Happy December, friends. And an especially happy December to every one who participated in National Novel Writing Month. We made it! And for those of you who did not follow or have not seen my late-night, home stretch tweets or Instagram stories: I WON! On the one hand, I can hardly believe it. On the other, I’m extremely proud of myself for making it happen, and am almost completely overwhelmed with feelings. And now that it’s over, I have some (okay, quite a few) thoughts to share about NaNoWriMo, my story, and where I’m going from here.
I finished with 50,425 words. November 30th was definitely my best writing day, since I powered out 9,451 words in under six hours. My second best writing day was November 26th, on which I wrote 5,266 words.
I did not write every day; there are eight days with a word count total of zero. I hit 5,000 words on November 4th, 10,000 words on November 7th, 25,000 words on the 18th, 40,000 words on the 29th, and then hit 50,425 words at 11:40PM on November 30th.
As I mentioned in my NaNoWriMo Updates, I was inspired by the fairy tale Maid Maleen to write a fantasy story that isn’t really a retelling – Maid Maleen is not a tale of epic length – but an explanation and building up of the world around the events in the fairy tale. Basically, the fairy tale gave me a jumping off point, and at first, guided me to flesh out some of the details – like what happened inside the tower, why did the King and kingdom fall, what was her waiting-woman like? – and then sent me on a journey filled with backstory, multiple timelines, new characters, and a setting of my own creation. As I mentioned in my NaNoWriMo Introduction, I felt an enthusiasm towards the story that I haven’t felt towards a piece of my own writing in a long time. And I can confidently say I’m still enthusiastic about my story. I do want to take a break from it for a day or two, but that’s simply because I’ll be able to look at it with a much clearer mind than if I started going over it today. I’m quite excited to piece together parts of the story that I know need to be better lined up, and organize my characters and timelines that I quickly jotted down in my notebook as I wrote. And I’m excited to continue writing my story. Which brings me to my next discussion point…
Again, as I talked about in previous updates, I surprised myself with how much dialogue I was writing. I do have many pages of description, for settings and characters, but most of what I wrote is dialogue.
Writing dialogue has always felt like a chore to me. I love describing things and places and people I see; I’m definitely a lover of flowery, excessively explained everything, and that’s how I write (in case you couldn’t tell by this and other blog posts of mine). This is what led to the shock I felt as I discovered I actually enjoyed writing conversations between characters. In the comments on my Week 2 Update, the lovely April Munday shared her thoughts about why her first drafts are mainly dialogue. She wrote: “I think it’s a way of getting to know the characters. The descriptions go in once I know how the characters feel about what they’re seeing.” A light bulb went on in my head when I read that – sort of like an “of course!” moment. I wrote very little exterior character descriptions, but I feel like I did a good job of giving each character their own voice; I enjoyed writing so much dialogue because I was crafting personalities, identities, and forming these entities that give my story life by taking on a life of their own. Often I felt like the characters were taking me along in their story, rather than me telling them what their story would be.
Now, some critics of NaNoWriMo talk about how focusing on word quantity over word quality makes the challenge nonsensical. But if you talk to participants, follow the NaNoWriMo accounts on social media, and listen to supporters of the challenge, you will likely see that sure, writing 50,000 words is the end goal. But it’s not the only goal of National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is ultimately about writing and taking the time in one month (or more if you participate in Camp NaNoWriMo) of the year to really focus on building a story. To write down a story you create takes no more skill than knowing how to type or shape letters with a writing utensil. I’m a professional copywriter, so I have great confidence in my writing. But I know that within my 50,425 words, my tenses are all over the place, there are many run-on sentences, I likely have multiple verb-noun disagreements, language that doesn’t make sense for the time period in which my story is set, and other first draft gaffes. But the words are all in a document; they now exist outside of my head. That is what is important, no matter if you write 50,000 words or 500.
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From The Cambridge Companion to Narrative: "Don Quixote did not exist before Cervantes invented him; he is precisely the way his author presents him, and could easily have been otherwise. He was born when the text bearing his name was written down, and will go on living as long as at least one copy of it remains and at least one person reads it. And where and how does he exist? In the sphere of public communication as an object of discourse. Such, informally, are some of the basic tenets of this approach to character, rooted in contemporary aesthetic theory. Technically speaking, character can be defined from this perspective as a contingently created, abstract cultural entity, depending essentially for its existence on actual objects in space and time and on the intellectual activity of authors and readers. On this view, characters are invented or stipulated by a human mind, and generated in particular cultural and historical circumstances through the use of language, following certain literary-artistic conventions. They are ultimately semiotic constructs or creatures of the word, and it is the socially and culturally defined act of fictional storytelling that constitutes and defines them." ☆ There are still many hours left of #NaNoWriMo, and I'll definitely be using them to draw closer to 50K words. But I wanted to share this as a reminder to both winners of NaNo and those who haven't quite reached the word goal (like me), because no matter how much you've written, your words, and those contructs and creatures of the words you've written now exist in a space they hadn't before (outside of your head). And that is an accomplishment in and of itself. 💭 ☆ Share your NaNo successes below! 😀 ☆ #bookstagram #books #booksofinstagram #writersofinstagram #amwriting #NationalNovelWritingMonth #CambridgeCompanion #writetip #fiction
So from here, where to go? MY BOOKSHELVES. Oh my dear, dear books. How neglected you’ve been this past month. My Kindle App is bursting with ARCs and review copies, and I picked up my library holds yesterday after work. I have so missed reading – this has been my best reading year in a while and part of me physically hurts because of how little I read this month (find my Wrap-Up here). I’M BACK, BABY.
But in terms of my story: I certainly want to continue developing the characters and settings, and am very much looking forward to editing what I’ve written so far. It is far too piecemeal for me to seriously consider putting it out into the world in any way – I really went whimsically crazy with my timelines and alternate versions of my characters – but even so, I can see and feel the potential it has. And, I’m still so enthusiastic about it, and I’m very much a let’s-take-on-a-new-passion-then-abandon-it-within-a-couple-of-weeks kind of person. It’s quite a fantastic feeling to dive head first into a desired passion, let go of self-doubt, and come out on the other side still feeling the exhilaration of that dive.
Some Extra Stuff:
I dedicate my NaNoWriMo 2018 progress to my past selves. To my more recent selves who could barely write 1,000 words over the course of one month, and to my self that reached for the old yellow and green edition of Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales and unknowingly deepened my interest in fairy tales that ultimately sparked the idea for my story. And to my college self who felt her writing was far below par compared to her peers (because it was) – don’t stop writing. And to my young self who read and wrote stories and more stories, and held on to imagination like it was the most important thing in the world.
First, I’d like to thank Mavis Beacon and Type to Learn. I wasn’t as obsessed with the former, but typing games and challenges were definitely my thing. And of course, thank you to my parents for setting me up with both, and allowing me to play them longer than other computer games (The Sims is educational, too!). Also, kudos to my school district for all the typing exercises – looking back on it now, it feels like that was a big focus in nearly every grade (although the Keyboarding class I took in high school was cut the year after I took it). Basically, thank you to all the tools and people and resources that taught me how to type, and type fast. Because it definitely came in handy this month.
Also, a big shout out to everyone in Maine participating in NaNo, for the general and specific words of encouragement posted in our Facebook group. Especially the write-in moderators and the few of you I met in person. It was so great sharing parts of my story with you.
Thank you to my significant other, who tolerated my many random exclamations of my word count and my hermit-like behavior throughout the month. Thank you for your lightheartedness and support.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my NaNoWriMo updates, chatted with me on Twitter, and shared your thoughts about the challenge and obstacles you faced. It was truly a pleasure to talk about writing with so many of you, and to spread motivational messages and uplift each other’s spirits on those days when the words didn’t seem to come as easily.
And thank you to the coffee shops, sandwich shops, libraries, and other spaces that offered a place (whether they knew it or not) for me and other WriMos when we needed a change of scenery, a cup of coffee, or some solitude.
As always, I would love to hear from you. Did you complete the 50,000 word goal? Did you meet and/or exceed your personal goals for the month? What are you most excited about for the direction of your story? Are you as inspired by this challenge as I am? Let me know below.
Write on, friends.