NaNoWriMo from the other side


The first time that I completed NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) I did it backwards. I did in fact write the required 50,000 words that month, but by backwards, I mean that I wrote the last part of the novel, which became Traitor’s Knot. The prevailing goal (or at least the approach that NaNo diehards subscribed to) is that you have to start a new novel, not finish it. That year was a frantic race to the finish line and it felt good to get there!

The next year, I decided to try it properly–start a new novel. I had some scenes kicking around in my head, and I had completed some initial research. November 1st rolled around…ready…set…nada. There was hair pulling, teeth grinding, and lots of procrastination activities (check out this blog post). I did push through and logged in a win, but I didn’t feel that the exercise helped me write a viable story. What happened?

My writing process.

For that first attempt at NaNo, I already had an established work in progress. I had spent months years (let’s not quibble here) of mulling on the story. In other words, by the time NaNo rolled along, I had already pushed a very heavy boulder up a steep hill. There I was looking at the valley below, with a very clear idea of where this puppy had to go. When the starting gun fired, all I needed to do was nudge that boulder just a smidgeon and off it went. It worked absolutely brilliantly. I credit NaNo with infusing a palatable energy in the last part of the book as my frantic tapping away at the keyboard rubbed off on the scenes I was writing. These characters were not allowed to dilly-dally. They had to act and act fast.

But starting a new novel (for me) requires thought and mulling and getting to know my characters by letting them kick around in my head. You just don’t have the luxury of doing this during NaNo. Your Muse has turned into an unrelenting sergeant barking orders in boot camp. The scenes that churn out may have some unexpected gems but there is a lot of sifting through rough stones to get to them.

This year, I am once again in the second half of a work in progress (the second in my series) and the boulder is poised on that ridge. I may not have as much of a clear site to what lies at the bottom as I did for Traitor’s Knot, but I know that the frantic energy that you can only get during NaNo will infuse the scenes I write and mirror my characters’ desperation to get to the end of their story. I know that I’ll have more gems than stones to sift through in the end, and that makes my Muse very happy.

Happy NaNo everyone, no matter which side of your novel you happen to be working on!

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