NaNoWriMo: a retrospective, part III

Previously on “NaNoWriMo: A Retrospective”: I spend two very satisfying years writing excessively serious low fantasy and killing all my characters.

2011 – Steadfast

Or, how I wrote myself into a corner by trying to be “literary”.

J'accuse, James McAvoy

J’accuse, James McAvoy.

Steadfast could be described as “the Steadfast Tin Soldier in World War I”. Another Very Serious Fantasy, unlike Halfblood it doesn’t really sit in a canon of fantasy literature. Since mid-2011 I have been fascinated by World War I, and in particular by its potential as a setting. I’ve written a few stories (including “Close Bound Enough“) set in the historical period; Steadfast was my experiment with turning it into a fantasy setting and drawing in a wide range of inspirations: James McAvoy in Atonementthe King’s Speech, “the Steadfast Tin Soldier”, the Count of Monte Cristo, the bible story of Joseph, and the rich cultural history of WWI, including  Goodbye to all ThatAll Quiet on the Western Front and other literature and film.

There are a few devices that are often used in WWI literature: dramatic irony, present tense (both first and third person), vignette style storytelling without much framing context, particular character tropes like the officer hero and the stoic privates, and the juxtapositioning of an Arcadian time before the war with the horror of the trenches. I absorbed all of these tropes and wanted to do them justice, and this made me take rather a scattergun approach to structuring. I knew there were two PsOV and four timeframes I wanted to cover, so I set up dear old yWriter in four chapters and basically wrote each story forward as I was inspired. I got to the end of the 50,000 words and the story wasn’t quite finished, and I had written myself into a corner because I had procrastinated figuring out how all these pieces were actually going to slot in.

I also wrote Steadfast in third person present tense, which is an unusual tense (outside fanfiction). I think I write better in present tense, but a lot of people hate it, and I entirely appreciate the drawbacks from a reader perspective. As a result there is a high risk I am going to have to retype the entire story into past tense. *G*

At the same time, 2011 was the first year that I took the approach of aiming for 2,000 words a day. If everything had gone according to plan, I would have hit 60,000 words, which probably would have just about brought the story home, but on the 12th my grandfather was hospitalised, and he died very shortly after I crossed 50,000 words so although I came back to validate, I didn’t continue towards my informal 60,000 word goal. What I discovered, though, is that 2,000 words a day is very manageable and that buffer can come in veeeeeeeery handy. What happened to Steadfast? That story resumes in 2012. 🙂

Lesson: if you can manage 1,667 words a day, you can manage 2,000, and you may well be grateful of the buffer.

Next time on “Nanowrimo: A Retrospective”: I jump the shark and write something incredibly silly. It’s awesome..

One Reply to “NaNoWriMo: a retrospective, part III”

  1. […] and merged it again with my go-to genre, fantasy. The result was essentially in the same world as Steadfast, but whereas Steadfast is set in a fictionalised Britain (because real Britain was too […]

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