It’s National Novel Writing Monday!

Not quite. But it is–or until ten minutes ago at the time of writing this–the first Monday of National Novel Writing Month, November for those unawares. Since the year 2006 I’ve been a dedicated participant and often find it’s one of the few things I do truly for myself, and mine self only.

The story of my Wrimo-ing is purely coincidental. I was on a writer’s forum for Neopian Times writers (who write for the Neopian Times, a subset of the Neopets virtual pet site, which contrary to popular belief, is not just for children), and it came up in conversation about writing novels this thing called NaNoWriMo. I was intrigued.

So I researched: It’s a challenge for writers to complete a 50,000 word manuscript in one month, November. Of course, I knew that “real” novels were really much longer, up there in the range of 150,000 words, so of course I knew I’d have to go above and beyond to truly have a piece I could get published. So for that one month, I had no life–which at the time was already pretty apparent–and in the end, I managed nearly 170,000 words.

Then I realised most novels are actually much shorter, and the chances of a first-time novelist getting anything published outside the range of 80,000 to 120,000 words is pretty much impossible. But I had a lot of fun, tried a lot of new writing styles, and ended up with two stories that, although desperately in need of desperate rewriting, are actually–for the most part, I believe–fairly good stories. And there’s this saying (by someone whom I can’t remember, my apologies) that says something of the sort that every artist has a thousand bad pictures in them, and after that they’re all good. I hoped there was a similar correlation between quantity and quality for writers and assumed if nothing else, at least it had been a good experience.

I repeated my wordiness the next year, and the year after, and then again last year, and this year will be my fifth year writing–and hopefully my fifth year winning as well. (To be determined, what with all the school work I’ve acquired of late this semester–but I shall be hopeful! And I shall prevail.)

Last year I also took upon the volunteer position of municipal liaison, or regional coordinator, for the Greensboro region, so I get to help inspire people to write and set up write-ins (semi-social events to break the monotony of writing alone at home), and although I make it seem all lax and dull, I actually have a great time being able to meet so many like-minded (that is, rather insane) writers from around NC and to have the opportunity to help motivate and inspire others. NaNoWriMo has been a staple experience every year for me, and I hope to help make it the same for many others as well.

NaNoWriMo is also one of the few things I truly consider wholly “my own,” as I said before. It seems everything else I do has an inherent quality to which it places me in the service of others (which I won’t say I don’t enjoy, but it does give a certain sense of obligation that although itself motivating to proceed, is sometimes lacking in the actual aesthetics of personal pleasure). Going to school is not merely my own choice; it was a condition for continuing to work at my synagogue, and also a general expectation of my family and (most) friends. Being a club leader may certainly be personally fulfilling, but it also puts me directly in the service of others–which without a doubt is selfless in the end (not to say I’m selfless, but the position by definition is a selfless one to fill). Working at school and at my synagogue allows me to teach others. Babysitting my niece helps my sister; doing chores helps my family; and even being a good friend, those few times when I truly am, is a commitment to another, not wholly done so for myself.

But NaNoWriMo is different. Up until last year when I became an ML, NaNo was a purely personal endeavor (and even now as an ML, the actual writing part purely personal). I do enjoy writing short stories (and for those longing for my next, I should have one prepared to post shortly), but they’re brief and passing and capture an idea, a moment in time, and instance of inspiration–and little else.

Novels are different. Novels capture a series of events, a series of moments. What a short story is to derivation, a novel is to integration–it takes a starting function, and instead of reducing it to something merely tangent to the initial condition, it creates a collection of points, an accumulation of quantity that describes a whole, something truly greater than the sum of its component parts.

And therefore I share a special bond with my novels, especially those of which I refer to as my NaNovels (which is an obvious portmanteau of NaNoWriMo–itself a portmanteau–and novels, and ingenious as I may be in saying it, I’m not nearly the one to take credit for its invention). These novels, comprised in a month with such a rush to the finish line that no active thought can dictate it in such ways a short story may succumb to, or especially of a longer piece taking years to complete, are instead akin to a form a free-writing, the ultimate active meditation I indulge in, one that opens my mind and frees my soul–and ends up often being a time capsule for myself at the moment of writing, a memento of who I was when I wrote the story. My feelings, my fears, my wants and desires. All of them become innately, inherently, accidentally incorporated into the stories, and that itself is testament to how personal an experience NaNoWriMo had become for me. And shall remain to be.

Calculus and physics are killers (metaphorically speaking), and for as much as they inspire me, they also bombard me with an intensity not even NaNoWriMo could prepare me for. Among classes and clubs, I will face a challenge this year greater than any year prior, but I shall press on, just as all others aiming to make this endeavor will press on beside me. The collective runs high each November, and for many, for most, it shows.

So here’s to another November, another NaNo, another Monday that’s more than a Monday, but someday special, that shows the start of a new journey, a new story, a new self.


One thought on “NaNoWriMonday

  1. And so we begin.

    It’s been a few short hours (mostly because I was in a dire lack of sleep this Monday), and I’ve already seen what an amusingly horrible situation I’ve put myself in.

    So I figured I’d write a step-by-step first person recollection of the story of the legendary Grey Warden (as detailed in the game Dragon Age: Origins), thinking it’d be a great start-off for my (hopefully recurring) yearly participation in a Novel Writing contest, presuming it would be easier than writing a novel from scratch.

    I hate this is what is to be said: I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve spent approximately 6 hours (this is the first chapter, mind you, which hopefully will span between 2000 and 6000 words) playing and replaying the first section of the game (the appropriately named “Origins” segment), using manual and automated ways of recording 100s upon 1000s of screenshots of the dialogue; spending two hours on rereading a mere 50 wiki pages (with more to come); spending another 20 minutes on aligning sections of the codex (the game’s own encyclopedia, seen and detailed second/third person); and finally, finding a way to structure every dialogue (or skip them, in certain cases), getting the exact quotes in order, as well as finding out what aspects of the game should be explained as if by hindsight, the personality of the protagonist, his background, his future (from the stance of the story) and creating consistency between NOT only the dialogue (as fine as the writers did their job, they can’t create complete consistency taking into account player choices), but also the entire storyline, since it has to match exactly with data in Origins. And that’s the first chapter.

    Add to that the fact that most of my character’s lines are original (otherwise he’d have no personality), in both prefixed conversations as those I invoked, and you’ll see how much easier it would’ve been to simply start anew and create a world and characters of my own (as I can then forge the consistency itself, rather than adjusting depending on the pre-written scenario).

    Still, I am certain this will be rewarded in some way (imagine the joy if I do ever manage to finish it), but this certainly is NOT what NaNoWriMo is about. They stated that “your inner editor must take a break until December”, but that’s easier said than done when you already have a story your own lines must be in cohesion with (and really, I can’t see a mangled sentence and not do everything to better it).

    I’m positive I can easily manage 50k (or even double that amount) in words, but even then, the story will be far from finished. The only escape for that is writing this fully from the perspective of the protagonist, which I am considering, as it would allow for a more dialogue-centered style. (Which allows me to skip over most of the events, primarily encounters with meaningless mobs. This really adds to the story as I can detail the essence of the scenario and the characters, rather than string along a pre-determined route.

    Also meaning that, in effect, I can add numerous storylines that were not expanded on in the game (as there were many), add depth to the characters not present and predominantly fix the conversations in such a way that they would accurately represent what I’d do.

    So this is where I’m at: a dozen pages of notes, a few lines of dialogue and a brittle red line. And still, I believe most of my work has now been done, and hopefully I can truly start enjoying my own, personal story. <3

    So I wish you luck, and hope you will update us soon, even through your now amazingly-more-busy-than-amazingly-busy schedule.
    Best of luck, and enjoy.
    ~ Iced

    (PS: these were almost 700 words. Had I written them in my other word document instead, I would've had a 1000 left. ;))

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