I am going to do something a little different with this post than I normally do. Not that talking about my writing is all that different, but I’ve never done so to this extent. As I prepare for NaNoWriMo and do my best to help others prepare, I have been purposely vague on my own history. I try not to spend too much time talking about my own writing, because that’s not the point of these NaNo prep posts.
I do post daily about the writing work I’ve done for the day, because this blog was originally intended to keep myself accountable. I’ve since expanded it into a place to share writing tips, but I still post at the end of every day in which writing work of some kind happened, to check in. However, they’re usually short posts with not much detail (or a bit of detail with no context).
Today, I am going to share my personal NaNo history. If you don’t really care about my personal NaNo history, I won’t be offended if you simply don’t read on. (I probably won’t even know.)
I first heard about NaNoWriMo on a forum for Ragnarok Online fanfiction. The moderator mentioned it, and I ran to go check it out. I decided immediately to join, even though it was already October. At the time, I had written a good amount of fanfiction for the aforementioned game, and was stalled on the 5th (and last) in a series of novella-length stories. I also had a brand new fic I wanted to work on, but needed to finish the other first. NaNoWriMo gave me a brand new motivation to push past the blocks. I was so excited, I didn’t even want to wait until November. So I started on October 21st and wrote for 30 days. I finished the book I’d been stuck on in short order and spent most of the month writing “Outcast.”
There was no region near me, so I was stuck in the “Indiana: Elsewhere” category, and most of the people were from way north or south of me. There was no real hope for much social interaction, but that didn’t bother me. I’m pretty terrified of people anyway.
I ended the month with 50,288 words, and though “Outcast” wasn’t finished, I did finish it within the next year. It’s still one of my favorite stories ever, and I can’t wait until it gets its turn at being re-set in the world of Pithea.
“Outcast” is a story about sin and redemption, losing everything to gain much more, and the nature of true friendship. More information about the story can be found here.
I skipped 2008. Though I agonized over my decision all month (or at least the first few weeks, until I decided it would be too late to start anyway), I’m pretty sure this was the point when I was starting to transition away from writing fanfiction, but couldn’t really move on from those stories.
In 2009, though, I was raring to go again. I had worked for several months on building a world in which I could set my fanfics–original, but still accommodating the stories I’d already written. With that new world in mind, I wrote “Pursuit of Magic.”
I’m pretty sure I was still in the Indiana: Elsewhere region, though I think I may have been a little involved in the region of a town not far from me too.
I wrote 22 words over the goal, finishing one day early. This time, I did actually write the end of the story. However, I had a lot of gaps in the last third of the story. A lot of areas that I hadn’t fleshed out and didn’t want to slow down to decide what should happen. Still, I had a final scene that I really loved, so that was something.
In 2010 and 2011, a combination of not having much inspiration in the fiction area and having a young child, while also homeschooling an older one, gave me enough reason to sit NaNo out. I wish now that I’d at least tried those years, as well as 2008. I didn’t really know back then how to generate ideas, so without any readily available, I truly didn’t think I could do NaNo.
Following on the heels of two years off, 2012 was a rough one. The world I had started creating back in 2009 hadn’t worked out, and I’d officially decided that my fanfictions–the characters, plots, and future ideas–needed to be laid to rest. It was difficult, but I did have an idea for a new story. It wasn’t much of an idea, but I went with it. I don’t even remember if I had an outline, but I know the plot I had in mind didn’t extend very far. And during the month, I kept playing with the setting and changing things.
Fort Wayne, a city near me, had gotten its own region in (I think) 2010, so I had a region closer to home to join. I considered going to some events, but in the end, I was still too shy. I did join in on discussions on my region’s forum though.
It was messy, but I ended the month with 51,288 words, crossing the finish line on the 27th. I had barely any semblance of a story, and certainly not a full novel. I haven’t touched that story since then, as I’m quite sure I was forcing the idea anyway. If anything good came of that month’s writing, it was the understanding that I really need to plan more before November.
The best part about 2012 was that on the main NaNo website, there was a link to NaNoToons, a daily webcomic that runs during November (sometimes starting partway through October). And the day before November started, the guy who made the webcomic posted a link to the first episode of a musical he and some others had made about NaNoWriMo. By the end of the month, I was hooked on Debs & Errol and involved in a whole new world of geekiness, and the rest is history.
In 2013, NaNoWriMo took on a new excitement for me. I had hit on a new idea for a story world that would work for my fanfictions. Instead of trying to simply alter the game world they’d been created in to make it original, yet similar, I realized it would be better to build a new world from the ground up. I started with one basic element around which I, along with my husband, have crafted the world that I use now. I spent a lot of the year figuring out how things would work, and how to fix problems in my existing stories to make the basic plots still work in the vastly different world.
From my fanfiction days, I had a core group of 5 stories (the series I mentioned back during the 2007 section). Most of the other plans I had, and many of the characters, stemmed from that series. So it was the first thing that needed to be converted to this new world. Originally, I really thought I’d just be able to go through and edit it to fit and to be one novel instead of 5 shorter stories.
Somewhere along the way, I realized how ridiculous that notion was. Not only was there too much that needed changing, but I had grown so much as a writer in the 6ish years since I’d written them. It was much smarter to rewrite completely. So I picked out what I wanted to keep and started plotting a new story. I boiled five 20k-30k word stories into one story in 4 parts. And then I proceeded to have the best November I’d had so far, writing what has since been titled “Pithea.”
I went to my first local event in 2013–the kickoff party. My husband went with me, and I got to meet some of the other Wrimos from my area. I kept thinking I’d get to a write-in, but it’s hard to get out alone with kids and a husband who works full time. Going to the kickoff was a huge step for me anyway.
I hit 50k words on Nov 14 that year, and ended the month with 90,228 words total. I chalked the amazing numbers up to having a lot planned for the story. I’d been working with these characters for almost 10 years, after all, and the story itself was a rewrite. The story wasn’t finished, but I wrote the rest over the next few months. In February 2014, I finished my first ever novel draft.
This brings us to last year. I went into November with a well-developed outline. I was writing a story that runs somewhat parallel to “Pithea,” with some characters and even a few scenes that coincide. I planned out 2014’s novel earlier in the year, while revising “Pithea,” so I knew for sure what the characters were up to when they showed up in “Pithea.”
Also, my 2014 novel was a rewrite of my 2009 novel. However, it was set in a different world from the one I’d tried to craft in 2009. Some basic mechanics were different enough that a lot of the plot had to be gutted and rebuilt. So though it’s a rewrite of very broad plot points, it was a vastly different story. Even the final scene from 2009 ended up needing rewritten, thus losing the big moment that I’d loved. By the end of the month, I had a finished draft of “Pursuit of Power.”
There was so much different about last year. I went to the kick-off party again, with my whole family. I joined a Skype group with other people from my region, where we proceeded to have word wars most of the month (my first word wars). I blogged about my progress every day, which was kind of fun–recapping the day’s story progress and how I’d fit the writing time into my day.
I broke my single-day word count record (which was probably in the area of 6000) with 10,516 words on the 15th. I also tried a challenge set forth on the forums to write 3k in 1 hour. I wrote a little over 3000, but I didn’t enjoy the experience. I crossed the 50k mark on November 12. At the end of the month, I weighed in with 107,234 words. 2014 is the first year I ever finished NaNo with a completed manuscript. Unlike its predecessor, “Pursuit of Power” was truly finished, without huge gaps of story that I’d have to fill in later.
“Pursuit of Power” follows Alexander Surett, who is messing with forces he doesn’t understand in an attempt to find the truth behind his father’s death. More information about the story can be found here.
I always say I learn something new every year during NaNoWriMo. Some of it is about what to do, some about what not do to. I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll learn this year, though I suspect a lot of that is already happening right now, with the series of blog posts I’ve been making about preparing for NaNo, and my own work to that effect.
There’s no reason to think that the virtual strangers who stop by my blog care to read so much about my past experiences with NaNoWriMo. I’ll be honest–part of me wonders if typing all of this wasn’t just a subconscious attempt at an ego boost (plus it was a lot of fun to reminisce about those years). Maybe it will provide some insight, excitement, or simply entertainment for someone though.
What is your history with NaNoWriMo? Do you love it or hate it? Feel free to share your own thoughts on the matter.