It’s hard to believe the writing mania of NaNo has become the past already. Yet, it hasn’t. We’ve all produced words, no matter how many or how few. Too, we’ve learned much about our craft and ourselves. This is my retrospective…
When October rolled around I’d already spent months tossing ideas around in my head, but most important were three significant events that paved the way for a successful November.
The first was overcoming my short story phobia. I’d written one in September, but wondered if it was a fluke until I produced three the next month in the fantasy genre. That would come into play late during NaNo.
The second was producing a backstory, character biographies, and flexible outline. Over time I drifted off the outline, but it’d already done its work. Instead of standing at the starting block pondering, “H’m, what’s my plot, who are my characters?” I instead started at a sprint. Sure, as I went along I made unanticipated changes to my characters and allowed them freedom, but by then I was submerged in the story instead of still dipping a toe.
The third event was unanticipated. On NaNo Eve an established author tweeted she’d welcome writing buddies for November. How exciting! Day One I found out why she’s successful. I had my best day ever and produced 3.9k. She produced 10k. I felt like a slug. Thereafter she produced over 7k on a regular basis. I pushed harder and was soon over 5k/day and hit 6.9k one day. My writing brain changed as I locked my internal editor in the shed. Too, it became easier to alter the story’s path without pausing.
The results? I reached 50k on the 9th. I completed the novel on the 16th with 78k. Half the month remained so I switched to writing short stories in the same world at different points in its history and finished with 123k (double last year’s output). My peak was seven stories in seven days (they averaged about 4.5k each). I’d wake, create a short outline, list the characters, and take off. It was crazy, exhausting, and taught me a lot about myself as I created a variety of fantasy stories. A sampling:
Four passengers on a stage aren’t who they appear to be, one is hiding a secret the others would kill to obtain, and at least one has blood on their hands. The opening:
Sitting on her trunk in the shade, Fraylia Briel watched two soldiers rush inside the inn where a woman was screaming about a blood-drenched room and the body that had caused the red decoration. Fraylia shooed a black curl out of her eyes and brushed at her light gray suit. Across the street the stage west was preparing to leave.
She pulled on her matching gloves and checked both directions on the dusty street. “My word, what’s a girl to do when there’s no reliable help to be found, even here on the frontier.” There was a drunk slumped on a rough-hewn chair several feet away and she turned to him. “Do you know what I mean, sir?”
“H’m…” He motioned at her, something between a wave and an aborted gesture of greater importance.
“Yes, sir, I agree.” She crossed her legs. “At least I don’t have to scrub all that blood.”
Shadow in Winter
A young woman reaches the day she’s dreaded and anticipated more than any other, one that will conclude with either redemption or a fate worse than death. The opening:
There were many events a young woman looked forward to in her life, some more than others, and each morning Drayka wondered if her special day had arrived. The day she’d commit murder. Blood, it’s color rich in her childhood memories, would contrast with the lusterless world surrounding her since she’d wept in hiding while her life became a division between before and after.
Her breaths hovered in the windless forest where treetops were forgotten in clouds that seldom lifted above them. Pine. Fir. Spruce. They were growing obstructions like the twisted hills that made up Draskrith. The woody brush protruding above the snow present half the year was its own hinderance, but her morning ritual meant her path required little thought, for her heavy boots compressed each day’s new snowfall.
And each day there was new snowfall.
A woman struggling with a painful past and a present too often its own nightmare, encounters a new meaning for light when another darkness comes. (My first story with a steampunk influence.) The opening:
In the old days, according to Galmora’s grandfather, when the lights went out everyone held their breath and listened first for an explosion that was followed by screams. How loud the cries were told them how long they had to live. Times had changed, her mother had assured her when she was little, but still she’d hold her breath and listen.
The darkness held. She didn’t breath. The candle was near, but she refused to light it. Galmora stared at nothing her eyes could see and waited and wished she was holding her son in the next room. No sense frightening him, though she doubted that would happen. He better understood gas technology and his mother’s fears than she did.
Losing people was one of those fears. He understood that, too, though she was determined he’d never lose her.
Seconds passed. No one died that her ears could detect. She glanced outside and relaxed. Lights were on in the buildings surrounding her own. Galmora lit the candle.
And a few other stories…
Too Late the Truth
As civilization collapses a man attempts to force others to face the painful truth he’s long understood and that forced him to face a deeper truth within himself.
Kidnapped, Prayla must find a way to save the person pulling her further from rescue and closer to an unexpected fate.
The wizards send Marsetta, a linguistics expert, to procure the impossible, a task easier to face than the person standing in her way.
The Moon’s Pull
Esabella reaches another birthday, the day when an ancient superstition threatens to pull her closer to her death and farther away from the family she cherishes.
The Voice that Cries
Taisha, a young woman a wizard once rescued, harbors a dark fear worse than the nightmare that became a burden.
There’s more, a lot more, not the least of is the novel itself. The bottom line is how much I’ve underproduced in the past. It’s amazing how people find ways to waste time and no one is better than me. Yeah, I’m proud of my numbers in November, but much of my year before October was a waste. Too much social media. Too much wandering the internet. Too many late starts. Too many early stops.
Forget about pantsers versus plotters, that’s a distraction. The awkward and painful argument is producers versus procrastinators. If, like me, you were a producer last month NaNo applauds you and then should ask you why that isn’t the case the entire year? If you’re a procrastinator NaNo exposes you and should ask you what you’re going to do about it?
Me? I’m giving up my position as professional excuse maker searching the internet for opportunities to talk about how I’m going to write.
And you’re going to…?