What I Learned from National Novel Writing Month

This past month for the first time I participated in Write a Novel in November and I am proud to say that not only did I finish said novel, I went above the 50,000 word count required to ‘win’. It was an interesting experience for me along the lines of ‘something I’ve always wanted to do, but never have.’ I’m going to be honest and say that I thought I was just going to go strong and write the target amount of 1,666 words per day the first few days and then forget about it and just fall behind and fail miserably.

But I didn’t; I kept going and going on typing the story. Some days were easy where I could just keep on typing and the words went onto my computer screen with grace, competence, probably some minor typos, and didn’t sound forced. And there were days where I was literally pulling anything out of my ass and hope that it made sense in the grand scheme of things. Some days were harder than others not because of writer’s block, but because I was busy with the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday, and I honestly didn’t want to write on my birthday (I still wrote something, just not the 1666 word count).

Today I am going to tell you how this strange approach to writing a novel has taught me about the novel writing process and what I learned about myself as a writer (I feel like I’m typing an essay I did last year to graduate again.)

Why Would You Do That to Yourself?

Why would I torture myself to write the first draft of a novel in a month? Well it isn’t the first time i’ve written a full novel, those novels were written side by side when I was eighteen when I had better time management and what not. This time period was around seven to nine months which isn’t too bad. However both novels are under 50,000 words and should not be read by anyone ever.

I chose to participate in National Novel Writing Month because I have been working on a novel on and off and created a little universe with outlines for heroes, villains, and all kinds of magic. But it’s been nearly half a decade since this started and it’s mostly been short stories that have been finished and one of the main stories has yet to be finished at all.

So I told myself “you gotta see if you can actually finish a story again before you want to continue on with your little multiverse,” and that’s what I did.

How did you Prepare? What Inspired your Story?

I became ‘pregnant’ with my story in the spring of 2016 while taking a hydrology class and reading Water the Fate of Our Most Precious Resource by Marq Devilliers. The book talked about water and different situations concerning irrigation, dams, the pollution of water in parts of the world, and some of the history of water.

One day I had the image of the world shortly after the end of humanity and a lonely mermaid traveling the wrecked seas looking at the remains of humanity and struggling to stay alive herself because of all the pollution. I may save this concept for a painting.

I prepared for this story by making an outline and setting goals for myself and creating structure by choosing how many chapters to write ahead of time. I settled for thirteen chapters because it seemed like something that was doable for me since this was my first time doing this.

I also set rules for myself; the primary ones being that I would not use any ‘chosen one’ themes (I will write an essay about that soon), no romantic interest and no love triangles (I made damn sure not to fall into that), and to stay as lightly above religion as possible (despite my best efforts religion (okay fine christianity) has made its way into my writing).

So what REALLY Happened? (and some areas where I know I made mistakes)

As I mentioned above I went pretty strong with the start of the month sticking to environmental themes at least for my story. THen came writers block. These were night where I pulled anything out of my ass just to get the plot rolling and ended up doing something that I like to call ‘Off Road Writing’ where I went off the main plot of the outline and created something new. It did benefit in some situations where characters grew more and became more fleshed out.

Speaking of fleshing out characters a mistake I did make was having two supporting characters hijack the story from my protagonist for possibly three chapters.

I also did make a mistake concerning a habit of my protagonist that developed on its own that i will have to go back and rewrite some parts of the story just to have things make more sense for my protagonist.

The drawback of Off Road Writing was that the environmental and climate change themes I had planned out and that had inspired the story took a backseat and despite my best efforts did not make it back into the main plot so well. However themes of life and death and what life is worth did take it’s place so for the second draft I may be able to save what was once lost.

Also despite me intention of this story being stand alone, it is still a stand alone story, but it has been incorporated to my little multiverse, which is kind of a good thing since i got to introduce a character sooner than I wanted to and give an aura of mystery to him.

What Will I Do Now?

I’m taking a break from this novel I’ve written just to forget everything that happened and catch up on my own reading and continue job hunting. I’m actually going to ask a handful of trusted friends to read it and give me feedback and condemn me for my crappier parts of the novel the nights I literally pulled crap out of nowhere.

I don’t know if I want this to be published, definitely not in its current form, but you never know. In its current form I’d give this little novel I’ve written one seashell out of five.

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