Nanowrimo Redux

So today is the first of November, and I have some big, ambitious plans for November. First on the list is actually not Nanowrimo: I have to revise the first chapter of my thesis, and I’m actually pretty excited about that. Second on the list though, no wait that’s getting my CV set up so that I can make an expression of interest for tutoring next year; third on the list is Nanowrimo. I also have a vlog project in mind but it seems like I’d have to learn a lot of video editing stuff that I really don’t want to, so we’ll see. Maybe it’ll just be a blog with photos or something.

Anyway yes Nanowrimo and, you ask, what is it that I am going to be writing?

I will tell you.

… I still don’t know.

But what I do know is that I want to write a novel this month. I know that what feeds my novel-writing hunger is ripping shit off, so it stands to reason that I’d write something iterative and predictable. I also still don’t quite feel like I’m not writing Tallulah anymore, and sad to say I want to use Nanowrimo to kinda prove to myself that this is, in fact, the case. It’s time to move on.

And having said all that … yeah. I don’t know what I want to write. I don’t even know if I want to write. But I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I’ve been self-censoring for a very, very long time and it makes it very hard for me to enjoy writing at all. And that is another thing that I can use Nano for.

At the moment, I am leaning towards four different projects. Two of them I like for fairly similar reasons: they are iterative and predictable and I can just have some fun doing that. One is my shitty YA werewolf thing that I was singing the praises of a few months ago, a project that came from my combined fascination with a horrible yet rather enjoyable werewolf film called Wolves, the highly addictive MTV series Teen Wolf, and my first ever viewing of The Maze Runner. Throw in a little bit of Vampire Academy just to really get in the mindset of jumping on the bandwagon, as well as the freedom of the anxious null zone between finishing Honours and awaiting the start of Masters, and you have the state of mind I was in when I embarked upon this project, writing over 7k words in one sitting, much to my delight. I have a pretty fucking clear trajectory for this story, and as long as I don’t overthink it I think I could certainly get it done in a month.

The second option is another shitty, iterative YA project that I’ve waxed slightly lyrical about in this blog, this one inspired by my first ever viewing of The Mortal of Instruments: City of Bones. This was the direct ancestor of my shitty YA werewolf project, because the exact same giddiness of appropriation spurred me on to write it; while it took me little over a month to hit 23k words with this project, I wasn’t writing it for Nanowrimo. I hit a brick wall halfway through the fourth chapter, and while I forced myself to finish it earlier this year, it still doesn’t feel satisfying. I could stand to revisit and revitalise it.

Also it’s not ripping off nearly enough sources in its current state.

I was inspired by City of Bones because that is a story that rips things off itself, and it was this appropriation that I was most enamoured with, rather than the story itself. I did not, however, fully grasp just how empowering and generative it is to just blatantly steal ideas from wherever the fuck you want and jam them together; I used to know what that was like, and then as I grew older and more self-conscious I decided that this was a bad thing to do and stopped myself from doing it. I’m trying to un-learn that now as I come up to 30 *shudder*, so that I can have as much of my life spent without inhibition where none is called for as possible. I’m not quite as sold on this project as the werewolf one, and it’s because I’m drawing on more ideas with my werewolf thing than I am with this one. So if I do decide to go with this one, I’m gonna need to get my appropriation on.

The third project is the novel that I was agonising about my inability to time-manage well enough to write during my undergrad years, a Christmas-themed story that is a least a bit more original than my two YA options, though iterative in the sense that I was broadly drawing on Grimm fairytales and Charles Dickens for mood, and Neil Gaiman, who I had recently discovered at the time, for narrative voice. I wrote it as part of my personal therapy after I broke up with my best friend of seven years, Wickham, when I could no longer ignore the fact that 1) he was an entitled, manipulative asshole, and 2) that I felt worthless and miserable whenever I was around him. The story actually has nothing to do with that, but it has everything to do with justice and catharsis. I’m quite proud of it.

I’m also very critical of it, because holy fucking shit some of the things I put in there. I talked a bit about this when I critiqued/shat on Storm Front by Jim Butcher, the way the story, for all that it has a fairly brisk pace and a lot of little things that are set up for payoff later in the story and is very enjoyable in that regard, is also incredibly misogynistic, and a lot of the filler that is in the story also contains the bulk of the misogyny. This Christmas story of mine is why I couldn’t quite bring myself to get as vehemently outraged about Storm Front as it may well deserve, because I completely understand what it is to write a novel and, lacking the experience necessary for making every word count, to just dump in stuff to make things move forward, to fall back on “whatever works”, and given our storytelling culture, “whatever works” is often very problematic. Not that this is an excuse, not at all, but it is the main reason that I want to revisit this Christmas story of mine: because like Storm Front, a bit of editing would go a very, very long way. I am very fond of this story; it’s very much the predecessor of Tallulah in how I feel about it and how I think about it, and the same crushing disappointment that came with realising that I’d over-thought it so much that I could no longer even attempt to write it. Well, it’s been seven and a half years since I finished the first draft of this Christmas story, and while that’s far longer than I would have liked it to take, it’s also been seven and a half years of learning about myself, my storytelling instincts, and my discipline. It’s been seven and a half years since I got to enjoy this story, which I adore, which I really, really want to work and be good and feel like a real story. So I think seven and a half years might be enough.

Also given that I just quit Tallulah if I did go back to writing this Christmas story it’d be really poetic because Tallulah is about selkies and there’s that whole thing with seven tears and seven years and selkies and yes anyway I’m not writing Tallulah anymore.

There is only one downside to choosing this for Nanowrimo, and that is the fact that it’s already written. I would be using Nanowrimo to revise it – and, honestly, that might not be a bad thing. It might even be a good thing, as I’d be revising my thesis chapter at the same time. Then again that might drive me to an early grave. And actually the other downside is that the “official” word-count goal for Nanowrimo is 50k, and my manuscript currently stands at 169k. I had a real thirst for long-ass stories when I wrote it, and I still do, but only if they’re long in a fulfilling, captivating way, and it would take some pretty intense creative feats to make this Christmas story of mine fit that description. And it definitely needs to be long. There is no way it’s going to suit a 50-80k word-limit; it’s a long story, and it doesn’t work if it’s forced to be short. But it also means that Nanowrimo might not be the right launch-pad for it.

And finally, the fourth option.

This one is a bit of a wildcard, and it’s one that I’m really quite fond of despite not having much of a solid foundation for. I’ve gone from a male to a female protagonist before ever even writing it, and having to confront a whole ton of internalised gender bias (read: sexism) in the process, because the whole story changed when I did that, and you can probably guess what sort of existential, not-very-important angst I went through as a result of this. But it’s been enough to keep me from really giving this story a shot, because I feel like I don’t have a starting-point. Which is a real shame, because it’s a vampire story, and the reason I like it is because it’s actually fairly original and, hey, I get to write about vampires. I have only written two vampire characters in my life, and I liked both of them, and I would like to do more. Particularly this one. And I would tell you why in particular, but it’s such a fantastic idea that I’m legitimately worried somebody would steal it, which is probably just narcissism on my part, but fuck you I’m narcissistic as shit I’m gonna hoard my precious genius ideas like a dragon in Norse mythology and you basic plebs can fucking deal with it.

Btw thanks for following my blog guys your support means so much to me you’re the best ily.

So that’s my pile of decisions to work through in the next, I dunno, two days.

Did I say two days?

I meant TO-DAY.

Or maybe like sometime during the next week look there’s a lot of stuff I need to get through. Nanowrimo just isn’t at the top of my priority list. It kinda can’t be. But it is on the list. I waited until the 10th before trying it last year, so let’s say I’ve got until the 5th this time around. What I’m going to do is give all of these projects a bit of love and see what sticks, and I’ll give myself roughly a week to do that. For the Christmas story, if that’s my choice in the end, I will be aiming to get a revision done by Christmas rather than by the end of Nano just because it’s so goddamn long. And all of this while also working on my thesis chapter.

Whatever my ultimate decision, this blog is going to get a lot busier than it has been in the past few months. I feel like I’m still working out what this blog “is”, really; I don’t feel like I’ve found my blogging voice, or that I found it a while ago and gave up on it because it was too problematic, without replacing it with something less problematic that I can nevertheless embody with full commitment.

Or whatever man fuck I dunno I’m a mere arts student with pretensions of egalitarian grandeur what do you want from me.

Any of you guys doing Nano? Having trouble deciding what you’re going to work on? Already worked it out? Looking forward to it? Anxious? Indifferent? Let me know in the comments below as for the first time in my three-year tenure of this blog I explicitly ask for community participation! Better late than never right?

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