Every so often I’m going to dip into my memory and regale you with stories of previous NaNos. As far as I can remember anyway…
By 2006 I had wracked up three successful NaNo’s and was about to embark on my fourth. Previous years involved writiing a teen angst story, a rip off of Underworld and a fantasy involving another world that I actually kinda liked but never got anywhere with it – it was competing with Lord of the Rings for pointless walking about.
I started 2006 with a title, rather than a plot. It was called ‘Phoenix Rising’ (to this day, I still love that title) and I’m not afraid to admit that I got the idea for the title after watching X-Men 3. Twice. (Can you believe I paid to see that sorry excuse for an X-Men movie twice?) For those of you who haven’t seen X-Men 3, the movie’s antagonist’s X-name was ‘Phoenix’. But I digress.
It’s rare for me to start with a title. Usually I started with an idea which floats around for a few weeks/months and then I’ll suddenly come up with a title. But that year, I started with the title. And I didn’t know what to do with it! I knew I wanted to use it but I obviously needed a story which would fit the title. I ended up taking the idea of ghosts and where ghosts come from and why some people see ghosts and others don’t and running with it. And boy did I run! I took that idea and before I knew where I was, I had an alternate world which nested comfortable on top of ours which was about to reach a climax in a years long battle that would affect the lives of everyone on Earth. I was hot! I had a prophecy and everything. And, more importantly, I fit the story around the title. You want somebody to rise out of the metaphorical ashes? Then, by hook or by crook, you are going to get somebody!
I seriously loved that novel. I had to rush the ending as I wanted to finish it by the end of November so the Big Battle was reduced to about two pages, if that, but I did reach the ending. That was the first novel I had written which meant anything to me. I loved the story, I loved my main character. I did start to tentatively edit it and even submitted the first chapter as part of my final creative writing portfolio in university. I still have full intentions to return to the story one day, even if it means re-writing it from scratch. It could be turned into a trilogy as well so I’m already thinking that when I’m done with my current trilogy, I’m dust off Phoenix Rising and get to work.
But why am I babbling about my first novel love? Because I want to make the point that you shouldn’t dive into NaNo expecting to walk out with the Next Biggest Thing. I walked into three NaNos and knew by the end those stories would never again see the light of day. And, with the exception of my teen angst novel which my friend giggled over a couple of years ago (with my permission), they haven’t. But you are practising. You are writing rubbish that you don’t care about and you are sucking at it. You are preparing for the Big Novel. The one that means something, the one which lights up your eyes and you fall in love with and want to cherish and care for it. The one that nestles into your heart and stays there, no matter what happens next. It might not be the greatest writing ever, but it’s a story you want to keep safe. Because one day you’ll be able to work with it the way it deserves (almost walked into another excuse to use the Dark Knight Quote then!) Not everything you write will deserve editing. It won’t. But they are paving the way for the stories that will be everything you want them to be. It’s why you should never stop writing.
I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t until another three NaNos had passed until I fell for another novel of mine and that’s the one I’m editing now. (It makes me worry if that’s the trend seeing as I’m writing the sequel this year!) I even had one novel that not only was utterly ridiculous but I also hated my MC and killed her off before the story was finished and had to bring in an entirely new character to be the MC until the novel was over. I am never touching that mess again! But that’s a story for another blog…