Last year, I signed up on October 31st, just for a lark. I wasn't working, nothing was going on, and I thought it would help me pass the time. I emailed my friend Sue in California, also a writer, and said this looked like fun, I may try out. Well, she signed up too. I got the No Plot, No Problem book, read through it, and plucked out a situation I'd written down in my notebook years ago but had never done anything with. I didn't know where it might go, but thought I'd give it a try.
It had a magical, fantasy type atmosphere, and I read a couple of Lon Milo DuQuette's books that helped feed my imagination during the process.
I wound up creating enough situations and piling up enough detail that I eventually "won" with about 51,000 words. Sue actually crossed the finish line first and called to tell me. This inspired me to sit down, finish mine, and upload it to the site (which I did before her). We were both abuzz for the rest of the year, comparing notes on the experience, and patting each other (and ourselves) on the book for taking on a crazy project (crazier in her case, as she's a freelancer and mother of two little firls) and actually succeeding at it.
The lessons I learned and things I noticed:
- I'd been rather glum and mopey for most of the year, with good reason. I didn't feel that way during Nanowrimo month. (Sue noticed the same thing.)
- I started out with only a situation--no plot, no characters, no themes. As I wrote, plots, characters, and themes emerged.
- When I had a strong situation, the scene almost wrote itself.
- When I could see the images in my head very strongly, the scene worked out pretty well.
- When I had nothing, it was work to squeeze out the word quota.
This year, I also pulled a situation out of my notebook, what I had long thought of as a murder-mystery idea, even though I have no idea how to write a mystery story. The situation stands on its own as very melodramatic and maybe ludicrous, but it's stayed with me for some reason, so I'm using it as my prompt to get the story started.
As it happens, tonight's writing went OK (but I found myself checking the word count every 5 minutes towards the end--was it this hard last year?). I'm already finding that it's going to contain lots of personal history and thoughts about my family, and the place of the outsider in the family. I didn't actually get to the prompt scene. I started the novel after the funeral service; the narrator will be flashbacking to the prompt scene, and I'll see then how plausible it feels.
But even if it doesn't, who cares. It's Nanowrimo month! I have license to be creative! I can splat things down just to see what happens! I don't have to go back and edit or delete! God Bless Us Every One!!