I swear November went by in a flash. Thirty days may seem like a lot, but with a deadline on your hands and a word count in your heart, it just whooshes by you without notice. This year, for the first time ever Jei and I decided to try our hand at the crazy movement known as NaNoWriMo. The 50,000 words in 30 days challenge comes around every November and is known to most writers as National Novel Writing Month. We had watched a large number of our online friends and writers take a whack at it last year and decided that this year it was our turn to brave the gauntlet.
Our experience this year has been filled with ups and downs as we attempt to make sense of the words we are scribbling across paper. To add to the complexity, we decided this time around we would write separate stories and see where we landed. A little bit of a change after so many years of collaboration, I must say. But we were both excited and came up with two very different narratives to take a whack at. I decided on a Darker themed Fantasy novel while Jei took on a Cyberpunk Noir kind of story. Both stories held their own challenges and issues. Below are our individual thoughts on the journey.
My story was something I chose out of the line up of outlines and brief pieces I wrote during my ‘Promptober’ time. I felt a connection with the theme and the main character just seemed to call out to me. While I was excited, boy was I not ready for the sudden influx of challenges it was about to give me. I suddenly found myself with a protagonist who was the epitome of the ‘unchosen’ one, a very dark government inside a world just as confused and a cast of characters outside my usual comfort zone. I realized quickly that this was going to be harder than I thought and I’d have to take a moment to wrap my head around it. Luckily my prepping and plotting was there to help me through.
The laundry list of interesting problems I ran into were things like attempting to write a racist but still likable character, having no love interest for my main character, writing from an ignorant character’s perspective, and tackling some pretty heavy government or world issues that may hit home with some people. Not to mention the fact that my Main Character and the majority of other major characters I ended up using were male. Not that that is unheard of, but for me, it is a new concept to write an MC and a larger cast as a guy.
Despite the hills I had to climb to get as far as I did in my story, I am incredibly grateful for the experience that I had during NaNoWriMo. I found myself feeling more confident and capable. I stopped hiding behind my editorial skills and decided to let myself write badly for the first draft. I had a story and I needed to get it out. Overall it made me think outside my box, push myself as a writer, and make me feel as if perhaps I really can do this.
Truth be told, I never thought I’d be pushing myself to write so much in so short a time. The first of November was the first time I’d put my thoughts on the digital page in more months than I’d care to admit. A dry spell of pretty epic proportions compared to how much I used to write. This kind of writing was a completely different beast than I was used to and my reluctance to plan ahead was starting to cast a pretty long shadow over the whole affair the closer the first of November got.
Days ticked away and I found myself struggling with a concept, any concept at all, to write about. Then, we met some pretty amazing folks at a League of Utah Writer’s meeting. They were kicking around this little game/idea where they were distilling the theme of their story down into five words or less. Hearing all of their amazing, silly, thoughtful and romantic ideas condensed into a brief phrase, I got caught up and found myself blurting out the words that would set me firmly on the path once more:
“Crime is fun, why work?”
Those five words swam about my head, growing and evolving into a rough concept that would ultimately become the seed of the story I wanted to tell. A cyberpunk noir story about a digital thief who got in way over his head and is forced to fight tooth and nail to get out of it alive. If he can make a few credits along the way, then all the better. It did not matter that the closest I’d ever come to writing cyberpunk was running a game of Shadowrun, or devouring a handful books from the likes of Richard K. Morgan, William Gibson, Phillip K. Dick, and many more. I was hooked.
Now that the month has come and gone and I am sitting atop my pile of words that kind of resembles the backbone of a book if I squint and look at it sideways. I find myself happily invested once more. I had forgotten how much fun it could be to paint the things in my head with words (even if I go back and re-write them way too often). One month, writing every day has rekindled that old flame of mine. It isn’t some bonfire of ideas that devours my every waking moment, but that’s okay. I like to think that it’s more akin to that cozy fire on a cold winter’s day. I feed it what I can, and it keeps me warm and happy.
Overall both of us were very happy with our experience. If you’d like to see how we prepped, began or the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and final week you can check them out. We had quite a roller coaster. We’re looking forward to committing to other projects once we tie a final bow on our two NaNo books.
We’d love to hear about your own experiences with NaNoWriMo or any other project you are working on! Leave us feedback or comments below!