NaNo Post-mortem

It’s probably not a great sign that I used that term in the title, huh?

No, seriously, NaNoWriMo went pretty well. My ending word count was 36,944. Almost 37K, out of an original 50K goal. It’s not too impressive compared to people who’d finished the 50K by the 15th, but it’s very impressive compared to the 12K or so I managed last year.

Some weird stuff happened along the way. I’d originally intended for it to be a single novel, with each madness-consumed area being a short segment building toward an ultimate reveal. Instead, I reached about 20K and realized, much to my dismay, that I was still on the first area, and not particularly close to finishing.

If I was going to do the idea justice, each segment would be its own, short, novel.

At 37K, the first part is finished, or at least a bare-bones version is. It’s messy, it’s ugly, and in places it’s lazy. More than once I order myself in caps lock to fix something later, and more than once I summarize something that really needed to be experienced in the moment.

Plot threads go nowhere, and the main character doesn’t have an entire arc so much as a fourth of one. The ending is an anticlimax, and very little delivers on its potential.

But that’s a NaNo novel in a nutshell. What was good about it?

I started to get a sense for the main character and the struggle they needed to go through. I had a lot of fun adapting a handful of game mechanics into meaningful narrative devices. I made decisions late in the novel that make the overall idea 10x better. And there are even places where the prose is something I can be proud of.

It’s a big mess with a lot of potential. As the saying goes, now I have a machine gun–wait, no. Now that I’ve filled the box with sand, I can start building the castles.

Even more than the novel itself, for me, NaNo was about the process. About learning lessons I’ve struggled with my entire writing career. How did that go?

I had two or three days near the beginning where I thought, “I can do this. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.” Then I had about a week of, “This is tough, but I’m doing it.” The two weeks after that, I was driven over broken glass by the same stubbornness that got me through Dark Souls. The last few days were the worst. I can only describe it as the after-Thanksgiving feeling of swearing off food for life. Thinking about writing got me nauseous.

1600+ words a day is not my number. Not yet, anyway. It wears on the very fabric of my being, like Bilbo says: “Butter scraped over too much bread.”

That’s not to say that NaNo wasn’t good for me. There are more days than not where I don’t feel like sitting down and writing. Some days when I’d rather do anything else than the hard work of writing. But now I can acknowledge that no one asked whether I felt like it. I have a goal, and if I won’t reach it, I’m going to at least make constant progress.

And usually, after the first half hour of throwing a tantrum staring at the screen–flailing my arms and shouting that the words just aren’t there–the miraculous happens. The words are there. In a trickle, a handful at a time. But there.

And learning that, that I was just a half-hour, arm-flailing tantrum away from progress, was a lesson well worth learning.

Now, the question of what I’m going to do with the NaNo novel, and whether you’ll ever see it.

It’s not quite bad enough to post as-is. So, yay? It’ll require almost a page one rewrite, complete tearing down and rebuilding, this time outlining what I have as a novel all its own. And considering how sick of it I am, I don’t think I’ll touch it again until summer.

After the next draft of the NaNo novel, I’m going to decide whether to pursue traditional publishing, move toward self-publishing, or just splash it up on my site for free.

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NaNo Project Announcement

As I’ve said, my progress on my current novel and on the screenplay has been partially sidetracked by a new idea, a NaNoWriMo project I’ve been developing.

Here is where I actually let everyone know what’s going on with the new project!

It started when I downloaded a free trial of Game Maker Studio 2. I’ve spent about two months working on a side-scrolling action-RPG inspired by Dark Souls. I quickly realized that I was never going to make more than one level in the game.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except that I’d brainstormed a world, a magic system, and a basic plot for an entire game. Not to mention, one of the better third-act reveals I think I’ve ever come up with.

A good friend suggested I adapt the story into a novel. A NaNo novel, as the timing turns out.

This novel is perfect for a NaNo project. Relatively short, highly experimental. Here’s a short synopsis I wrote for the NaNoWriMo website:

———–

“As long as one suffers, I suffer. As long as one is chained, I am chained.”

The Chained God’s church sends its strongest into lands that have fallen into darkness, lands trapped in a waking nightmare that has destroyed the society that once lived there. Using their god’s power, they cleanse these lands and free its people. It is a task they’ve performed for the entirety of human memory.

But now the lands overcome the servants who venture into them. The latest member to take up the sword is the last that can be sent. If they fail, the lands will remain trapped, the people suffering, their god forever bound.

In these blood-drenched lands, the hero will face trials of strength, of will, and of faith, and will learn secrets to reshape the world.

————–

You may be wondering what I mean by “experimental”. Here’s a brief idea of new/weird things I’m doing:

* Taking inspiration from video game mechanics. Checkpoints/Respawning, Exp./Leveling, among others.

* 1st Person PoV that leaps to 3rd during certain sequences.

* Horror short stories wrapped inside a Fantasy narrative.

It might not be good. But it’s certain to be interesting. I’ll post updates/excerpts as I go! Wish me luck!

An Update and Rambling

I’ve pretty completely failed at my goals for this month! I aimed to write 10k on my novel–I’ve written about 4k–and four posts on the screenplay, which I haven’t touched.

Instead, I’ve spent most of that time worldbuilding and outlining on my NaNoWriMo idea, which I won’t be posting much about during the month itself. The rest of my time has been sucked up in a video game, which leads me to the other part of this post.

I recently got a PS4 and Bloodborne! I’m a HUGE fan of Dark Souls (not so much of Dark Souls II), and I’ve been waiting about a year to be able to play Bloodborne, the next game by the director of the original Dark Souls.

I’m now on playthrough five, I believe, if that tells you what I think of it.

Why should you care about what game I’m playing? Because I’m going to be doing more video game-related posts. Trying to apply a critical eye to different elements of games, in a similar way that I do for my posts on movies and books. Hopefully the posts will prove worthwhile to those of you who’ve signed up for my other content.

If nothing else, I should be posting more often.

 

Why No Posts?

As you may have noticed, I’m in a bit of a slump on my main writing projects. My novel and The Diner.
 
A few weeks back, a cold hit me about as hard as it ever has. I had to call off work, which I haven’t done in the three years since I started my job. And I was definitely too sick to write for about two weeks.
 
This killed momentum I’d fought so hard to maintain. It came at a particularly bad time in both projects. In my book, because I’m in the middle of a scene that I don’t really have a direction for yet. And in the screenplay, because I’d just finished the previous part and hadn’t started on the next.
 
I’m taking the next week off and not letting myself feel bad about it. I’m still creating, working on teaching myself to make a video game, if you’d believe it. In fact, I’m dumping time into that (and making progress) unlike I’ve done in any other creative project in years.
 
After that, I’m going to start back on my novel and the screenplay, aiming for at least 10K in the novel and a weekly five-page screenplay post for October.
 
And then NaNo. I have something special planned for NaNo that I’m excited about. I’m not quite ready to share, in case it doesn’t come together, but it’s a new project, complete at 50K words, and it’s very experimental.

Breaking the Rules

This post is only about a month overdue. Been busy editing and writing (mostly editing).

This year I decided, relatively at the last minute, to do an informal NaNoWriMo. Many of the habits it’s said to help teach—turning off the internal editor, writing quickly, and devoting hours to writing on a regular basis—are a few of my particular weak points. So for this month, I’d aim to write fifty thousand words.

But since I was only doing it for myself, for the formation of good habits, I told myself, I could break a couple of the rules that I felt didn’t apply to me. In doing so, I committed a fatal error.

My first mistake was that I didn’t start a new project specifically for NaNo. I didn’t understand why it’s advised that writers start a brand new project for the month. I didn’t understand that it’s easier to build and keep momentum on a new novel than it is to build momentum anew on a current project. I didn’t understand that the enthusiasm for a new project helps to push through when you don’t feel like writing.

The other, and more fatal, mistake that I made was not limiting myself to working on one project. I poured the words into whatever project I was inspired by that day. Because of this, I’m unable to easily track how many words I’ve written over the last month.

As a result of my mistakes, I only wrote about 25K words for NaNo. I call that a failure. But it was worth it, because my mistakes taught me a lesson. Or rather, taught me that a piece of advice I’d internalized for the writing itself applies to related processes as well.

Brandon Sanderson has advised in the past (and I’m paraphrasing rather than running through the entirety of the Writing Excuses podcast again to find the quote), “You have to know a rule before you can break it.” You need to know the reason a rule is in place, know what breaking it will cost you, and then make an informed decision about whether it’s worth it to break the rule in your particular case.

Not following this advice has cost me, so I thought I’d pass it on.

If anyone’s interested, I might explore some popular rules in fiction and reasons I’ve found for breaking them!