The first time I did National Novel Writing Month in 2005, I had no problem hitting the 50k goal. Once you get in the routine, if you commit to the regular daily word count, have a game plan, and you’re used to writing, the actual word count isn’t as daunting of a challenge as it sounds. I’d been writing for years, so that helped. Plus, I had an outline and the added benefit of being newly single and living in a crappy basement apartment.
What else was there to do but write myself into to oblivion?
Now, that’s not to say I “won” NaNoWriMo every year I tried. I’ve had some spectacular failures where I gave up after a week. Twice, in fact, where I never got closed to finished. I had two years where I finished the book in time and doubt there’s anything salvageable out of them. Until this year, I’ve only had two years where I felt I got not only a win, but an actual, working novel out of the experience.
I know I write a lot. Outside of the dayjobbery, I have very few social engagements that don’t revolve around writing in some way. In fact, other than a monthly dinner, a weekly night of television, and occasional karaoke, I’m relatively anti-social these days.
I write. It’s what I do. So turning out 50,000 words in a month isn’t a stretch. It just keeps me focused on cranking out the first draft of a single project rather than spreading my time among several short stories, another novel, editing, submitting, and the other aspects of being a writer.
The challenge has been, for years, producing 50,000 words that I actually like.
I’ll be honest. I have way too many projects on the list of “To Be Written” to fuck around with generating word count for something I don’t like. Because if I can’t find the value, some sense of fun, something to keep me turning pages, no one else is going to like it either. And that’s a waste of my month. I don’t need the thirty days of solidarity and cheering to get my hamster wheel unstuck. The hamster wheel is always turning.
This November, I returned to Cobalt City in a big way, in part because I missed it. I missed these characters. I missed the huge stakes, the banter, the weird in-jokes and familiar locations. I wanted to tell a story of high-stakes supernatural threats, the sort of weird-hero stuff that was popular in the seventies when Marvel was publishing Werewolf by Night and Tomb of Dracula and DC was publishing those amazing Bernie Wrightson drawn Swamp Thing comics. Because I love writing superheroes, but pretty much anything I touch these days tends to have a bit of horror in it.
I finished the first draft on Friday morning, a day ahead of schedule. Twenty-nine days (including the ten days in which I wrote nothing) spent in Cobalt City. This morning, I saved it as a PDF so I could avoid tinkering, took it across the street, and gave it a read-through from front to back. And other than the occasional typo, a few minor inconsistencies, and some of the clumsy bits that happen when a person is writing at speed, the underlying novel is fun. I’m happy with it. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s good.
For a first draft, that is.
Cobalt City: Los Muertos still needs a lot of work to make it a finished novel. I took notes to guide me in clearing up inconsistencies and glaring typos. Two of the notes read “clean up fight scene.” I can get all that fixed tomorrow, and while it will still be miles from being polished, it will at least be in good shape for a few beta readers. After I’m finished writing the Ravensgate epic fantasy I set aside to do NaNoWriMo, I can give this a clean draft.
With luck, I’ll be able to share this latest Cobalt City adventure with the world in time for October next year.