NaNoWriMo Reflections

I’ve been blogging for a long time, I keep an occasional diary – in Day One, a wonderful journal app – and have even shared some (very) short stories here. As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy the process of writing and I’ll admit that NaNoWriMo has always intrigued me.

In its 16th year, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has flitted in and out of my radar for several years now, with some friends partaking, and I even got close to entering it about a few years ago but decided to get divorced instead.

However, with time on my hands I decided to try it this year, I figured that I’d manage to write 1667 words per day, if not more and even had a couple of days earmarked to get ahead, bash out 5000 words or so to make sure that life wouldn’t get in the road and stop me completing the challenge of 50,000 words in 3o days.

In the end I submitted my draft and the word count topped 51,000 so there’s that.

At this point I would like to pause and thank Stephen King. Yes, THAT Stephen King.

In the lead up to NaNoWriMo I read a lot of helpful articles, offering all manner of hints and tips that would help me structure my storyline, map out my plot lines, ensure my character arcs were in place and more. Turns out that writing a novel takes a lot of planning and forethought, and I found myself questioning whether I wanted to do NaNoWriMo at all, suddenly it all seemed like a lot of work!

Enter Stephen King and his book ‘On Writing‘. I’ll fess up and admit I have three or four different books on writing a novel but have only thumbed through a couple of them. I’m not quite sure what prompted me to pick his book, other than being a fan (not his Number One fan of course), but I’m glad I did.

His premise is simple, to start writing a story all you need is an idea, a spark. After that, the story will be discovered to you as you start to write it and your characters start to experience it.

This was one of those lightbulb moments for me, realising I didn’t need to (as I’d read over and over and over) have the main points of my plot marked out, nor a good understanding of my main characters backstory and motivations, but that I could just start writing and the story would unfold before me was a revelation.

So I started writing.

What I’ve ended up with is a very rough draft of a story with a lot of holes, some confusion but it’s mostly there. I don’t fully understand all of the characters, and some parts of the story don’t link up properly yet but that’s ok, this is a first draft.

Case in point. I sat down one day to write a scene that would allow me to bring in my second main character. To do that I created a new character and, remember I didn’t have any of this planned, killed him off later in the scene. I would later go back and use the, now dead, character for some backstory but that was never the intention when I created him.

And so it went, the more scenes I wrote, the better I understood the characters, the more I figured out about the twists and turns of the story, none of them planned beyond a few key points here and there.

So from a basic idea – which involves a macguffin and the notion that the main character day dreams a lot – to what has turned into a cross between a Hitchcock ‘wrong man’ thriller and the Fifth Element, I have a first draft of a novel completed.

I’ve not looked at it since November, and I won’t until January which is one of Mr. King’s suggestions. It’s still percolating in my brain and I think about it from time to time but mostly I’m doing other things and writing blog posts is one thing that is helping divert my ‘creative’ brain (believe it or not).

I’m intrigued to see what I will find in January as, and this is hinted at above, I know that I tend to visual story points as scenes in a movie, visualising them and then trying to capture what I am imagining. I’ve no idea if that approach will work but I guess I’ll find out early next year.

So, it’s fair to say that after some initial jitters, and a couple of points where I was a bit stuck – thanks to Auburn for the suggestion of mapping out a timeline of character events – I enjoyed my NaNoWriMo experience and now that it’s a couple of weeks past it’s moved from ‘thank god that’s over’ to a growing sense of achievement.

I just hope that sense remains when I re-read the first draft in January!