Just as No-Shave November has wrapped up and ushered in Drain-Clog December, the end of November also brings us to the close of National Novel Writing Month for the year. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. It’s also a challenge I’ve only completed once, in 2013. Yes, I failed to meet the challenge of the goal this year, but I don’t consider NaNoWriMo 2016 to be a failure. So what has salvaged the challenge for me? What have I gained to not consider it a failure? First, I have a start on a new series! Second, I’ve helped develop my writing style in two major ways. And third, I’ve come to understand myself better as an author.
The content of writing for NaNo this year started with the story of a kidnapped mage who was making a decision that a certain force didn’t like. It felt very shallow to me though, and I just couldn’t get into the story. About a week into November I put it on a shelf as an idea to develop another time. In its place I came up with an idea for the next series I’d like to write and to me it has the feel of Dragonlance Chronicles (by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman). I’ve outlined about half of the first book’s plot and know where I want it to go. As a series, I can see a lot of room for expansion without having to rehash old material. It is an adventure I’m super-excited to take and will update progress when I tackle this project.
I mentioned that I developed my writing style in two ways. The first way is that I’ve learned that I certainly am NOT a pantser! This is a term used for those authors who forego planning their story out and instead write “by the seat of their pants”. They write a starting scene and let the story unfold to them as they write it. It’s a fantastic technique for many people, but alas, I’m not one of them. Planning is critical to my success as a writer.
The second development I have made in my writing style is concerning characters. This was a fun yet time-consuming task for me, and was the major contributor to me writing no story. I was really able to get into the characters I came up with and flesh them out by creating a database based on most of the questions included in this article (Novel Writing Tips: Character Backstory). After answering the questions for each character, I copied the information into my Scrivener project and gave them each their own file or chapter. This is a great tool that I’ll be using going forward in my writing, likely beginning with book 3 of the Child of Lies series, as it will be introducing many new characters and stories. I will also probably do it retroactively for the characters in The Path to Winter’s Bite, Winter’s Bite, and Valceine Prophecy.
Lastly, NaNoWriMo 2016 has helped me better understand myself as an author. The past two years (2014 and 2015) I felt like a failure as a writer because I couldn’t finish the challenge. I succeeded the first time I did it, so it’s not something I’m unable to do, so why two (now three) missed challenges in a row? But what I’ve come to learn is that until I take myself seriously as an author, I can’t expect anyone else to do so. Some may, some may not, but I can’t expect them to. And it isn’t me writing according to a specific schedule that makes me an author. What makes me an author is progressing on my current story. Making it one, then two, then three steps closer to being ready for release. And then, moving on to the next. I’ve accepted that and moving forward I am able to take myself seriously. Thank you, NaNo 2016, for the lessons you’ve taught me this year.
Winter’s Bite is available in Kindle and Paperback format.
The Path to Winter’s Bite is available only in Kindle format.
They can be purchased here on Amazon.