Monday, 18 November 2013

The Ghost of NaNoWriMo Past

(N.B. I had originally planned to do this in two parts, but I got busy with NaNoWriMo and had to skip my blog post for last week!)

As previously mentioned on my blog, each year I take part in NaNoWriMo. Here I’m going to take you on a quick tour of my previous NaNoWriMo efforts...

(N.B. A Nanoer officially wins NaNoWriMo once they’ve written 50k words. Anyone who writes 50k during November is considered to be a winner.)

2007 – “The Blue Sky” (51,201 words – won on day 29)
I had first heard about NaNoWriMo back in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2007 that I was brave enough to take the challenge. I remember going to my first kick-off party in London, and seeing a room full of people who were also going to attempt NaNoWriMo. I went back for a mid-month meet, and a “Thank God It’s Over” (TGIO) party, and I made new friends at all three of these, many of whom I’m still in contact with.

My first NaNoWriMo effort is effectively a Final Fantasy fanfic, only, like each individual game in the series, it has its own original world, characters, and story, but uses many of the elements seen in the games.

For my first attempt it was tough going, as I found it hard to write every day (in fact, there were 6 separate days during the month where I didn’t write anything), but I pushed at the end, and finished a day early.

A few months later I did a quick rewrite of it, and uploaded it to my website.

I had done it – I had written a 50k novel! In a month! But, after this experience, I felt that I was capable of writing more...

2008 – “They Are Coming...” (80,204 words – won on day 18)
In 2008 I was back, and determined to do even better than last year. I had devised a plan for this novel, to help me through the month. The plan was thrown out on day two...

The basic premise of this novel was that it was about a group of students sharing a flat and starting university together. Originally I had four characters, but I felt that was too few for a student flat (thinking back to my own time at university in Aberystwyth), and so I added two more characters who were just there to make up the numbers. That was their sole purpose in the novel. Their names were even a very clever in joke! (Which I won’t repeat here because of reasons...)

However, these characters weren’t content to stay in the background. They thought that their story was far more interesting than the main character’s – they were two girls who came from the same town and were good friends, one of whom was gay and secretly in love with the other, who wasn’t gay. Eventually I gave way and let them take over the novel – they were right, their story was much more interesting than the main character’s (of whom we shall not speak).

For this novel I had originally aimed to write 125k. However, that proved to be a bit much for me, and so I “only” wrote 80k. At the TGIO party that year, where I was regularly talking about having written “just” 80,000 words, at one point a girl turned round and said to me, “Will you please stop saying ‘just’ 80,000 words!” Yes, an important lesson for the Karl there (albeit one I don’t think I’ve fully learnt yet...).

So, whilst I did do better than the previous year, I was sure that I could do even better next year...

2009 – “The Day I Lost My Mind” (101,317 words – won on day 15)
My main aim for 2009 was to write 100k – I wanted to get into the six-figure club. For this novel I wrote in first person, and it was about a man whose day goes from bad to worse, who is immature when it comes to women, and who slowly descends into madness across the day.

I was also in competition with a friend on this one, and I beat her to 100k with an hour to spare!

The writing went reasonably OK, although by this point I had mastered the ancient and noble NaNoWriMo art of “waffling”. This came into its element when I got to about 90k, but was running out of plot. Cue major sidetrack and flashback section which doesn’t move the plot on at all...

I subsequently did a rewrite of this one, cutting out a lot of the waffle (with the second draft coming in at around 90k). A couple of my friends have read this one, but it still requires a lot of work...

It was during this year where, at one point, someone started a thread on the London forum of the NaNoWriMo website – about me. They had met me at the kick-off party that year, where I told them about my “failure” last year to get to 125k, and they were wanting to know how I was getting on this year. Given past experiences on the web the Karl was a little nervy about this thread, but it was all good in the end.

But little did the Karl know then just how well known he would become in NanoLondon circles...

2010 – “Thirty Days” (111,494 words – won on day 10)
This year I opted to do something different. I decided that I was going to self-publish this novel as I went along. As the title implies, the novel was set over a thirty day period, which corresponded to the thirty day period in which I wrote it in. This allowed me to include some references to real world events in the novel.

I had planned to write 150k for this one. I took some time off work for it, and tried to get ahead of my word count whilst I was off, but I didn’t manage to do that. In the end I didn’t publish a chapter every day as I had planned, but I did get all thirty chapters done in the end, although the last few were a bit rushed. Whilst I didn’t meet my personal word goal for this year, I had beaten my previous year’s total.

This was the year where I also started getting people to sponsor me for doing NaNoWriMo, to raise money for St Luke’s Hospice who looked after my dad shortly before he died.

Finally, this was also the year that the term “NanoLondon celebrity” was first coined, in reference to me. People were aware of my insane word goals, and the fact that I was raising money for charity. Little did I know that, next year, this celebrity status would be taken even further...

2011 – “The Eiffel Tower” (160,056 words – won on day 7)
As had now become tradition, each year I wanted to do even better than the previous year. My original target had been to do 155k words (and a little extra) to take my cumulative total up to 500k. During the month things were going so well that I upped the target to 160k, and I placed the first draft of the novel on my website.

The novel was about a man who finds himself in an idyllic location, where everything in his life is perfect. Then he meets a girl who tells him that this world he is in is not real, and then takes him on a journey back to the real world...

By this point I was very well known in NanoLondon circles, and everyone knew what my target was. This was the first year where I often attended write-ins with the other NanoLondoners. I was also raising money for charity again, and lots of donations came in. I even got featured in my local paper, twice.

Then, at one of the TGIO parties, we found ourselves in a pub that was having a karaoke night. One guy then got a piece of paper, and wrote on it “How much would you be willing to donate to St Luke’s Hospice if Karl gets up and sings karaoke?” Over £100 was pledged, and I went through with it (although, to be fair, the guy who had suggested it got up as well and sang with me). The song I sang was “My Way” – it was fair to say that I had certainly done NaNoWriMo my way...

There were at least two people who recorded this performance on their phones. And they are two of the most wonderful and bestest people who ever lived! And they’ll never, ever, ever appear in any of my novels and have unpleasant things done to them! No, not at all! (Just as long those videos never make their way to YouTube...)

After this NaNoWriMo effort I had thought about slowing down the following year. Then someone offered to donate £100 to St Luke’s Hospice if I managed to write 200k the following year, and, like the fool that I was, I agreed...

2012 – “Tiaxint” (200,019 words – won on day 6)
2012 saw me take on my biggest NaNoWriMo challenge yet – writing 200k in just thirty days. This was going to be tough.

One thing that kept me going was my month-long word war with my friend and fellow NanoLondoner, Miriam, a war that I wrote about on her blog.

This novel was a cross between A Game of Thrones and 1984. There were three superpowers (in a world with a similar technology level to our own) trapped in a power struggle (but not yet at war), and, in the middle of them was a small, independent kingdom. The novel follows five characters over four eventful days...

This novel was incredibly hard to write, not least because I fell ill during the last week due to not eating and sleeping properly. But, on day 30, I made it to my 200k target.

In previous years, I always felt that, even though I had done well with the amount of words that I had written, I could do even better next year. But, for this year, I felt that I had finally reached my limit. I could finally slow down...

Next Week: The Ghost of NaNoWriMo Present

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