During the month of November, I and more than 32,000 other people around the world each completed 50,000 words of fiction. This was just over 19% of the people who signed up. Collectively, according to the NaNoWriMo stats, the word count of everyone who participated and uploaded their writings to the NaNo web site is 2,427,190,537. That’s a lot of words.
It literally took me years to decide to take the NaNo challenge. Tom and I picked up the No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty a long time ago during one of our random book store wanderings. It’s a fun book, and it suggests all kinds of fun indulgences you can expect to treat yourself to during your novel writing month – like a handy stack of snacks next to your writing spot (for energy), getting your spouse to do the dishes, etc. It also promises strange and crazy things like, if you write enough, your characters will start to do unexpected things. I wanted to know how that worked.
Only a few days before November, I was thrutching through a list of possible ideas for a novel, with no particularly appealing prospects, when Tom suggested that I write about a society that doesn’t sleep. He’d started a short story along those lines some time ago, although he had little more than a character and a set up.
I took that idea and over the course of a month developed it into a dreadful, going nowhere story with flat characters who I ultimately didn’t like that much. It’s not that the idea didn’t have potential, (I still think it does) but hey, I haven’t written any fiction in years, if I ever have, and it sucked. That’s OK, and I learned a lot.
I learned that a 50K word novel isn’t really that long, and I shouldn’t have been afraid of running out of story before I hit my goal. I learned that it’s easy for me to make things difficult for my characters. I enjoy it. I learned that I have a nasty habit of qualifying my speech/writing – as in “I learned that I might have a tendency to qualify my speech/writing a little” – which is great for word count, but makes for crappy writing. And I also learned that they weren’t kidding. My characters really did start to do some unexpected things. It works like this: you have this idea for what you think your character is going to do in the next scene, but by the time you get around to writing it, you realize that he/she would actually respond in a completely different way. So, then off you go, shooting down some previously unplanned avenue. It was wonderful.
For the most part, I held off on the snacks, but I did reap the benefits of having my spouse take over many of the household chores… I mean the ones that he usually does anyway. I’m generally terrible at domestic chores. Have I mentioned before that I’m crazy lucky that I married Tom?
So, now that I’m done, I’ve decided to simply close the door on that particular story. No, you can’t read it. I still like the idea, and maybe certain elements will find their way into other NaNo projects in the future, but this particular effort falls into the burn-it-now category. I’m not committing to doing this again next year in any way, but I also wouldn’t say for certain that I would wait a whole year before starting up some other little story. As experiments and projects go, this one was sheer fun.