NaNoWriMo: a retrospective, part I

NaNoWriMo. 30 days of novelling madness. NaNoWriMo and I have been going out for five years – this is me! I’d been writing for a while – dabbling in original fiction, followed by a reasonably prolific fanfiction career. I was drifting out of fandom and wanting to go back to more original stuff. NaNoWriMo and I had known each other for years; friends told me we’d be a good couple, but I was busy with university and I just didn’t have time for that kind of commitment. In 2008, that changed.

2008 – The Far Side of the Sea

Or, sometimes the easy option is not all that easy.

Summary of "The Far Side of the Sea?" Selkies! in Brigadoon!!111

Summary of “The Far Side of the Sea”? Selkies! in Brigadoon!!111

At the end of October 2008 I handed in my final undergraduate thesis. My friends were all in exams, and I was completely broke and trying not to spend money because I was going overseas in December. The conditions were right–nay, perfect–for my first 30 days of novelling madness.

However, I made a big mistake in 2008. Because I basically went straight from a stressful thesis to my first NaNo, I decided that in lieu of planning I would just rewrite a reasonably successful fanfic of mine into original fiction.

I could go through all the reasons why this was A Mistake, but essentially it was that the story only really worked within the fanfic universe, and moving it out of that milieu really challenged the suspension of disbelief. Also, there wasn’t enough plot to get me through 50,000 worlds.

About 25,000 words in, I accepted that this was not going to work and basically just devoted myself to getting to 50,000. My MC got to learn to play the harp and dance a Scottish reel, and I managed get in some interesting explication of how a C12th Scottish village could develop a completely self-sufficient economy. Seriously, if anyone needs tips on things MCs can do to chew through words, I could write a whole post on that.

I hit 50,000, validated, the validator chopped 1,000 words off the word count, I frantically wrote another 1,000, and clocked in (if my memory serves me) around 50,021 words and have never reread the stupid thing since. Not a tremendously fun writing experience, all told. On the other hand, I met my old writer chums like Mel, and discovered yWriter. Despite its tribulations, I remember November 2008 very fondly. In particular, I remember a three day period where I hooked my laptop up to the flatscreen TV and alternated writing and playing Fable II, pausing occasionally to scoff instant pasta, while a ferocious storm raged outside. It was the last hurrah of my carefree uni student life.

Lesson: THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS TEACH YOUR CHARACTER TO MILK A COW IF THAT’S WHAT IT TAKES. Attempting to cut corners doesn’t really pay off. On the other hand, it is possible to get to 50,000 words on a story you hate, that isn’t going anywhere, and that you’ll never look at again. You can even have fun doing it.

Next time on “Nanowrimo: A Retrospective”: I attempt to write “mai magnum opus”, the fantasy epic originally cooked up by my fourteen-year-old self.

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