NaNoWriMo 2015

National Novel Writing Month is approaching again. When I last had occasion to discuss NaNoWriMo, I talked about a couple of things that didn’t go as planned.

The first was that year’s entry – Jurassic Park meets Starship Troopers, I described it as. I planned to have 50,000 words of militaristic survival thriller, with a squad of explorers and their bodyguards trapped on an alien world until their transport home showed up, defending themselves from overly-aggressive dino-style fauna, and running out of ammunition. It didn’t go well. Records indicate that I made it to 11,260 words, without even getting to the first massive salvo of gunfire. I was not writing in my favourite genre, nor even one I’d really read much in at all. I also didn’t have much inspiration for the dialogue, much idea of what would go on during an initial planetary exlporation, nor much enthusiasm for describing “thick hide [was] shredded by the gyroc, behind which the creature’s flesh erupted as the explosive payload detonated” more than half a dozen times. So, yeah, that didn’t get done.

The other thing I mentioned was that I was going to be going over all the books in the fantasy series I’d written, and editing them down from six to four books. I never even got started on that project, what with one thing another (moving out, the emotional disaster of Henry V: Here & Now, etc). It’s something that might get done in the future, but it’s not on the table as a project in the foreseeable future. I did make a thorough editing pass over all of them, mainly in order to standardise and uniformitise them in preparation for the final three books in the series, the first of which I wrote for last year’s NaNo. Book VIII will be this year’s NaNo, and the final book in the series will be next year’s NaNo.

Eight completed NaNos, ten years of entering, seven self-published books, four hundred and seventy-six thousand and ninety-six total words. That’s a lot of writing. I’m setting myself an individual target of 65,000 words for both this year’s NaNo and next year’s, so at the end of November 2016 I will have written just over 600,000 words.

Six hundred thousand words. That’s probably more than some people write in a lifetime. That’s more than the number of paces you could expect to take when running seven marathons – and at times it has felt like running a marathon. It’s also a daunting enough number that some people might see it and think something like, “there’s no way I could get that done, not even across ten NaNos.” The follow-up thought to that is likely to be, “no point in trying, then.”

Wrong. Absolutely dead wrong.

The mere fact that one person is planning to write nine books spanning over half a million words and eleven years is not enough of a reason to give up on your own creative expression in the same medium. If it was, I would never have started after reading (I think it was in a Discworld Companion) that one series had so far amassed over two million words, maybe ten years before I heard about NaNo, and was still going strong. I could have given up after meeting people at the NaNoWriMo parties who were challenging each other to 200,000-word targets, and being reasonably certain of reaching them.

I am going to write more than half a million words in one series of books. So what? Some people have got that sort of mojo in them. If you don’t think you have, you don’t have to look at my corpus and think, “I’ll never get that much done,” because in that case you never will. The thing to do is look at my corpus and think, “if he can do it, I can do it!” Or, “good for him, I’ll aim a little lower until I get my writing legs.” Just because someone appears to have already reached the pinnacle of success is no reason for you to not follow them, making your own path to get there if necessary. It’s not about being creative enough to pump out half a million words, it’s about feeling creative enough to have tried it in the first place. Everyone has that sort of mojo in them; some people express it best through writing, some through acting, some through music, some through making costumes, and some through woodwork! I won’t overshadow first-time NaNo-ers (did I just make NaNo a verb?), unless we meet in person and they’re like a foot shorter than me or something. People like me primarily serve as inspiration to those who are trepidatious about NaNo-ing (yep, I did), to show others that this is the sort of thing that can happen if you have a good idea and you feel like running with it. Don’t be put off if you think your idea doesn’t have the legs to run for nine books – I didn’t know I would be writing more than one book until I’d nearly finished the first one.

So, y’know, here’s my mountain. You’re more than welcome to climb it with me, or build your own. We can both enjoy the view from the top, no matter how high they all turn out to be.

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