I registered for Camp NaNoWriMo this year. That was a mistake.
For those who don’t know about it, it’s essentially a set-your-own-target version of National Novel Writing Month. Decide how much you want to write, enter the goal, enter a cabin to compete against friends or strangers, and let the site track your progress. Simple.
It’s not so simple when you do the two things that I did this year: I set myself a target of 80,000 words for April, and I went to a convention at the very start of the month. I was further set back by deciding to write a book that I hadn’t finished/started planning. Whoops.
So, I checked the stats. I checked what I need to do to meet my goal. Rounding up, 6000 words per day for the rest of the month.
Now, unemployment does provide plenty of time to reach that goal. I can totally do that. If I had a story to tell. I still haven’t sat down and planned the book, and so I’m faced with only one other option (aside from absolute failure): write a hella-ton of short stories.
I began using this notebook as a place to write down ideas. Ten a day. That was how I worked it out – though that was more of a coincidence, since I was only able to realistically fit ten short ideas on each page.
Ten ideas a day aren’t always going to be ten good ideas. I might get one or two that I can actually work with. Others end up joining together and creating something new. Some make up a super team of ideas that end up creating a little story universe (as in the case of A Death in the Family, with The Local Necromancer, Hanging Up the Scythe, The Monochrome Marriage, Swipe Right for Blood Lust, The Happy Pear, and The Misfortune Teller all filling in background details to a wider story-world.)
I have a process for writing these things. Bullet-points. I write down the little details of the stories, between 5 and 7 per story. Then it’s a case of fill in the blanks. Characters get created for the sole purpose of telling one story, of making one little detail become known – especially in the wider story-worlds that build up with a few tales.
Part of this will be easy. I know that I’ll want to write more stories relating to the paranormal story-world that a lot of my other tales fit into. But there are only so many different types of people and monsters that I can write about in short stories before it becomes uninteresting.
I tend to write in a few different genres. I have my paranormal stories. I have my Irish folklore stories. I write some science fiction, and I have a few superhero stories. (I have a LOT of superheroes whose stories haven’t been told, yet.)
I also sometimes use these “short stories” as chapters/scenes for longer stories, so I think I can focus on a few of those in the next couple of weeks. I don’t know how many of these will ever see the light of day. I don’t know if I’ll publish every single one of them – I still have loads from January that I haven’t done anything with – and I don’t know what way that publication would take place. Wrong Side of the Bed was from January and I only posted it on Friday.
But we’ll see.
I have a story arc planned for an English magician. I have a man who loses his wife and then his mind. And I have a bestiary of badness that the lovely folks of my paranormal police force have to deal with on a regular basis.
I don’t recommend anyone attempt this sort of writing challenge. I didn’t even mean to do it to myself. And I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try. So, my advice (for myself, as much for anyone else):
1. Plan stories in advance. It’ll be less of a headache that way. You can still surprise yourself when you write.
2. Set aside enough time to finish each story. If it takes forty-five minutes to an hour to write one, and you have an hour and a half to work, don’t assume you’ll definitely finish two.
3. Remember that they’re only first drafts. Don’t edit as you go.
4. Spread your writing time throughout the day, if you need to and you can. Six stories a day is probably a lot for most people. Take it in twos.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail.
6. Back up your work. Seriously. Put your work on a USB. Email it to yourself. Back it up on the cloud. (Google Drive is free, and stories don’t take up a lot of space.) You don’t want the pain of losing a day’s work.
And, most importantly, in the immortal words of Douglas Adams:
7. Don’t panic.