One week into NaNoWriMo and dare I suggest it’s going okay. I spent most of October doing everything and anything to avoid planning.
It’s a bit odd because I’m both excited by the idea of the novel and at the same time, completely apathetic to the process of writing it. I think the initial 50k word target tips it from being a bit of fun to actual work. I take my semi-retirement seriously. I did finally guilt myself into doing some planning in the last few days before the November kickoff. At which point I realised that I’d left my research way too late.
The project now has a working title “All creatures, space and all” (Wen came up with that one) and it’s based on the short story Dreadnought that I’d written for round #2 of this years NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. It’s an epic sci-fi space opera told through the eyes of a veterinarian, of course.
Day 1 – Scrivener open staring at the blank page, I turn to all my planning notes. Very good, I have a plan. Now, where do I star? It took me two hours of scratching my head before I finally decided to write a prologue. It’s unlikely to make it into the final edit but it at least got me started.
It’s taking me somewhere between 4-6 hours a day to hit the daily 1666 target and I have to say it’s some sketchy stuff. I’ve gone from being a day behind after 3 days to almost a day up by day 6. I know I’ll need a buffer to deal with the unexpected.
My sole focus at the moment is to get the main plotline down. I’ve sacrificed all concepts of quality. I initially thought that was a bad thing, but as ideas change and reform I’m realising it’s ideal. I’m writing a lot of fairly short scenes (<600 words) and I can already see many are going to get thrown away or completely rewritten. Characters live and die, on a whim. Hell, entire planets and races pop in and out of existence as new layers of the story present themselves. It’s a volatile universe.
At the end of day three, I have to admit I hated it. The first two chapters read like a cliched YA story, with a strange fascination for frogs. I kid you not, the story was being driven by amphibians. By the end of day five, as I’d started to drop in some political intrigue and the bigger picture stuff, and having exorcised my frog fetish, it started to veer towards what I had envisioned. I’m currently walking a fine line between making it accessible but also be hardcore sci-fi. There’s a little hand-holding going on that I’m hoping will pay off, without alienating the nerds.
What’s clear to me at this point is I will need to produce ~130k words in this fast form to complete the story. I’ll then need to do a second pass, where I sort out the structure and actually rewrite each scene with an eye to quality. It will then take a third pass and a proper edit to pull it all together. At which point I think I’ll be employing someone who knows what they are doing to help. It’s a long long road that I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m still walking next NaNoWriMo.
I did get some good news? A week in and I received the judge’s scores for the original Dreadnought short story and it was placed 2nd in its group, securing 14 points. With the 3 points I picked up from round #1 for Altar of Alang, it was enough for me to scrape through to round #3 along with 625 much more talented writers. Which was unexpected and cool, especially given the cull was from 3700+ writers. Encouraging as well, as it would imply the story must have at least been entertaining. It looks like I got away with my “howling howl” howler as well.
The bad news is round #3 is this weekend. 48 hours, 3 new prompts. Right in the middle of all my NaNoWriMo fun and if that wasn’t enough of a distraction, next weekend is round #2 of the NYC Midnight Micro Fiction Challenge. Thankfully that’s only 24 hours. The lesson here is – I really need to get a handle on my calendar.
Image courtesy of: Jonas Jacobsson