Losing and Winning at NaNoWriMo

Derp derp! I am looking forward to my first non-win since I started NaNo in 2008.

(I originally typed “my first failure” but that isn’t right, because as I’ve been preaching to my Wrimos all month: writing less than 50k words does NOT equal failure!)

I’m actually kind of pleased about it. As an ML (regional coordinator, for you uninitiated folks), I feel like I ought to know what it feels like to be one of the people who doesn’t make it, but who keep writing every day anyway. That includes a fair majority of people who participate. Now I know some of the trials and real excuses, and I know a little better how to support that crowd. Yay me!

On the other hand, my story really started taking shape around the 20th of the month. I went from writing rambling pages about my characters taking a walk through town, describing every single thing they see in excruciating detail because I had no idea what the plot was supposed to look like, to suddenly having two or three major insights in a row that gave my story substance and direction.

It was very exciting. If only my organizational abilities could keep up with the thoughts zinging around in my head.

And I’ve had an interesting revelation about how I handle brainstorming. Apparently I deal with brainstorming the same way people with addictions handle interventions. This might have something to do with the fact that most of my brainstorming happens as a conversation with my husband. Here’s an example:

Me: My characters have no motivation! Why would anyone go to such huge risk and expense just to drag a couple of dragon hearts home from the mountains?

Him: To save someone’s life?

Me: Mm, that could be good. But the people mounting the expedition are bad guys. Whose life could be worth saving to them?

Him: Maybe they want to start a war.

Me, internallyPsh. War is stupid. I don’t write about war. What a dumb idea.

Me: Interesting. I’ll write that down.

Him: But their obvious motivation should be something noble. War could be a secret motive!

Me, internallyWar is stupid.

Me: Secret motives are interesting! But saving someone’s life is too hard to work in, since this expedition will take, like… eight months. Should be something a little less dire.

Him: What if they’re trying to do something stop-gap to fix the problem they need the dragon-batteries for? Maybe there’s a coal shortage.

Me: There can’t be a coal shortage. My world runs on coal.

Him: …

Me: Oh, that would certainly create a need, wouldn’t it?

Me, internallyNoooo! I already wrote thirty excruciating pages about the wonders of the steam-driven technology in my world!

Him: There you have it then, coal shortage and war.

Me, internallyWar is stupid. 

Me: I’ll write it down.

… Later, in the throes of ecstasy over having taken away most of the technology in my world …

Me: What could possibly be so important that you would pay for the coal to make an 800-mile train trip to the edge of nowhere every month?

Him: Oil.

Me, internallyI should have known better than to ask that after I saw him watching that History Channel special on the Vanderbilts. 

Me: Oil is boring.

Him: Yes, but it’s valuable.

Me: I’ll write it down.

Me, internallyThis is not going to be a book about freaking energy crises. 

… Two days later, I’d done some outlining and much additional pondering and realized that an energy crises presents a perfect backdrop for a more atmospheric setting, the opportunity for royal conspiracy, the introduction of monsters, AND it produced – out of non-smog-filled thin air – the missing mother of my protagonist.

I have to admit, after much denial, bargaining and depression over lack of other prospects, that boring, real-world-style world conflicts can make excellent background music for a story that does not have to be about those things at all. My story can still be about clockwork dragons and mysterious power-sources and missing persons and wild adventures across dangerous terrain, now everyone involved has proper motive to get started.


My name is Laura. It is Day 30 of NaNoWriMo and my novel has just begun.


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