National Novel Writing Month is behind us.
This year, I completed it without using grand titles for the character’s names, nor calling each chapter “Chapter One In Which John Goes To The Train Station” to boost out an extra few words every two scenes. This is only the third year I consider myself having ‘truly won’, in the most legitimate sense. I used all 30 days, though was only 60-odd words short on the 29th.
In 2009, I wrote my first ever novel, and discovered I loved it. That was my path set. But the winter month was difficult for me. In 2010, I wrote across 30 days in the summer: then put in each wordcount across November to claim the win. In 2011, I struggled through a piece of drivel, clawing at “I’ve never lost; don’t let me now.”
In 2012, I wrote a sequel, my truest win at 80k completed in 27 days. With that promise, 2o13 was, in reality, not an official win. I got 31,500 through the new story, and then rushed to add new words to an old piece. I skipped 2014 out of shame and fear.
I’ve talked before about the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo for me. I like the goals, love the sprints and community of the forums, and thrive on being able to talk openly about it (read: I’m allowed to say no to other things, because nano is important and only a month long). However, daily writing on the same project does not work well for me.
One of the reasons I did not take part last year was that I’ve found the process to be less useful for me. Each time I complete it, I learn more, and am reminded of key lessons from previous years. But those lessons are few and often repetitive.
In 2015, having had one of the most challenging and heart-wrenching years, I threw myself into the promise that I could redeem my lack of productivity. And I won – fair and square; with a story I haven’t yet finished by now can’t bare to look at (for a little while at least).
Each year I umm and ahh about taking part.
I know the time of year is my most tricky, that I thrive best given a few days off to let ideas sit, I prefer to flit between projects, and perhaps most importantly, I have 7 completed works-in-progress I could be editing and working on marketing amidst new novels to write. Thus taking part is often a “this will suck and may not get me any closer to my goals” feeling.
However, the community is unparalleled. It’s a good check in about the state of my creativity, and a good mix of plotting and pantsing.
But this year had yet another lesson to teach me. I ‘finished’ the story far too early. A result common in NaNo, I veered off the planned track during a good stint, and did not have time to ‘re-plot’ the story, still requiring 1,667 to be written; of what at some points, was a novel I felt I’d lost.
But I picked a few useful subplots from the forums, like a fox who was injured in the war who began following them because they fed it. That’s not too far-fetched. Then I researched character quirks and went back to ad a few sentences to my character’s inner thoughts – showing a conflict within her, which would come out later. This was something I struggled with in previous year: adding in words that wouldn’t need to instantly be cut later. Things still useful to the plot.
Finally, when things began to dwindle, word-wise and energy-wise, I let the two sisters sit on a beach in post-the apocalyptic city and talk about their childhood; just to show the journey they’d taken separately, yet had come together form those experiences.
That conversation likely wont stay where it is, as it is, but it’s still useful for the story. Thus, it didn’t feel like meaningless filler.