Hey everyone! I’m officially free (as of Tuesday when I handed my last assignment in) and have been getting well and truly in the Christmas spirit this week, with several club Christmas dinners and a trip with one of my friends to the Edinburgh Christmas market. My friends have left Uni now, so I have a week alone before my friends from home come up, meaning I’ll have a chance to catch up with all the blog posts that I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t been able to because of assignments! This one is long overdue, I’ve been meaning to do a post about my first ever NaNoWriMo experience ever since it finished last Wednesday, and I now finally have the time to sit down and write it.
I’d read posts about NaNo before and seen people participating on Twitter, but I’d never done it myself until this year. Why? Well simply because I didn’t have a story idea that I was passionate enough to pursue. I did a lot of writing when I was young (none of it that good), and I’ve done a lot of fanfic and some stuff for school over the last few years, but I haven’t really written anything substantial since I did a creative writing extra-curricular during school, I just haven’t had the ideas.
Then this year, we got a prompt in creative writing that I really liked. The prompt was the opening line from a book called Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson. Now I’d never heard of the book or the author but the line got me thinking. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or even if you’ve just read a few posts, you’ll know that the overabundance of romance in YA fiction is one of my biggest bugbears. So when I saw that line, I thought, “well maybe my story doesn’t have to be”. I thought, what if I wrote a fantasy with a single protagonist? A protagonist who did not spend the entire book dithering between two boys, who hadn’t been in a romantic relationship and was happy not to be in one? I thought I could write a story about this girl and her journey, that instead of having a story where everyone would be caught up in whose team they were on, there were no teams. There would just be my protagonist, and this would be her story, not the story of which boy she decided to choose.
So that prompt eventually turned into This Is Not A Love Story. The story of Tiffany Sinclair and how she died (this is not a spoiler, as it’s revealed within the first few hundred words of the novel). When I started it, all I knew was that I wanted Tiffany to remain single through the story, that I wanted the story to very much focus on her and her own personal growth, that I wanted it to be a fantasy and that Tiffany had to die in the end.
I am very much a pantser when it comes to my writing. The above was all I knew when I sat down to write This Is Not A Love Story. I had the first few hundred words which I had written based off the prompt in my creative writing group, but nothing after that. It was quite funny actually because I was doing NaNo at the same time as one of my flatmates, and our writing styles are so different, she’s much more of a planner, whereas I just sat down and my computer and wrote whatever came to me.
This of course did have its downfalls. There were some days when I was flying and wrote over the goal of 1,667 words a day (on the last day alone I wrote about 5000 words!), but there were some days when I got stuck. Where I couldn’t work out where my characters were wanting to go, or where I needed them to go for my planned ending to work. This was where having a friend also doing NaNo was useful, because I could bounce ideas off her when I was stuck, work out what the most logical direction for my characters to go was. There were some days where I didn’t write anything, and I felt bad about that, but that was something that doing NaNo helped me work through. I realised that it was okay when I didn’t write anything, because when I got back to my story, I was refreshed. I was more excited about what I was writing. I didn’t have to write every day, as long as I was enjoying what I was writing.
My story is very much inspired by what I’ve read. When I started out, Tiffany seemed very much like Celaena from Throne of Glass, likely because I was reading Empire of Storms at the time, but as the story went on Tiffany definitely diverged from there. She’s less sure of herself than Celaena, she’s an outsider in this world that she’s entered into and I like to think she’s a little nicer, though both definitely have a flair for the dramatic (and love their fire!). I like to think the humour is slightly inspired by what I’ve read from Rick Riordan and Derek Landy, but a lot of it is probably just my own snark. I definitely put a lot of myself into Tiffany, whilst I wouldn’t say that we’re exactly the same, there are aspects of myself in her. The structure of the world is somewhat like Snow Like Ashes, although I hadn’t started reading it at the time I started writing, that was just a coincidence. I obviously didn’t want it to look too much like any particular author’s work, but I like to think that my inspirations can be quite clearly seen in there, since it’s the books I’ve read which have made me who I am as a writer.
I knew where I wanted the story to end, but I was still surprised by some of the turns my story took. The whole kingdom of Elementa simply came out of one thing that Tiffany said at the start of the story. That her death was fiery. I had to work out how that could happen and since I wanted my story to be a fantasy, that was how I decided on the idea of the four elements. The aspect of multiple magic wielders and the whole Resistance thing literally only came out when I wrote a scene at the beginning of the story and I realised that Tiffany had multiple powers. Tiffany’s backstory with her father was a complete surprise to me and I only realised about halfway through the story what her father’s motives towards hating her were and in realising that, her mother’s story just came out naturally. None of the characters from the Resistance were planned, they all just kind of came in where I needed them to be. I didn’t envisage the whole plot with Kaia at the start, it was only at the end when she came in and I realised what role she had to play. The masquerade ball scene came out of my simple desire to have a ball in my novel, but it actually wove in quite well, as did Tiffany’s dragon. The Resistance also comes off less assassiny than I had first envisaged them, and more, I guess Rebels With A Cause?
I have not yet finished the first draft of This Is Not A Love Story, and once I do, there are obviously things that I would like to tweak, but overall, I’m really proud of what I accomplished during NaNoWriMo. I wrote over 53000 words, simply based off a one sentence prompt. I wrote a fantasy, with no primary romance, instead focusing on this girl’s journey, her discovery of who she is, of her first real family, her first true friends and her eventual death and that was what I intended to do.
Overall I think NaNoWriMo was a good experience for me. It was quite stressful yes, writing over 1600 words a day, but once I realised that I could take breaks and still get my story done on time, it became a much more enjoyable experience. I started to look forward to writing, to being with my characters and I loved that they started to feel real to me and that I started to think like them. I’ve always been a writer, but I’ve never had a story to tell until now. NaNoWriMo gave me a chance to tell this story and I will forever be grateful for that. I’m looking forward to finishing my first draft of This Is Not A Love Story and then starting the next phase of my novelling journey. I’ve never been this excited about anything I’ve written before and I cannot wait to see where the rest of this story takes me.
Did anyone else take part in NaNoWriMo? Did you win? How was your experience? Any other newbies like me out there? What are you stories? Let me know in the comments!
I’m hoping to get a lot of posts done this week, with the abundance of free time I have now that Uni is finished, I have a book review, discussion post and event recap to write, so hopefully lots of new content for you guys! Stay tuned!