A recent conversation on Twitter prompted me to write this blog post. It got me thinking about November and the madness that is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo holds a special place in my heart for several reasons. Over the course of two Novembers (and a little bit here and there in between) I wrote something longer than I’d ever thought I could and actually finished something I started, which is a big deal for me. The Dreamer’s Thread is the result of all that hard work. Granted, it didn’t start out quite so ambitiously.
My friend Jon first told me about NaNoWriMo several years ago, but I’d forget about it or put it off until the following year for one reason or another. When I finally decided to make 2007 “THE year”, it was a few weeks before the start of November. I’d tried writing a novel before, but it wasn’t very good and I didn’t have a passion for the story, so I immediately tossed the idea of working on that plot straight out the window. I was left then with the big question: What do I write about?
The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that you can write about anything and everything you want. The only rule is that it has to be written in the month of November. The goal is 50,000 words of fresh fiction or non-fiction, which seemed very doable to me. So I thought.
And I thought.
I knew I wanted to write fantasy. That was easy. So I looked to some of my favorite movies for inspiration. I’m still introducing my kids to the best movies I remember from growing up, and one particular night it happened to be time for Labyrinth. While David Bowie’s tights in that movie never did sit right with me, I still love the story, characters, and magic. It was with that in my head that I tucked my kids in that night and headed off to take my shower.
Isn’t it funny how we, as human beings, seem to find inspiration while doing water-based activites? There’s a well-known myth that Archimedes coined the term “eureka” whilest in the bath (I’m disregarding the fact that this is probably not even true :P). It was during my shower that I thought of what was the initial title of TDT. Originally, I had thought to call it The Dream King. The problem with giving a book a title before its written is that the title may not apply anymore once the story takes its course. So was the case with The Dreamer’s Thread, but that’s neither here nor there. The intitial inspiration is what we’re talking about.
I am not an organized writer. Half the thrill of writing, for me, is seeing where the plot will go. I get to find out what happens next just as the characters do.
Granted, not all writers can work like that. Many of them craft notes and storyboards and word webs and lots of other organizational things before they put the first word on paper. I can’t write under those kinds of constraints. Even in high school I preferred to just start writing the paper and skip all those intermediate steps the teacher would insist on us turning in to prove we did the research. Just always seemed like two or three times the work for the same result in the end.
But enough about my writing habits. On to November 2007 and my first NaNoWriMo.
When November 1st kicked off, I was unable to join in. Three days later, I sat down at my computer and began typing furiously. I was behind the curve already, and I had to finish early. My husband was deployed at the time, somewhere in the middle of the ocean somewhere, and I knew approximately what date I needed to finish so it wouldn’t interfere with family time upon his return. So yeah, typing furiously.
I was coasting along nicely, passing 5k, then 8k after a few days. Then, I got stuck. I needed someone to bounce ideas off of and to help me come up with names. I was sort of stuck at home with my two young kids, so going to a local write-in was out. I would never get anything done if I brought them with me. I discovered NaNoWriMo had an IRC chatroom, so I tried that route first. Took me all of 10 minutes to get fed up with the elitism and holier-than-thou attitude of the folks in there. This was only my first NaNoWriMo, and the chatroom was filled with veterans who only wanted to talk to other veterans. I was irritated. Surely somewhere there was an online community I could interact with where I wouldn’t feel snubbed and uncomfortable.
I then remembered the little game I had played a bit that summer, called Second Life. With all the creative folks there, surely there was a group of people doing NaNoWriMo, or at least other writers I could commiserate with. So, I logged in.
What I found was an UH-MAZ-ING group of individuals that not only were trying their hand at this November madness, but they were super friendly and unparalleled in their willingness to help. There was one group in particular that held regular meetings several times a week where we’d discuss our progress, and then hold a word war during the last half.
A what? A word war. This is where you have a set amount of time and everyone writes as many words as they possibly can in that time period. The winner doesn’t get anything really, save for bragging rights and another chunk towards their 50k words. For those of us with a competitive streak (ok, guilty as charged), it’s quite the rush. And it forces you to just write without editing everything you type. Editing is for December. LOL.
There was a time or two the group leader couldn’t make a meeting and I volunteered to step in and take her place. I ended up spending a lot of time in Second Life that month. Word Wars can be slightly addictive and if you’re not careful you start to rely on them for reaching your word goal.
I found that it wasn’t just the word wars I like, however. In Second Life you find avatars of all shapes, sizes, and species, and truly original names and personalities. Admittedly, I took advantage of this and stole names and avatar description (always with permission people!) for my own story. Ina, Dedric, Sirahal, Squiddy…just a few of my writing buddies that ended up as character fodder. But that’s what writers do, isn’t it? They pull from the real and transform it into art.
One of the greatest benefits to doing NNWM in Second Life is that pajamas are perfectly acceptable attire. Showers not required. There are generally folks available 24 hours a day in one part of the world or another ready and willing to battle it out in a word war or lend a hand if you get stuck in a plothole. It’s incredibly convenient, and the people are super duper friendly and always get my Monty Python/Douglas Adams references. Somewhere around here I have an in-world snapshot of myself and two of my cohorts motivating ourselves with guillotines and nooses and a rack or something. If I find it, I’ll post it. (Found it! See below!) Good clean fun, that. LOL.
I’m really excited for November again this year. I have a few projects I can work on (a TDT sequel or short stories or an unrelated steam punk story) and I can’t wait to have a reason to throw myself into those ideas, whichever one I choose to work on. I plan on organizing meetings again this year, but I will have considerably less time to devote to it as I am enrolled in college again and have the podcast I’m working on. If you’d like to lend a hand or just join up with us, shoot me a notecard or IM in world. Just search for PhoebeAnn Theas and you’ve found your girl! I’m not around too much these days, but I will definitely get back with you as soon as I can.
I think that’s about enough for this long-winded post. I could probably write a novel just about why I love the NaNoWriMo and SecondLife combination. Maybe I’ll use that idea this fall…hmmm…