Almost 2 months ago, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I started writing at midnight on the 1st fueled by Halloween candy, and this afternoon around 3:33 PM, I completed my novel, which weighs in at 51,877 words. I’m so glad to be done. In fact, I’m so glad that I don’t have to write any more for it that I’m writing more for it indirectly.
First, if you would like to read it, the first draft is available online at GitHub (disclaimer: it’s bad). Here’s the pitch:
A group of high school students play their ongoing game of Dungeons & Dragons. As they complete quests and approach the end of the game, they find their insight into problems in their real lives as well.
Because I have my hammer of coding, I saw version control software as the best way to backup and track progress on my novel. You can click through each chapter to read it in your browser and even poke around the site to see my history of changes. Note that it’s very rough: I didn’t really revise, and I wasn’t using a normal word processor to type this up, so it’s not even spell-checked. Still, it exists, and the brave can even review it for me: I’m accepting emails and GitHub issues for revisions. I, however, probably will reject pull requests.
Second, my reflection on writing the novel. As I previously mentioned, I think my fiction writing is bad, and I actually don’t read much fiction, either. Trying to write a novel, however, has given me tremendous respect for what they do because I really felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Here are a few seemingly minor things that I really wondered about:
- How do you balance action against dialogue? D&D is entirely storytelling, so it makes sense for the story to be driven by talking, but I wonder if that gets boring or if you can do that too much
- Have I used “said” too many times? What about “replied?” Should I throw in an adverb for variety, or will that be redundant?
- Do all of my characters sound different, or do they all talk like me?
- Why is grammar so hard?
Presumably there are many more important factors in constructing a good novel, like character development and plot, but these were the things that nagged me as I was writing.
Like my blog posts, the characters and plot figured themselves out over the course of the novel. I haven’t checked, but I believe that the beginning of the novel sounds a lot different from the end. When I started getting into the zone, though, the words just flowed out of me. The most important thing I found was that I needed to set aside long blocks of time to focus exclusively on writing.
Third, I would like to plug NaNoWriMo for those of you who have even an inkling of interest in it. “Write a book” shows up on a lot of bucket lists, and though it does take awhile, time-boxing the effort was very motivating and doesn’t allow you to get into a writer’s block. I think you will surprise yourself at what you can manage.
I likely won’t do NaNoWriMo again: it was a great experience, but I think it was a one-time thing for me. I’m not sure if I’m going to bother to revise “Slaying Dragons Everywhere” (though I am accepting better titles), but perhaps that depends on early response to its current state. I at least need to step away from it for a month before I work on it again. We’ll see if I get the writing itch again, but even if I don’t, I at least have accomplished my “4th life” and will feel okay about prefacing comments in conversation with “as an amateur writer…”