NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. A time for those that love to write to sit down, gather their ideas and punch out a novel in 30 days. 50,000 words. In 30 days. That’s about 1,667 words per day if you want to get to 50K exactly. That can be a couple of hours worth of your time every day for a month, depending on how quickly you can type and how well developed your story outline is. Yep, it’s for this craziness that I’m once again volunteering for.
Why? Why spend this time writing something that may or may never see the light of day beyond your writing nook?
The answer is simple and yet not. Since my teenage years, when my English teacher decided to read one of my creative writing essays for the whole class, I have had an urge to create, to write. I’ve always loved to read fiction. I consumed copious amounts of stories as a teenager, reading all Hardy Brothers adventures, the fantastic adventures of Biggles the pilot before advancing to other adventures by Jack Higgins, Allistair MacLean, Stephen King and so on. I remember reading Stephen King’s It in just a few days.
What goes in must come out.
I discovered NaNoWriMo about ten years ago. If my memory serves me right, it was on or just after November 1st. In other words, I was totally unprepared. I had no idea what I should write or how to best go about it at the time. The next year, 2007, the only year I’ve actually been a winner, I decided to go for it properly.
So I did. I even attempted to do some outlining but in all honesty, it wasn’t much. I knew how I wanted to story to start and I had outlined what I figured would be the story for the first few days. I wasn’t sure where to go from there. I sat down in front of my computer and started typing. Not. I remember it took a while before I even got that first paragraph typed up. It was painful. However, what happened next is nothing short of amazing. Or at the very least, it is to me.
After that first paragraph, I typed for a month. My outline for a few days stretched into a week and served mostly as a guide. When I started I had no idea where I was going but in the end but since story just developed as I went along, I figured I’d be able to tie it together somehow at the end. Talk about a seat of your pants writer.
I reached the wordcount goal. I surpassed the 50,000 words by a few thousand. I even got myself a printed copy my story, The Valley of the Dead. Then I kept writing. If my memory serves me right, I got to about 90,000 words or so, finishing off with a large battle between two armies. The protagonist and the antagonist, finally at each other’s throats.. At this point, I ran into something I already had struggled with throughout the story. Inconsistencies. Plot problems. I wasn’t sure how the heck I wanted the story to end with, why it should end and what the point even was.
I stopped. Ten years later, I have yet to finish it. It’s still puttering on low on a back burner somewhere. Every now and then, I add a new spice, stir it a bit and continue waiting for the right time. The lesson I learned: start with the end in sight. What I also found was the the whole writing process, getting what was in my mind out and written down, was fun. In fact, seeing what I wrote printed (even if it was only one copy) was very satisfying and motivating. I knew then I would do it again at some point.
Since then, I’ve started several other stories during NaNoWriMo with better planning. I made two attempts with The Departure Protocol. The first time was an utter failure. The second one, I was forced to stop due to other unforeseen circumstances. I got to about 35K. I would have finished if circumstances had been different. I’ve made two attempts at planning another couple of stories but never started them because I felt they were half-baked and not ready to be written. I participated in the 3 Day Novel Writing Contest about six or seven years back, writing for three days and nights. I finished a story called Driftwood Key, edited it, printed it, mailed it. No, it didn’t win any prices but it was the first story of any significant length I finished. It ended up being just shy of 30K, I think.
Driftwood Key was the last serious attempt I made at writing.
This past August, I felt the tug once again. Stories kept popping up in my mind, stories that demanded attention. I figured that at the very least, if I can do a little bit of writing every day, I can at least make progress. So in August, I decided to do just that.
My first step: decide on what to write. With all the ideas just waiting to be written, I was drawn back to Driftwood Key. It was a story that written in a short time span but clearly needed some more attention. I started there, rewriting it from the beginning with some changes to the story I wanted to implement. I decided to start posting my progress on Wattpad and make it an open project, in a sense. Then I stumbled on the Monthly Writing Challenge. A 500 words a day monthly challenge run primarily on Twitter, it was the perfect challenge for me to tag along with. My output became a lot more steady at that point and I seriously started thinking about NaNoWriMo again. I also had an old NaNoWriMo idea I had been nurturing that seemed ripe for the event.
As October came around, one of my Twitter challenge friends introduced me to a NaNoPrep event over on Writing.com. It turned out to be the perfect catalyst. For the last month, I have on a daily basis been going through a series of exercises to help me get ready for NaNoWriMo. Today, October 31st, although perhaps not in the perfect place, I do have a story. I have an outline. I have the good guys, the bad guys, the innocent. I am better prepared for writing then I ever have been before and it’s exciting. I’m excited to sit down and write what I think is a great story. Having said that, although I think I have a great story, I am under no illusion that 30 days of speed writing will get me a good story but it’s the beginning I’ve been looking for.
Tomorrow, the craziness begins. Thousands of writers will sit down and start pouring their hearts out. Are you ready to be one of them? I am…and for once, I’m ready.
To keep up with my progress, feel free to check back here or follow along on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/techieinak. You can also follow me on the NaNoWriMo site. Just look for my profile, 2Tall. I’d love to connect with you on there.
To check out Driftwood Key and its current progress on Wattpad, go here: https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/47260719-driftwood-key
I am also posting progress on Driftwood Key on Tablo: https://tablo.io/mattias-ahlvin/driftwood-key