Thursday, 13 November 2014

NaNo, No, NO!

My NaNoWriMo novel this year is set in Italy...
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a terrific concept. The idea is that you write a novel of 50,000 words in the month of November. You get support from your friends because you’re all in this together and you can moan and groan and cheer — or even celebrate — together.

I always run at NaNo on the basis that it’s a sprint not a marathon. Last year it took me five days (and if you want to read it you’ll find it here, because it was published last month). This year was a little less successful, certainly quantitatively speaking as I didn’t type those wonderful words ‘The End’ until the 10th.

I think this year’s may be qualitatively deficient, too, for all sorts of reasons. The main one is that I wasn’t quite ready to get started but alas, November wouldn’t wait. I like to approach these things with a plan and work to it. If the plot changes then so be it; if the characters decide the want to do their own thing I have to go with them. But this year the plan was at best sketchy, partly because I’d just finished a draft of a novel and that had taken up so much of my energy that I didn’t really think I had much left in the tank.

But one thing leads to another. My recently-completed draft had two characters whose story cried out to be told; so this year’s NaNo was about them. A variation on Romeo and Juliet had Nico and Leona falling in love despite their feuding families. (Hardly, original, I know, but no plot is. It’s how you handle it that matters.)

So I did finish but it felt very unsatisfactory. The main benefit wasn’t in the novel itself but in how it informed the previous one. Even as I wrote it I realised that I needed to change things in the first one (thanks heavens it’s still at draft stage!). Most significantly it informed my characterisation — that almost all of my characters had secrets revealed in the second that needed to be hinted at in the first.

Never having attempted a sequel before I’ve struggled with a lot of aspects of it — not least how to make two books about the same set of characters set over in a short period of time stand alone and yet not repeat large chunks of back story in book two — but I think I’ve learned a lot.

I haven’t finished yet, of course. Just because you get to 50,000 words doesn’t mean those 50,000 stay still. The keep churning in your brain, multiplying like bacteria. I’m now reasonably certain I have the plot for book one but that for book two is still evolving. And I’m excited.

Can’t wait to get on with the editing…