Fifty-Thousand Words of Mist

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner

As of the time of this writing, I have officially come to victory. I have finally made the 50k word mark, bringing NaNoWriMo to a close. In exchange, I will be donating a sum to the organization and sending the manuscript to an editor for revision. I am taking every measure to make sure this gets published.

While my word count is sufficient for NaNoWriMo, I am approximately halfway through the book itself. The recommendations for such a young adult novel have been presented to me as between 55k and 90k. While there’s no hard limit, I want to work firmly within that guideline for reasons that I will make clear later on.

This is my third attempt at NaNoWriMo and so far my only success. My previous attempts were “Cloudrunner” and “Dissolution”. In both cases before, both books quickly ran out of material before I long. I found that I was unable to write not because I had writer’s block or something similar, but because there was literally nothing left to write about.

One Hundred Days of Mist came about as a merger of a bunch of incomplete projects. In truth, it began as a horror screenplay called “Eternal Candle: An Unseen Light”.  The protagonist of One Hundred Days of Mist, Dan Hathaway, is an evolved and fleshed out form of the same Dan Hathaway in that screenplay. Some character aspects have remained unchanged, but the setting is very different.

In Eternal Candle: An Unseen Light, the plot reads as a combination of the video game “Silent Hill 2” and the TV show, “Lost”. I had successfully completed the first draft of those screenplays but I never went anywhere with it.

However, many years later, when I was trying to communicate what depression was like to my friends, I created a text adventure that bears the same name as the novel I am currently producing. It was much closer to my actual experiences and took virtually no liberties.

But I was at a crossroads at a certain point, I needed to solve a very specific problem. I had to make an engaging to explain complex cognitive processing that the main character was undergoing. One of the things that I learned in psychology class is that our brains actually process a lot of information while we sleep. So I created the concept of “Nightmare”, a persistent dream state that is influenced by the protagonist’s waking life.

It was around this time that I realized that Eternal Candle: An Unseen Light and One Hundred Days of Mist were very similar in terms of the story, and because I don’t like telling the same story twice I merged them together.

My recommendation is to save your old, incomplete work. Even if you never finish it you can still take pieces of it and put it into something new.

But there are several reasons I also believe that things worked out better. The first is that I had experience writing short stories before for one of my writing classes. Getting used to writing a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end and completing it was a good experience.

Additionally, Dungeons & Dragons has instilled me with an interesting storytelling methodology. The game is highly improvisational, so I often only plan a single session in advance and keep it in broad strokes because I have no idea where it’s going to go. As it turns out, this is easily transferable to novel writing. I keep an extremely vague idea of what I want to happen throughout the novel, but each scene is built one after the other instead of being plotted out meticulously. This solves one of my old problems, which consisted of transitions between scenes.

Most importantly, though: I cheated. I spent several days in advance writing. There was a good reason for this. In previous attempts, I followed the rule to the letter. I would not start until the very day. This was a mistake.

Why? Well, because life doesn’t stop when you begin NaNoWriMo you inevitably lose a day. I’ve observed that if you don’t have a cushion your brain subconsciously slides into apathy. After all, you missed one day, what’s one more gonna do? Having a cushion that you can go back to once life inevitably comes up is invaluable. This is doubly so for students like myself.

Momentum is extremely important. You need to build yourself up into a rhythm, this means writing whenever you can. Make your word count, exceed it when possible.

Some people can work well alone in their room. I actually find that this is a pretty terrible idea for me. I have too many games, too much stuff to distract me. I found my refuge in Starbucks, surrounding by other people who were working. Additionally, I joined a local writer’s group, giving me a collaborative atmosphere.

Also, make sure your friends and family are behind you with this. It’s very encouraging to have them read your work and give a thoughtful critique of it. Make sure one of them belongs to your target audience.

When you do sit down to write, make sure you are prepared to not interrupt that time. That time is blocked off and you will not have it interrupted. What this really means is taking care of time-sensitive obligations in advance.

With NaNoWriMo, you always move forward. Never go backward or otherwise, you’ll be stuck tweaking something. Save that for when NaNoWriMo is over.

Taking a critique is hard for me. Not because I can’t take it, but because I take it too hard. Someone points to a mistake and my immediate reaction is “nuke manuscript”.  But this is a bad move.There are several little things that made writing all the more worthwhile. The first

There are several little things that made writing all the more worthwhile. The first of those things was when my manuscript got too big to be stapled. The second was when someone told me that they could relate to what was happening in the story.

Don’t be afraid to really feel the things that happen in your novel. There were several scenes that I wrote that made me tear up, and I’m glad that they’re included.

I was able to juggle my school life, my social life, and writing this book fairly well. I did , however, end up doing one thing that so far I haven’t heard much discussion about. I spent a lot of money.

I got some books about writing, which is a good idea. However, I made the mistake of purchasing them shortly before NaNoWriMo, meaning that I would only have time to read them after I finished.

But what I spent enormous amounts of money on is food. One of my flaws that I will spend the next month trying to correct is that I’m really bad at making meals in advance. I can cook, but often I only do that when I’m about to eat. I don’t do advance meal preparation well at all. This meant eating at fast food that was nearby. Food and dining totaled $459 according to my budgeting program. It also left a -$271 cash flow on my account, necessitating dipping into savings.

Those who have followed me for a while will also connect the dots about this. All of the work that I did getting my weight down has been undone. The next month will likely be about fixing that.

However, all things being considered, I consider it invaluable for not only the experience of writing something as long form as I did, but also it taught me about the soft skills that I learned that made this possible when in previous years it didn’t.

Now begins the long journey to finishing the novel itself. I have made it halfway and after a short hiatus, I’ll be back in the saddle. Everything seems to work out, somehow.