NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writer’s Month — is an annual challenge for authors to pick themselves up by the bootstraps & really buckle down to their true passion: writing a novel.
The glamorous life of the aspiring writer is fraught with distractions that can side track even the most hopeful from working on their novels, and NaNoWriMo gives us all an excuse to hang a sign on the knob & lock the door & tell the world that for the next thirty days we are writers.
Writing 50,000 words in just 30 days is a big deal. 50,000 words is a big number & it can seem so daunting, especially when that blank document is staring you in the face & you’re not really sure that your next idea is going to carry you all the way. But at a rate of almost 1667 words a day there is little time for doubts, & all you can do is start committing those words to paper, hoping for the best.
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Anthology of False Starts
If I thought that NaNo had been difficult last year, then 2014 was a complete nightmare. I wasn’t worried about my slow start and I was away for four days the first weekend of the month to celebrate my little brother’s wedding (gratz! I love you little bro!)
However, each day it got harder and harder to put anything down at all. I pushed back the writing again and again. This went beyond the usual lack of motivation, I was in a deep dark funk. I had weekly appointments with my doctor, half of which I blew off to sleep instead, and my daily medication didn’t seem to be touching the depression in the slightest.
My starting idea was a story called Asylum. I’d recently started playing the game The Evil Within, which had inspired a wild theory about a committed serial killer that I had plans of spinning into a novella. The first two real writing sessions went well, but it quickly became apparent that either my story wasn’t going to pan out or I didn’t have the skills to build on the concept I’d created.
Another NaNo, another slow start to the month. I had initially planned on taking some time off and just knocking this one out of the park with a massive first week. That way, I could relax come the end of the month. You can see from the graph that the pretty much the opposite happened. I did actually take the time off work, but I spent so many days with the attitude “oh, I can catch up later”, that I fell quite behind. Getting over the finish line was something of a struggle.
I’d known all year that I was going to be doing “Following Suit”, the sequel to “Speak for the Dead”, I’d felt really good about S4D.
Speak for the Dead
I’d spent a good part of the year leading up to NaNo excited about the idea of writing a zombie story set in Australia where guns and crossbows are much more strictly controlled and finding weapons for the zombie apocalypse would be significantly more difficult. I had a folio of ideas that I wanted to explore, and I think there was a lot of potential. But during 2012 I made the mistake of reading Fifty Shades of Grey and any inkling of motivation for writing I might have had evaporated.
I couldn’t not do NaNo, it was an institution in my life, to skip it would just be wrong. Eventually I decided to pick an idea out of my folder of story fragments and run with that. I settled on Picklekin, Kindlewisp, and the Dragon and I started NaNo off with a bang.
When You Wake
Getting through NaNo in 2011 was a difficult journey. I had fallen out of touch with the friends I knew the first few times I did NaNo, and my fellow writer who encouraged me to attend the write-ins of the previous year was too busy to compete. I stayed home most of the month churning out a few hundred words at a time, frequently telling myself that I could catch up easily and that it didn’t matter if I didn’t make the work count today, or if I skipped a day altogether because I was tired from work and I just wanted to sleep.
As my graph will attest, however, I did get through the month, and When You Wake didn’t feel like a complete failure. It is written in order, and the bones and musculature of each chapter is there, it just needs to flesh and a little guts to make it pretty and more coherent. I’m almost sad to be shelving this project to go back to Broken Wings, but I have enough trouble getting myself into writing already, switching between two novels seems inadvisable.
Once again I ran out of story early, the plot line just couldn’t withstand the 50,000 words I needed to write, and I didn’t have time to go around tweaking the chapters trying to tease any more out of it. I needed a couple of thousand more words, so I decided to write a bonus short story. That petered out before I reached my goal as well, but I managed to press through and stretch it out until I crossed that finish line on the last day of the month.
Over all, it’s a winning strategy, writing a short story in the last few days. Having a new story brings back all the excitement and thrill that I felt on day one, and the words started flowing so much more easily, and I almost cruised to the end (except for that niggling detail about not making enough words).
Scattered Feathers (new)
I was feeling somewhat disheartened as November of 2010 approached. I hadn’t made any real progress on Broken Wings, & the emotionally raw disaster of the previous year had me feeling real trepidation about trying again. But when a friend wanted to attend the social events organised for local NaNoWriMo participants, I saw an opportunity to reignite my love for competing word counts.
I had no idea what I was going to write & for the first few days I simply messed around with some of the mythology of the setting of Broken Wings. Slowly, an idea started to evolve out of the mist & I set about a (totally different) idea for a sequel to Broken Wings. Whether this idea has an credence to it remains to be seen. One novel at a time, yeah?
Buoyed by not just my earlier success, but my continued writings through the year, I was ready to tackle something new. Broken Wings was at a point where there were no more large blocks of text available for me to skirt the rules of the game with, but I remembered an idea that had been sitting with me for some time.
It had been a very emotional time for me, but I had promised someone that I would dedicate my writing skills to telling his tale. I had tried before, but I’d never known what to say. Now that I knew I could get carried away on the tide of NaNoWriMo, & feeling deeply nostalgic for my lost friend, I wanted to try my hand at his story.
What came out though was a disaster. There was good reason why I had failed at all my attempts. Though I pushed through until the word count was reached, I have not looked at what was written since. It was disjointed & sections were written when I thought of them, not placed in the correct sequence of the story. I don’t know if there’s anything salvageable in there, I’ve been too scared to try find out.
I still hope that I can write something that my lost friend deserves. One day.
Broken Wings & Scattered Feathers
Inspired by my earlier efforts, I plunged into NaNoWriMo with the plan of picking up my novel (which I believe I had titled by that stage) at a point some small distance ahead of where I’d last been working. Things didn’t pan out as well as I’d hoped, and while I managed to get some writing in & sketch out a considerable body of what will one day be a novel, my ideas ran out long before my word count did.
Undaunted (well, maybe a little daunted), I segued straight into an idea I’d had for the sequel. Turned out to be a load of awful & unproductive writing as well, but it pushed me through to the end & for the first time I was able to post that magical 50,000 and get those WINNER rewards.
I first heard about NaNoWriMo in, I think, 2005. I remember hearing about it in 2006 sometime in mid-november & and wondering how I would possibly remember before next November that I wanted to participate.
In 2007 I made my first NaNoWriMo attempt, and it was pitful. Truly. A few days into the month I got into a fight or sorts with my lover & I decided I had a valid excuse not to write, abandoning the cause early. As Novemeber drew to a close, I made a last-ditch effort to get my word count over the 10,000 word mark. It was the longest piece I’d ever written, so I can’t call it a complete loss.
Being the rebel I am, I was trying NaNoWriMo for the first time & I was already breaking the rules. I had started my then untitled novel, but was making very little progress on it. I had started for the wrong reasons, but the story took on a life of its own & and all but begged me to write it.
I was pretty disappointed in myself after failing NaNoWriMo. I was sure I had the ability in me, so I challenged myself to write 50,000 words, no matter how long it took. In the end, it only took me two months, less than 60 days. I thought I would take a second crack at NaNoWriMo in early 2008, but without the NaNoWriMo website to report to, it felt less special, & I decided to leave NaNoWriMo for November.
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