Previously on “NaNoWriMo: A Retrospective”: attempting to cut corners doesn’t really pay off.
2009 and 2010 – Halfblood Pts I and II
Or, writing your darlings.
In 2009, with a successful NaNo under my belt, I decided to tackle the project I generally refer to as “mai magnum opus”, aka the story I’d been mulling over since I was fourteen. In the intervening decade it had changed a lot, and the characters spoke in my head like nothing else I’d ever developed, but I had never really got down to sitting down and writing it.
The concept sits pretty solidly in the “low” fantasy realm, with a world that is broadly as if the Moors had colonised medieval Ireland and a rogue’s gallery cast that starts off in the capital and ends up in the north with a secessionist movement and a civil war. So obviously it was more than a 50,000 world project, and I picked it up again 12 months later and finished the story over NaNoWriMo 2010.
Writing this story taught me a pretty important lesson, which I have held to since. NaNoWriMo goes so much better if you write what you want to, and not what you think you should. NaNoWriMo is such a unique opportunity to experience the joy of discovering and developing a story, and I know that I have enjoyed it so much more when I have been writing something that was just fun and fascinating to write. Sometimes this leads to my writing something pretty derivative and self-indulgent. But who cares? Plenty of derivative, self-indulgent stuff gets published, and December is for editing if there are really bad structural flaws.
In 2009 and 2010, I was happy as a pig in mud, wandering off down various alleyways including fantasy politics, women in patriarchal societies, torture, espionage, Islamic medicine, travelling by horseback, siege warfare and the many, many ways people could die before the discovery of penicillin. Halfblood ended up being a 120,000 epic. It still needs a LOT of work, but I love it. <3
Lesson: if you’re going to be devoting your life to a novel, to the exclusion of paying your taxes, reading books, seeing loved ones and doing laundry, it’s better to write something you really love and really want to write.
Next time on “Nanowrimo: A Retrospective”: I write myself into a corner by being excessively literary.