zaterdag 30 november 2013

November Madness

Every year in November, two events happen that are important to me and tend to control the better part of my life for the duration of the month. Everything I want to do has to be weighed and measured, and it has to be decided if the things that I want to do are worth the amount of time I will sacrifice for it.

One of the two things is Movember, an effort to increase cancer awareness and fight preventable cancer deaths. It requires that you don’t shave your moustache for a month, but many people (including me) actually use it as an excuse not to shave at all and include a beard, which is officially breaking the rules, but what the hey, right? It’s for a good cause.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort, though, so it isn’t the thing that causes me to think about each and every other pastime that came across me.

No, the reason that everything has to be weighed and every decision needs to be made with the utmost care is NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, that challenges people from around the world to write a 50.000 word novel in November. It means that, every day, the people that decided to accept the challenge are working hard and throwing quality in the wind (or not) in order to write at least 1.666 words and make sure that they have a word document containing at least 50.000 words by midnight, November 30.

Now, it has to be stated that I am a bit of an overachiever when it comes to things like this.

Back in 2010, I first joined the challenge and wrote my first book, Bright Dawn, a piece of military fiction focusing on four fighter pilots, successfully finishing the novel and ending up with 63.584 words. I decided to send the book to a print-on-demand publisher, and it’s been standing in my bookcase ever since. I remember that I had only decided to join about ten days before the challenge started, because that was when I heard about it, so I had worked with minimal preparation and maximal time wasting plots, but it had worked out and I came out with a good feeling.

So good, in fact, that I didn’t waste time and used the whole of December (and a good part of my first Moleskine notebook) on planning out the book for the year after that.

It ended up to be Physokinetic, which was a fantasy adventure that ended up getting way out of hand as I started introducing subplots and characters that turned out to be way more important than I could ever have planned. I like it when that kind of things happen, because it usually turns out to be the best writing I do and gives me more material to close inconvenient plot holes with. Physokinetic ended up with 91.477 words, but was actually finished with it by day 18, because I decided that 1.666 words per day was actually a little light. I could write that amount of words in less than an hour, and I actually enjoyed the writing, so I decided to write at least 5.000 words per day and, like that, finish a chapter each day.
In 2012, the fateful year that would bring the end of the world (or, as it turned out, not), I decided to write an indirect sequel to Physokinetic. Tamer would be in the same world as Physokinetic, dealing with the problems that had been caused by the ending of Physokinetic, but it would feature a new main character and a whole slew of different sub-characters that all had their own agendas and reasons to be. It, too, quickly got out of hand as I realized about halfway through that I hadn’t even prepared an villain, let alone an ending, but thankfully, my writing got away from me again and allowed me to fix that problem in a sudden flash of inspiration. It even allowed me to get some characters from Physokinetic back for that nostalgic thrill.
In the end, Tamer was 149.261 words long. I had reached my goal of 5.000 words almost every day, which had been a huge achievement for me.
This year, with the world still intact and another NaNoWriMo coming around, I decided to do the same as I did in 2012 and wrote an indirect sequel to Tamer and, with that, Physokinetic. It would be titled Hangman’s Daughter, and I got the first inspiration somewhere around January, when it started to dawn on me that I actually needed to prepare again. So I started writing notes when the inspiration for the new story came to me, quickly filling page after page of the little A6-notebook that I was carrying around for exactly that purpose.
At some point, though, and I imagine this being somewhere halfway through April or May, the inspiration stopped when I realized that I had hit a wall that I didn’t know how to write myself out of. I decided to put it all down while I worked on the second sequel to Bright Dawn, titled Flying Light, but it ended up in a massive writer’s block that made me stop writing anything for the rest of the year.
This blog was a first move to actually get out of that block in a long time.
Skip to halfway through October, when the jitters about November coming up started to creep up in my mind and I started to look back to my notes. I started typing them out, carefully copying the many handwritten pages to my computer, all the time marvelling at the amount of writing I had done, and eventually hitting the point where I had stopped. I realized that I still didn’t know how to get out of that situation, but re-reading everything that I had prepared meant that I had an inkling of an idea of how I could solve it and work on after that point.
I never took the trouble of actually working it out.
It turned out that the point where I had broken down and stopped taking notes happened on day 28, which meant that I had notes to guide me for the better part of the challenge (of course I kept adding characters and plots as they came to me, often making for better plot than the things that I had prepared), but the last three days were filled with improvisation. Thankfully, I had managed to come up with a solution for my problem, but it was a close shave.
In the end, Hangman’s Daughter counted 158.366 words. It beat all other stories, and it was quite the ride. I only spent 1 day without writing, because I was playing an awesome game of D&D that day, and I spent the next two days repairing that oversight. Those two days were probably the most exhausting of the whole ordeal.

I got through it, though, so I got this neat little winner’s badge, which I will proudly display on the bottom of this page.

Now I need to start thinking about 2014, because I think I introduced enough chaos in this world, by now…
I win!

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