Introduction - the first part of my 'NaNo with a twist' for 2012
So, it's November. The nights are getting longer and colder, the leaves are nearly gone from the trees, there are fireworks and poppies everywhere in about equal quantities, normally clean-shaven men are growing mustaches... and writers everywhere are attempting to write a novel in 30 days.
Since 2002, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 7 times and completed the challenge 5 times. 'Completing' means writing a novel of 50,000 words in length during the 30 days of November. Does the idea of writing an entire novel in a month sound ever so slightly crazy? Well, it should!
Having said that, this is an experience I would not have given up for the world. I've written some terrible stuff and some brilliant stuff during those Novembers. The real problem is... what to do with those 5 manuscripts now that they're written, because, after all, they are just drafts. And not only are they drafts, they are first drafts written at supersonic speed, with little preparation and less thought. To say that they need work is the understatement to end all understatements.
Oh, I've had lots of plans to edit them. After all, if I can devote so much of my time in November to writing the first draft, surely I can find a few hours here and there to edit it? Yeah, right... And so those 5 manuscripts remain, perfectly preserved in all their imperfect glory, gathering virtual dust.
But this year I thought I'd try something a little different. I decided to write a series of short stories, following the same principles as NaNo of quantity over quality but each complete in itself. My initial plan was for 25 stories each about 2k words in length but now I'm thinking that I should be less prescriptive. This isn't an exercise in writing 50k words in a month - I know I can do that. I want to use this to stretch my writing muscles in different directions.
My first idea was to gather 25 'story prompts' - just some random ideas that I could build a story around. I gave no thought to genre at that point. My 'comfort zone' is sci-fi/fantasy, especially when it comes to writing, but I thought I'd probably write these as stories set in the present. If I thought much about it at all.
However, I've also been spending some time at Flash Fiction Friday recently and even answered a prompt a few weeks ago with an 'open' genre. The next two prompts had 'western' and 'horror' as the genre and, somehow, I couldn't find any inspiration in them. This left me with a question - how much should I be worried about this? After all, if the genre that comes most naturally is sci-fi/fantasy, why not write everything in that genre? On the other hand, should I be broader in my approach? Or, at the very least, should I push myself to try different genres?
So, I changed my plan a little. Rather than leaving the genre to chance, I decided to make a list of all the genres and sub-genres (because 'haunted house' is a different kind of horror to 'vampire') I could think of and match them up with the story prompts at random. Then I thought about choosing a single prompt and applying each of the various genres to it. If that didn't stretch the old writing muscles I didn't know what would!
As this idea developed, I thought I'd like to use the same characters in each story - Emily and Victor - and to start the story from the same point, when Victor proposes to Emily. From that point on, the story would depend on the genre - so, a horror story would involve them both trying to escape a werewolf or a crime story would involve one or the other being a master criminal. You get the idea. I also wondered about letting reality 'bleed' into the story, to give the characters a sense of deja vu, and/or paranoia. 'Cos I'm nice to my characters like that :D
This morning, I plotted out how the first story might go. It was a romance with a modern setting and involved the thoroughly modern Emily having a pang of doubt about marrying Victor as he's only her fourth sexual partner and third 'serious' boyfriend. So, she looks up her old flames to see if there's any feeling left and learns something about herself in the process. A bit of tweaking could probably turn it into a romcom rather than introspective angst!
But all of that felt a bit Emily-centric. What about poor old Victor? Should the next story look at all this from his pov? And then what about the old flames, and the lives they're now living? Would Emily's search for closure disrupt their lives? And if I'm looking at the interconnecting stories of several characters... am I not back to a single novel?
I actually rather like this idea and I think I'll save it up for another time - next November, perhaps? But I want to keep with the idea of trying different genres for this year.
So, I'll go for a 'straight', modern romance. Open with the proposal and flashback over their relationship to this point. That should be enough to get me started.
As well as the recurring characters, I think I might also have some recurring elements, thinking back to the ideas in some of the prompts I originally came up with - an old sword, a lost shoe, an invitation. I also want to throw in a new one - a storm (could be a thunderstorm, snow storm, a storm at sea - I'll match that to the story).
To sum up, then...
I'm going to write as many short stories as I can find time for during November, each in a different genre/sub-genre but featuring the same main characters and with four recurring elements.
Let the writing commence!
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