It’s been a week now since I closed out my National Novel Writing Month project and frankly, I’m still kind of amazed that I ‘won’ this year. With everything else going on, I assumed I’d be too strapped for time to get those 50,000 words in. But it worked?
Last year I had outlines, plans, maps. I had research behind me and a concrete plot just waiting to be written down. This year I had none of that. My story was inspired by a writing prompt I did over a year ago after visiting a resort town about an hour from where I live. In that snippet, a bored teenage townie breaks into the vacant vacation homes of rich people in an attempt to liven up her own boring life. In the process, she finds an antique that turns out to be a time machine with some very specific limitations. She exploits it for her own gain and benefits.
For NaNoWriMo I adapted that 1,500-word short into something substantially greater. The place stayed the same, but the nameless bored delinquent became Em, a college-bound young woman. The theft of the time machine becomes her first crime, rather than one in a string of many. The machine itself became futuristic rather than ancient, and the limitations changed due to plot contrivances I never had to address in the previous iteration. And of course, the story went way beyond what was originally penned, traveling back and forth with twists and turns and troubles everywhere.
The story opened up to other characters- parents, friends, adversaries, but it remained personal. In the writing prompt, the tale was told in third person. In the novel, it moved to a first person viewpoint, enabling me to better address the mental state of a person wracked with the countless emotions brought by affecting time. The perspective change was the most difficult thing to tackle. I’ve never written fiction from that side, and it proved incredibly challenging. Here is a girl struggling with major life changes who comes across something she absolutely doesn’t understand. How to you explain the ins and outs of that technology and process when the storyteller doesn’t know themself?
The other characters helped with that, giving Em an outlet to express her own theories, or serving as teachers to direct her questions. But that, of course, brought the need for lots and lots and lots of dialog, which is a feature that I’m sure many struggle with. How do you sound natural? How do you direct the conversation? How do you describe the scene outside of the words being spoken, but do it from a very limited viewpoint?
It was certainly an adventure, one that actually had no true goal until I was nearly 25,000 words in. I had ideas for where I wanted things to end up, but those changed several times. Characters that were supposed to show up in one chapter came back and played prominent roles. Names changed. Relationships changed. The entire theme and tone changed. What was intended as a one and done morphed into something wider reaching with a new world of my own invention open to future stories.
But of course I have to get this one cleaned up before I even think about future plots.
So what’s next? A break. Letting the story sit for a while to marinate in its own completion. Both to develop my own clarity and because I’m just… busy. Travel. Holidays. School. But I will come back to it in early 2017. I have a lot of timeline cleaning up to do, and a lot of character building. I also have a chapter or two that need to be written, just to add more cohesion to the narrative and makes some events seem less…. left field.
So until then, congratulations to all my fellow NaNo Writers. Even if you didn’t make the 50k goal, you’re still a rock star for trying. And to anyone considering this project, please give it a go. This was my second year and I’ve learned so much each time. It’s a wonderful experience (especially with friends to push you!) and I can’t talk it up enough.