NaNoWriMo 2017: What Happened?

Oh, when I look back on that post I made in September, I can’t help but laugh.

I was so determined.

After missing NaNoWriMo 2016 (bit busy having a baby) and failing at Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 (bit busy being lazy), I wasn’t going to let myself fail again! No way. Never. I’d never failed a November NaNo and I wasn’t about to start.

To be fair, if I hadn’t had to move across the country in the middle of November, with all the resulting stress and sheer lack of time, I might have actually made it.

I managed a healthy 22,092 words. I didn’t start until the 4th November, and I rattled to a halt on the 13th November. I’d say that’s a pretty good total for such a short amount of time.


Customary shot of the stats-graph.

I’ve used the word ‘fail’ a few times there, haven’t I?

But do you know what – I don’t feel like I’ve failed.

The book I started writing was the story of Karin Cluster. They are a heavy metal band I made up aeons ago; I wrote a funny little story about them that ended up freaking me out immensely because half of it came true. I abandoned the project, but not the band: they’ve appeared in every story I’ve written since then. Not always in big roles, sometimes just in the form of a poster on a character’s wall, but they’re always around.

I thought it was about time they got their own story.

A proper one, this time. One that hopefully wouldn’t come true.

Saying that, a fair chunk of it was true. I may have ended up mining my own life for quite a lot of plot details, particularly chunky bits of 2009-2011. Fictionalised, of course. Details changed to protect the not-so innocent, etc, etc.

It wasn’t hard to write. Once I sat down and actually got going, the words just flew out of me – which was a nice change, considering my now two-year battle with The Hummingbird and the Timepiece is still raging in hundred-word bursts. Yes, the partly autobiographical nature of the whole thing might have had something to do with that. It was surprisingly easy to reach back into my memory and dredge up the things I thought I’d repressed (for everyone’s good). And more to the point, it was fun.

I love NaNoWriMo. I always have. Seeing that wordcount climb and climb in the handy form of a graph, it gives me such a happy little buzz. Plus, of course, there’s something fabulous about the competitive side of it, even though my active friends list is now pretty small as other people have grown out of it. It’s such a kick to my writing-brain to keep going when I can see one of my friends has pushed ahead of me, I just have to get more words out at any cost. Why yes, I am indeed an awful person to play board games with. Exceedingly competitive to a terrible degree.

I’m certainly going to keep on writing this story – I can’t leave these characters behind. Karin Cluster, the band themselves… they’ve got issues. They’re so juicy to write: this story is technically their backstory, but even that backstory has backstory. They have such a complex web of entwined relationships, drama and history, as well as a fabulous back catalogue of music that’s had me actually dipping into my long-lost poetic brain… why yes, I’ve been writing song lyrics. Not good ones, I hasten to add, but considering half of them were supposed to be written by a morose German man in his angsty teenage years, I don’t think that’s beyond the realms of possibility. Hell, quite a few of the ‘grown-up’ metal bands I’m a fan of have been coming out with songs lately that sound like the lyrics have been mined from ancient MySpace pages, so I’m counting my awful lyrics as entirely commercially plausible.

There’s also the fact that my characters are in the prime of their student lives; a good few years younger than I am now and getting into the kind of trouble that hasn’t been a part of my life for a long time. It’s been truly fun to revisit the going-out-getting-drunk-having-adventures mindset, when, let’s face it, that’s hardly my life nowadays. By writing this story, I can do it while still wearing ratty pyjamas and Harry Potter slippers. And my two main characters, the newly created Clemmie and Nelle, are truly a delight to write.

So all in all, I wouldn’t class this as a failure. Not really. Much as I love NaNoWriMo, my life has changed a lot since the first time I did it. I’m a grown-up now, with a family. When I first discovered the challenge, I was a student, with perhaps fifteen hours of lectures a week (half of which I didn’t go to anyway). If I so desired, I could sit up writing for half the night when inspiration hit, and then sleep until noon. Things are a bit different nowadays!

And do you know what? I might have only written 22,092 words, but that’s 22,092 words towards Karin Cluster’s story that didn’t exist before November. I’d say that’s a result.

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