I have participated in my first ever National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November and it was a hell of an experience. Out of 312, 866 people signed up for it worldwide only about 40,000 or so succeeded. As one of the 40k+ I can count myself as one of the 2013 NaNoWriMo winners (winner means having submited your novel and had it validated at 50k+ words). On the early afternoon of Friday, Nov 29th, I submitted my incomplete science fiction novel, The Veritus Engagement, for word count and it came back at 50, 309 words. Praise be to the gods that I was able to finish. There were moments when I was not sure.
I have to thank my wonderful wife who was more than understanding and allowed me to make time for writing in order for me to participate. Did I mention that my wife was awesome? If I have not said that before let me state this now – My wife roxors my boxors! For reals!!
The Veritus Engagement (overview)
Set over a hundred years in the Earth’s possible future where a semi-united Earth has achieved limited space travel and has colonized some of the planets in our solar system, the United Alliance of Interstellar Earth (UAIE) is mired in seceded corporate space colony politics, the threat of a reignited war with the aliens, and competitive corporations vying to monopolize precious resources throughout the solar system.
The Veritus Engagement follows an elite off-the-record paramilitary group, called the Wardens, in which Kuulgan while assisting an elite human military organization, must wade through racial tensions and gun fire to help stop radical alien insurrectionists from reigniting war between the humans and the aliens.
I spent a good portion of September and October planning the writing in MS One Note, which rocks as software. If you have not tried and you are a writer or Dungeon Master, please give it a try I started with a one sentence synopsis, then a 6 sentence synopsis, and then I jumped into writing chapter synopsi using the 5 act plot arrangement with 5 chapters per section @ 2,000 words per chapter. Now, having an even number of chapters per act is not the preferred way to go as I understand, but that is what I went with in order to keep it simple, especially since this was my first time ever attempting anything like this – NaNoWriMo or writing a book. Each chapter synopsis was 3-4 sentences long stating what I was expecting to accomplish during that chapter, and, on occasion, there were also a smattering of bullet points too. I also worked on putting together some character information as I went and was thinking about the plot and needed supporting characters. I spent most time on the protagonist, an alien Named Kuulgan, and his supporting characters, of which there were a total of 14. I also spent a little time on the setting, technology, and history that was needed to support and make sense of what was going on. I even setup Scrivener, my writing tool of choice, with the chapters and 4 scenes per chapter.
The Month of Writing
November 1st came really fast and landed on a Friday. On that Friday I made my 2500 word quota and I was surprised with this and I thought that, with my first 2500 words completed, that I might just be able to this. The first week of writing went fast and furious. I kept to my daily quote quite easily. Although as we jumped into week 2 I was finding that the 5 chapters about diplomacy that were spread around the book were only going to be about 500 words, so I knew I was going to have to make up for it somewhere. This amounted to about 7500 words of extra writing I was going to have to figure out. Fortunately, a few chapters sprung up that were at least a 1000 words over so I was fairly confident that I was going to be able to get it done. Week 2 was a little slower, but I kept pace pretty well. I used the weekend to get myself ahead by a little over 1300 words. Week 3 was tough. Some of the chapters were coming out, writers block seemed like it was going to be a problem. I had some setting issues that I had not figured out yet, and eventually said the hell with it. Just write and I will figure out the specifics later. I struggled that weekend to get myself caught up but, I was able to. By this time I was not ahead, only just keeping up. I even had to create another chapter with some background writing to fill up the writers block I was having. I was only keeping up, which was good enough for me. Week 4 was the week of Thanksgiving and I had no idea how this was going to work, plus at work my PC was upgraded to Windows 7 which was an all day affair, so I missed an entire day worth of writing, but fortunately I had Thursday and Friday off and was able to easily take the late nights if needed. At this time I also realized the way I budgeted my time I did not compensate for the extra 2 days of the month. I did the math based off of 4 weeks at 5 days a week, so I had extra time if needed, and, fortunately, I kept pace and finished on Friday, just like planned. I was soo happy that I finished. I was glad to finally be done and have conquered this beast. The NaNoWriMo Beast! I think that ding sound means I made it to second level! Squee!
I was glad to be done with NaNo. It is not that I did not enjoy it, since i really did enjoy the experience. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is an incredible challenge with a full time job, wife, kid, and a business to manage. I learned that what you plot out and plan to take up a complete chapter worth of words may not actually end that way. I learned that even if you have everything planned out well that writers block may decide that you need more of a challenge. I learned that as you are writing that the writing may take on a life of its own and take you somewhere that you had not planned or it will reveal to you something about your book that you had not realized. I learned that Warrant Officer Giovanni did not like the sound of vibro weapons. The last combat that I had writing turned out nothing like I was intending – no one died. =( I am not sure who is boss here me or the book. =O
Currently, I am working on what I hope will be an 7 book fantasy series based on a character and character history from a Dungeons and Dragon’s Second Edition game that played in the 1990′s during my time in the Navy. This was a single player game that someone else DM’ed for me while we were on our 6 month cruise in the Mediteranean. I am currently in the process of plotting it out and workin on history. The series will be based on the character history titled ‘Of Books and Blades‘ (see link below) and the first book was going to basically be a large rewriting of this short story. I have since come to find out that I have almost completely abandoned this. The only part that is kept is that Jaerle and Kari and the rest is completely jettisoned. I am having the most problem figuring out the plot for this first book. Books 2-5 are fitting together pretty well. 6 and 7 are still a work in process I think either I will get the basic plot for book one done first, or book one’s plot may not happen until the plot for the last two books are fitting. We shall see.
Wish me luck!