2009 is the fifth year I participate in NaNoWriMo, which will be entering its 11th edition. If you want up-to-date information on my progress, please go to my profile page. This page is mainly a track record of past years, one loss and three wins, all of which were different from each other. Each one more fun than the last one, and each a step up in quality and story and general craziness.
If you've never participated in NaNoWriMo, this is the gist of it. For 30 days, 1-30 November, people from all over the world, over a hundred thousand last time around, attempt to write a fresh, complete work of fiction of 50,000 words. Every rule may be broken, except the one about trying to reach the 50,000 words of fiction. If you win, you have a whole lot of first draft and a downloadable winner certificate. If you lose, you have a whole lot of first draft. Either way, you walk away after having putting many words on paper. It's evolved from a spontaneous bout of craziness among friends to a yearly bout of inspired craziness shared by a sizable part of the world. Holland and Belgium represent a healthy neighbourhood of the community.
Nanowrimo 2008 began with the story of Kitari, who was once a girl but is now a superhero. It was an impulsive story, thought up on a whim and as little prepared as 2007. This year, the challenge was to finish the book within the month of November. I did, barely, at 65.000 words.
This is Terra, Earth's mirror. Not all is well, or good. And Good, Good is not relative. Good does not rest. It's real, absolute, but above all, absolutely not what you'd expect it to be. Now, it has chosen its champion.
Kitari was a girl, before he became big, blue and muscly. After he flees his hometown, in tears over losing his best friend, he must roam the world to restore whatever has gone awry. He befriends Vashti, a divorced woman down on her luck who just won't leave him alone, and Leah, headstrong mother of too many children.
But the authorities, especially inspector Peudeveu, pursue him closely, eager to capture and question the rascal who dares to hinder their plans at every turn. So between accidentally blowing up public property and comforting kids, Kitari must somehow remain invisible. Will he ever be able to go home? This is a story of heroes, helpful damsels and hair-raising high places.
2007 was a rather odd year. Buoyed by the win of the previous year, I jumped in and prepared not one, but two novels. One a historical about Michiel de Ruyter, a Dutch seafaring hero, the other an urban fantasy about a girl called Sanna. Both had rather a lot on themes and character, but not so much on wordlbuilding and, well, the story I would write. And when I started in the worlds and the stories, I found that they weren't very interesting. So I clasped onto a plot-bunny, a spontaneous stubborn idea for writing, and threw both stories out in favour of a new one. I barely reached the finish line, but I had a good year nevertheless. The euphoria of reaching 50.000 words just barely before the deadline was unbelievable.
Lynn travels to the royal palace to build a magical security shield around the king's palace. She hopes to make a name for herself, but finds herself the unwilling friend of the youngest princess instead. Just while the eldest is playing to take over the throne without having to get married. How to survive in a court as a commoner? How to prevent the evil schemes of an heir bent on getting the throne at all costs? And how to get away from the court so she can start her business at last? These are the questions Lynn struggles to answer.
This NaNoWriMo, I learned how much fun it was to freewheel through a world, but also to connect one scene to the next and try to spin a story, difficult as it was. I wrote, and wrote some more. 75,000 words of it, a standing personal record.
In a typical suburb on earth, nothing of interest happens, usually. In Kas's life, though, a lot changes in a very short time. He thought he was a normal Dutch school kid, until he bumps into a man he wasn't supposed to see. Now the man, who doesn't bother much with pesky thing like consciences, is after him in an attempt to save his job. To make it worse, his house burns down, his parents get hurt and he has to move to the States.
A talent Kas's always held close and quiet turns out to be more common than he thought, and makes him eligible for recruitment by the Soul Viewers, be it with honey or with vinegar. Away from his friends and family, there is preciously little in the way of help or comfort, or even sanity, to be had. His cousins help him as well as they can, but they are not aware of the danger. His world is starting to look more and more like a computer game, him on the run and a thousand monsters to eat him, and he has no idea how to turn it all back.
This was my first attempt at writing prose of any length. The advantage of doing it during NaNoWriMo was that I didn't have to worry about quality. As a beginner, the thought was very reassuring. I wrote. I loved it, it felt like a small warm glow in my chest during what used to be a dreary month. I hated it, because it didn't live up to my expectations. It was flawed. Just because it didn't have to have quality, my secret thought went, didn't mean it shouldn't be perfect.
The reason I'm rambling, instead of summarising the plot, is that there is no plot. This story has a girl, Joanne, who visits her parents' house. It has a man, Simon, who wakes up, stranger in a town, and talks to Joanne. From that point onward it meanders between description and metaphorical descriptions of Joanne's lot in life and grief over her parents' death. The weather also made a frequent appearance.
The great lesson of the book was how hard it was to put together sentences in English when really, I wasn't fluent and I couldn't properly hear the language in my head. I had the amazing luck that, by this time, my parents had moved to America and I was to pay them a lengthy visit. By 2006, I still couldn't write, but writing badly in fluent English was easy.
I did make a discovery that forever decided my fate as a writer, good, bad, amateur or otherwise: Simon. He taught me that if I let them, characters will come alive and blaze on the page, and walk and talk. In his case, he decided he hated mornings and needed coffee, and could not get out of bed gracefully. Out of the 12,000 words, it's the most vivid scene.