I can’t remember who first turned me on to NaNoWriMo—that is, National Novel Writing Month, which is the month of November. It was a few years ago that I first heard about it. It’s an annual internet-based novel-writing project that challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30. Hundreds of thousands of people take part in this thing, which had humble origins in a local writer’s group and has grown to become an international phenomenon. I mean, billions of people are taking part in this thing now.
I was one of those billions for the first time in 2010, and that’s when I began the first draft of Blood Red. It may have been James W. Powell or Lisa Pere who recommended taking part. (James and Lisa are both excellent wordsmiths and editors that I’m lucky to know.) Anyway, I took part in the 2010 project with as much enthusiasm as I had time for (while holding a full-time job and raising a couple of fabulous daughters). I didn’t reach 50,000 words, but I got more than halfway there, racking up 30,000 words of rough draft that amounted to an excellent start. Those chapters ending up representing the basis of the first half of the novel. I even coaxed my oldest daughter to take part, and she made good headway into a novella she’s writing called “Demon Girl.” (I wonder where she gets her inspirations.)
NaNoWriMo is an interesting thing, at least for me. I’m not sure it has the same effect on others, but in my case, the sheer rush of the rapidly mounting word count had a fascinating effect on the writing itself. I’m convinced that because of the speed and near-delirium of that November—pounding out words, bleary-eyed, into the night—Blood Red became the ultra-fast-paced book that it is. The primary characteristic of the project, headlong urgency, translated directly to the page.
That was November 2010. In early December, I celebrated the great start, relaxed a bit, and began the long process of finishing the next half of the book. That took a year. I generally wrote a chapter a month, and I even found myself rushing through the chapter over the course of a few days, attempting to replicate the urgency I felt during NaNoWriMo. For the most part, the tactic worked. I was finding more and more that the creation of Blood Red required a writerly mindset that was hurried, stressed, pushed forward by time constraint. Because the characters were experiencing the same thing.
By September 2011, I had a promising 70,000-word rough draft, and I saw NaNoWriMo 2011 looming around the corner. I knew I wanted to add about 15,000 words to this book in a final revision, and I decided to use the 2011 project for that purpose, accomplishing my rewrite—from chapter 1 through chapter 20—in a month. At the end, I would have a finished novel.
So that’s what I did. As you can see in this post, I’ve declared myself a NaNoWriMo “winner,” but it really took TWO NaNoWriMos to do it. Ah well. This father of two will take what he can.