NaNoWriMo begins in 1 week. As usual, I have not prepared or planned. When November 1st arrives, I will hit the flow state that always descends upon me in those first few fevered days. Churning out 5,000-6,000 words a day for 3-5 days, then dwindling down to 1,000-3,000 if I’m lucky. If I don’t hit that wall where I’ve either lost the plotline or discovered too many holes created in my half-crazed beginning.
Some years, I have persevered, muddling through. But more often than not, I overthink, second-guessing every decision made by the characters, or, losing the language and suddenly the whole story feels different, alien. But my goal then had been simple: to reach the 50,000-word mark. I never contemplated beyond that. Often, character development and a fully functioning plot were left to the sidelines as I just typed away, solely focused on reaching the desired word count.
A Change This November
This year, however, I am picking up where I left off in 2022, 26,000-odd words into a story that I began toying with that previous summer. My goal this year is to write well beyond 50,000 words and complete this novel.
The difference this year is two-fold. For the first time, I’m continuing the project from the previous year. Anytime I have participated in this event, I have never gone back to the story I previously began, regardless of hitting the 50k goal. The reason why? I wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters, I didn’t care what happened to them. They didn’t move me, they were flat, strained.
Now I finally have a story worth telling. I’m intrigued by the characters, their motivations, their secrets still to be discovered. There is a depth that was lacking in the past. The characters have flaws, make mistakes, shift, and change sometimes in surprising ways.
Lessons in bad writing
Secondly, I’m revisiting my past attempts. Reading at this distance allows for a clearer perspective, one of detachment, enabling the errors, plot failings, or flat characters to reveal themselves starkly. The repetitive language blunders, unnatural flow, and inhuman conversation all contribute to my deeper understanding of the process.
Although I say I haven’t planned, for this year’s challenge, what I actually mean is I haven’t formally drawn up an outline or written notes, etc. The only planning that has taken place is solely in my mind, usually at three o’clock in the morning. But I’m anxious to begin, to better understand my characters and their world. I have begun editing what was written a year ago, revising or deleting as needed. my minds eye sees this other world, this other life unfurl in completeness, in suchness.
Crafting Good Fiction
Creating fiction is an exhilarating and immersive experience, where words come alive on the page, weaving tales of wonder and intrigue. Yet, it demands dedication and perseverance. The creative aspect is peculiar as the concepts are either there or not, unlike this blog where, given a topic, I can research and write or elaborate on a topic I am knowledgeable and passionate about all day. Fiction doesn’t work that way. It’s deeper. Or, I should say, it must be deeper. It must pull us from our daily grind and say “Look here! See what you are missing. This emotion, this depth is all around us – stop drowning out the present!”
Good fiction elicits a response from the reader, whether it’s anguish, fear, or joy. We ride the wave with the characters. Good writing allows us to step into another’s shoes, teaching us empathy and emotional awareness. It touches us and pulls us into a world that sometimes seems more real than the one we inhabit, and perhaps it is even more real—at least while we are visiting.
Ah, to create good fiction, that is my goal. Though I don’t think this novel will be considered great fiction, it is a beginning. The first step in a journey, as I turn the first page, eagerly anticipating what the next chapter will bring.
If you’re interested in participating in NaNoWriMo, you can find more information here.