Tuesday, 4 October 2011

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

Yeah, it's a terrible name.

In case you're wondering (as I was, until recently) what NaNoWriMo means, check out this link and this wiki page to get an idea!
In case you don't have the time/patience, the gist of the idea is that during the month of November, a community pull together for encouragement and inspiration, with the goal being the production of a novel per member.

Now, the parts of my life I've mentioned fleetingly here in relation to my depression (I only capitalise when I'm trying to prove a point!) are something of a part-time occupation or pastime. Full-time(ish) I'm a writer. Well, I'm trying to be, with varying degrees of success.

What I'd love to do though, is write a novel. I've never written one, but like so many other people I feel like I've got ideas and potential. The writing I do currently is less creative, with an emphasis more on comment, opinion and news. I'd love to write a story.

I'm not at all interested in joining the NaNoWriMo community. It's just not... me. But, like any good idea, the concept behind NNWM can easily be modified to fit wants and needs. As such, I'll be writing my first novel over the next few months and, depending on how it goes, pitching it to some publishers.

My proposition to YOU, my beloved (and importantly, NOT NaNoWriMo) community, is:

Should it become something in the choose-your-own-adventure mold or not? I'd be asking you guys to pick from options, and if replies aren't timely I'll lead with what I'd prefer personally.

The story would be heavily based on my own experiences, and the experiences of those around me. Would you prefer the story to focus on crime, love, depression, education, work or the character(s) themselves? An exploration of the them, or the things they're experiencing?
The novel will hopefully cover all of those things, as that would be what I want to write about, but I'd love to know how I could emphasise certain parts to give the most to the reader.

I'll be posting short excerpts, a paragraph maybe, per day. If anyone should want a copy of the whole thing, please let me know and it would be my pleasure to send you a copy via email or something. I'd only ask that you keep it to yourself as I'd like to approach publishers, ideally.

Clearly I wouldn't even consider charging for my work here, but a dream of mine is that of a publisher paying me for my novel. Not because I'm struggling for cash (although I definitely am) but because... well, I just want it! Imagine it, being a novelist. I'm proud enough that I'm a writer, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world on occassion, but a novelist? Well, gee...


  1. That is a horrid name. I do like the idea of a choose your own adventure style blog. I remember reading those books like that in middle school, seems like it could be interesting.

  2. Hey when I try that capitalize rule at work they get mad at me.

  3. Okay, well, I'm definitely no expert on literature, just for the record. The NaNoWriMo really needs a better name, though.

    Well, let's start with this: I know you can write. You have the writing skills for the job. The question is: Can you write creatively enough to be a novelist?

    There's a lot of stuff you need to do for a novel to be good, very likely you will spend many, many months on the novel, possibly years. You will also, very likely, go back and rewrite entire chapters. Possibly erase entire chapters. Possibly erase the entire book, just to start from the beginning with a slightly different approach.

    If you're going to write a book, I advice you to be organized, but try to still enjoy the process. Choose a theme that interests you. Develop a lot of characters in interesting ways. And making believable characters isn't exactly the easiest thing to do, you kind of have to make up a whole backstory and personality to each of them, even though in the book, you'll probably not have room to reveal everything about everybody. Perhaps the preparation process, where you develop your characters, choose a theme and setting, and where you try to think up the general idea of the plot, is the hardest and longest one. After getting into the writing process, you may also find yourself back at the preparation process repeatedly.

    Surely, it will not be an easy process, but hopefully you will enjoy it anyway. There is this feeling of freedom, when you can make up a story of your own, and if needed, pick out the aspects of reality that you don't like.

    I'm not sure what I should tell you to focus on. You may have heard everything I've told you so far. I think writing about your own experiences is perhaps an easy way to write, and certainly modelling characters after people you know in real life is a common thing that authors do. But if you want the novel to actually be published, you should probably try to make it catch the reader's attention early on. Somehow. Get the readers interested. I am unsure of how this could be done, though. A very important thing, though, is to have good, believable dialogues.

    I'd love to read your book updates here, and hopefully we people can help improve your work, by commenting and criticizing. Having people read your work-in-progress sounds like a good idea to me. Then you can go back to the older posts and change them. I hope you'll keep a folder of word files too, though. Going here to change a part of the book every single day will get annoying.

    I am unsure of what you mean with the "choose your own adventure" concept, though. If you mean that you would let us bloggers choose how the story progresses, well, I'm not sure how well that would turn out. If you mean that you would write one of those "if you choose A skip to page X" books, then I'm unsure of how successful such a concept would be, and of how you would be able to base such a book on your own experiences.

    However, I guess the most important thing is that you enjoy the writing process. I'm really tired right now, so I hope I managed to express myself clearly.

  4. Oh, I just remembered some more things to say.

    Some authors make up characters, and develop them by writing short stories about them, maybe past events in their life, which could be used later in the final book. I've also heard about an author that took the approach that he wrote short stories like those for some of the central characters, and then wrote a similar short story, but as a summary of the plot of his entire series of books. His books were awesome too.

    Hopefully you'll manage to get the story to focus on all the things you mentioned. I don't really have a preference, but however you decide to do it, try to make it all relevant to the plot of the book.

    Or, you could write a cynical, satirical novel full of black comedy, poking fun at the very human existence, if that's your thing. Such a novel doesn't really have to be all that consistent. This is just an example, I just wanted to remind you that the genre in some cases partly defines the book for you.

    Anyway, good luck, and I hope I didn't discourage you. I'm probably not making much sense anymore, the doctor gave me some pretty strong medication.

  5. I appreciate all these comments so much, thanks guys. Unbelievably helpful and typically wry, as I've come to expect from my blogging buddies here!

    @TheBeholder - Thanks particularly to you, I knew you'd offer some very useful pointers on this and you've certainly not let me down. Hopefully that medication will work wonders for you in whatever way you hope! :)

    Btw - the choose-your-own-adventure thing would be me saying something like:
    In the next chapter, do I talk about:
    A - The party where whatever happens
    B - That time I got a job
    C - Me and my ex-gf

    Terrible examples, but you get the idea!

    As for the organisation thing, I think this is something I've got used to for my work anyway. I'm constantly writing, thinking of writing, sketching out plans and drafts and the like. I wouldn't go into something like this without detailed (almost ridiculously so) planning.

    The creativity thing worries me, certainly. I did indeed plan to base it almost entirely in fact.
    I've spoken to one or two people about my pastimes and hobbies, one was a counsilor and one was a journalist. Both told me they found the ins-and-outs of it interesting, so I'm hoping the reader will too. The rest of it, things like relationships, school etc. would be the backdrop, the emotional tie. If that makes sense?

    I don't know, I'm confident I can write something not entirely dull, but whether it will be publishable remains to be seen. Like you said, enjoying the process is key and will certainly be my focus.

    Thanks everyone, and I'll keep you posted :)

  6. In that case, I'd say go ahead and start writing. Many authors base their fiction novels on actual events, so I don't see a problem here, as long as the writing and dialogues are good and interesting.

    I don't really think the "choose-your-own-adventure" thing would work out that well if you overuse it, though... If you run into a dead end, ask us, just don't do it with every chapter, or we will completely ruin your book.