Monday, October 31, 2016


For writers, November is a special month.  It's National Novel Writer's Month (, a contest where participants rush to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  It is a hell of a rush, dumping words on a page day in and day out, when you finally finish your novel in the last few hours of November, barely eking out your necessary word count.  Sure, it probably sucks because the only word you care about is the one you're writing at the moment and you're not giving a single thought to what you wrote even a few seconds ago, but that's what editing is for.  NaNo isn't for creating a good product, it's a test to see how well you can build the habit of writing.  It's about pushing your skills to their limit.

The first time I tried NaNo was 2012.  I had just finished my very first novel, a fantasy story that I had started in 2002 and had languished on zip drives and paper drafts for a 10 years.  I'd add a few things on to it in the meantime, but I decided in 2012 I'd finish it.  It sucked, but I was determined to write the planned sequel for NaNo, hoping it would boost my motivation to continue the series.  I started NaNo with a pathetic outline - really it was barely more than an idea.  "This thing happened, then this one, and finally this one."  It was really no surprise that I failed - I burned through all my ideas too quickly and petered out about halfway through the designated length.  After that I just put both books away and let the next NaNo pass by without an idea.  After one spectacular failure, I decided I'd probably never try NaNo again.

I started 2014 with two little ideas - a homeless werewolf and a supervillain retirement home.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with either of them.  I mean, what I wrote up there just now was all I had even thought of.  That summer, I had an epiphany - merge the two ideas into one story.  After that, all sorts of ideas flooded in.  In a moment of inspiration, I decided I'd try NaNo again.  I resisted the urge to outline a story, instead focusing on the world building.  I wanted this story to grow as I wrote it.  I honestly had no idea where it was going to go.

I went in with two characters - my homeless werewolf, named Manny and Major Max Malice the Menacing, my supervillain stuck in a retirement home.  I'm not sure how I arrived at the decision to write both characters in first person, but I couldn't resist being in both of their heads at once.  They lead me through an exhilarating story that clocked in just over 50,000 words on November 29th.  I finished a day early!

I spent the next year editing the story.  Overall, I didn't change much besides the ending.  I added a lot of backstory and a few new characters in, but I felt the story worked well enough that I didn't have to rewrite it. 

November 2015, I decided to follow my winning formula.  I wrote a sequel to my first book and went in again without an outline and just a few scenes in my head that I wanted to get down on the screen.  Once again, my book just barely crossed the finish line just before the deadline, but I wasn't as happy with it as I was the first book.  While it's far from terrible (in my opinion at least), it wasn't what I expected.  I'm going to rewrite it once this NaNo is over.

Tomorrow I'm going a different route from my first two wins - I'm going with an outline again.  I'm adapted a screenplay idea into a novel and making it a spin-off from my two recent novels.  I've been building the outline this month, trying to get it as detailed as I can so I don't rush from one underdeveloped plot point to the next.  I've got a handful of characters, each with their own backstory.  I've got the world-building locked down.  Tomorrow I start a new experiment and find out who I really am - a pantser or a plotter - and if you can only be one or the other.

This month, the villain restrospects go on hold.  I still have a few to go through after November, but I'm focusing my Monday posts on tracking my novel progress.  I probably won't have time to do any drawn out posts and I doubt I'll do more than one post a week, unless I'm feeling extremely motivated, which honestly, hardly ever happens!  Nevertheless, I'm planning to fill Old School Evil with a bunch of numbers this November, going for that sometimes elusive but always rewarding 50,000!

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