NaNoWriMo 2017 Wrap Up Post

Hi all! I’m officially done with Autumn Semester as of 2.30 this afternoon, so yay for that! I’m celebrating this evening with romcoms, pizza and wine with my friends, so life is very good right now. Like last year, I took part in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where you attempt to write 50,000 words (essentially the first draft of a novel) in one month, the month of November. Now this year wasn’t quite as successful as last year, I didn’t actually get to 50,000 words, I was very close though, just under 6,000 words away from finishing and I thought over 44,000 words was still pretty good especially considering how many deadlines I’ve had in November!

This year, I started doing a Fiction writing course, after I found an offer on Groupon and I started writing the story which became my NaNoWriMo novel, Underground Magicians. It was inspired by a conversation with one of my friends, where she was telling me about a programme she watched about underground tunnels in Europe and I thought, how cool would it be if those tunnels had been created by magicians as hiding places? That was the start of Underground Magicians.

This year my NaNoWriMo experience was a little different to last year. Whilst I am normally a complete Pantser when it comes to my writing, this year, I was so excited about the story that I had already written the first chapter by the time NaNo rolled around. It gave me a good head start, I don’t know if I would have even got as many words as I did if I didn’t already have over 4000 before I started!

However, I didn’t complete let my pantsing tradition go, I didn’t really know where the story was going after the first chapter and I certainly hadn’t planned any of it. Funny story, my main character’s name actually ended up being Sophie because it was the name of the main character in the book I was reading when I started Underground Magicians over the summer. I tried to change it, but any other name just didn’t feel right, Sophie had stuck, so Sophie she stayed.

I approached the story a little differently this year. Whilst last year I wrote This Is Not A Love Story in chronological order, I found I just couldn’t do that with Underground Magicians. By about chapter 3 or 4, I had worked out how I wanted the story to end, but I still didn’t have an idea for the middle, so I jumped right to the end and over the next week or so, wrote the last three chapters of the story and the epilogue. I’m actually really glad I did it that way, because I’m honestly still kind of stuck on the middle of the story and I was so excited about the ending, so it was nice to get to jump forward and write the part that I really wanted to. I’m not saying that I’d write non chronologically every time, but it certainly worked for this story.

Underground Magicians was very different to This Is Not A Love Story. They do have certain things in common, the underground aspects are very similar but other than that and the fact that they both involve magic, they are very different. UM is a 21st century story, which meant I could involve technology and real places and things which was quite exciting to me, much as I loved creating my own world with TINALS, it was nice to actually be able to draw from the real world. In This Is Not A Love Story, I obviously had no romance at all and Underground Magicians I did. The romance surprisingly has actually been my favourite thing to write in this story, I realised quite early on in the story that Sophie was a lesbian, when I wrote her first scene with Mo and could see that there was chemistry between them, I knew that this story was going to involve an f/f romance. I just hope I’ve done it justice, as I know how scarce f/f rep is in fantasy! I was waiting for ages to write Mo and Sophie’s first kiss and when I finally did, it was so satisfying!

The magic in this book is also quite different to in TINALS, Mo and Tiffany share the same power, but that’s where the resemblance ends, UM isn’t an elemental based magic system, there’s a wider variety of magical powers, so that’s been fun to explore. I also had a real villain in this story, whereas I don’t really have one in TINALS (at least not yet, that’s something I’m hoping to get to in editing) so that was awesome to get to do.

Sophie is a lot different to Tiffany, they’re both kind of snarky but although Sophie has a tendency of putting her foot in her mouth at times, she’s not as impulsive and more willing to work with the team than Tiffany is. She’s also a couple of years younger than Tiffany, so that obviously makes a difference when writing. I wrote both novels in first person though, so I think there’s naturally a lot of me in both of them, but I’m hoping that their voices do sound different!

I don’t know if my writing inspirations can be seen as strongly in this one as in TINALS, I think if you read both of them then you could definitely tell I wrote them both but I’m not sure you can see my influences as much in Underground Magicians as in TINALS, I don’t know if that makes it better or worse than TINALS, it’s just the way things worked out this time around.

I actually wrote every single day this time (bar the first day, where I just used what I’d already written) even if it was only a few hundred words, and that respect, I actually think I did better this time than last time, because last time yes, I finished, but I didn’t write every day, so I’d actually rather have lost and written every day than won without writing every day.

There were also things which surprised me in this story, as in TINALS. Sophie’s whole backstory with her mum and dad was something that just evolved naturally over the course of the story, I haven’t written all of it yet, but it’s something I’m excited to explore whilst writing the rest of it. Mo and Sophie’s romance just evolved naturally after their first meeting. The entire ending sequence just came to me once I came up with the idea of the tunnels moving and people getting sucked into them. I’m sure there’s going to be even more that surprises me as I continue writing this story.

I still have a long way to go, 44000 words of this story is still only like nine chapters and an epilogue, so there’s going to be a lot more to write before this story is actually complete! I’m hoping to keep writing this story over the course of December and maybe even finish it by the end of the month? That might be a little too ambitious but it would be great if I could!

Did anyone else take part in NaNoWriMo? Did you win? Anyone close like me? Anyone do it for the first time this year? What are your stories? Let me know in the comments!

I’m hoping to have more stuff up in the next few weeks with all my newfound free time, I’ll have a review of my latest read up for you guys very soon and I have some fun writing features planned for the next few weeks as well, so stay tuned for those!

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Wrap Up Post

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!