Welcome to 2021’s Juliwrimo, or the July installment of Camp National Novel Writing Month! After a long pandemic hiatus, in which the most productive thing I did was write 30 alternatingly hilarious and tragic COVID-inspired poems, I’m back to blogging daily for the month of July! Let’s chat, procrastinate, and maybe even get some words down together!

My Day 1 experience has me wondering: ever have déjà vu? Not just in any old sense of the word, but the writerly kind? Say you’ve settled down for a nice afternoon at the keyboard, and after an hour you sit back and realize you could have sworn this story has already been written before. The worst thing is discovering your amazing idea has already been written and published 5 years ago. And that you read it as a teenager!

Actually, this doesn’t often happen to me, but even if it does for you, don’t let that stop you from making your amazing-spectacular idea a reality. There will always be similarities to already existing books, but your combination of concepts, characters, and writer’s voice makes your idea perfectly your own.

No, my writerly déjà vu has to do with me unintentionally copying myself! I experienced this on my very first day of NaNo this month – what a great start. Long-time Procrastiwrimo readers will know that I don’t follow NaNo rules. I don’t always write 50,000 words (I’m going for 35k this time around), I often swing between procrastination and binge-writing, and I’ve been working on the same NaNo novel project for years.

Don’t get me wrong, I can totally tap out a 50,000 word standalone draft in a month and have that victorious sense of finality on the 31st (and you can too! It’s all about the golden rule: WRITE EVERY DAY). But this one is my trouble child – I’ve gotten stuck and done rewrites at least 5 times over the years.

So now here I am, starting Camp NaNo 2021 in the climax of my beloved middle grade fantasy manuscript. Woohoo! Day 1 went great – there is something exciting about starting where the action is. But then I got an overwhelming sense that I had already written this scene before.

The feeling wasn’t unusual. My process is to outline as I go, so my document is full of margin comments where I freewrite and ramble about where the plot could head. My writing sessions consist of me staring off into space playing the scene through in my head like a movie, then 10 minutes of vigorously tapping out what occurred, and repeat. So it wasn’t unusual to feel like I was telling a story that had already happened.

But when the feeling wouldn’t go away, I finally clicked through my files…and discovered a second file containing my manuscript. I had one online version and one offline document I used when the Wifi was bad. I hadn’t merged the two, so my instincts were right – I had written the exact same scene before. And the first version was better.

(Cue a slow motion, “Nooo…”)

The thing you have to remember about NaNo is it’s all about getting your words on the page and not judging your writing. Leave that for the editing stage. So for me, this wasn’t a total loss. I had written words. And it was an interesting exercise, because despite the déjà vu, the two scenes turned out very different. When I go back and edit, I’ll take pieces from both versions. But for now, I’ll count the fact that I at least started writing as a win.


Daily quote from my manuscript notes: “Should this be a thing? Does she like Sharpies?”

P.S. I’m a Night Owl writer! I write in the evenings, so you’ll see posts about each day of NaNo coming out on the day after. Happy NaNoing!

Published by laurenhallstrom

Lauren is the author of two CIPA EVVY award-winning novels, both written when she was a teen. She writes contemporary fantasy for tweens and young adults. She holds an undergraduate degree in English at Colorado State University and currently works in a public library. More often than not you can find her there - promoting lifelong learning, staring off into space, and dreaming up new stories.

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