Sooooo…I won. I submitted my story, Average Joe and the Beauty, a whole day ahead of the deadline of November 30th. I cranked out some crazy production in the last six days thanks to coffee, excitement, and a pure “fuck this I’m winning” attitude. My chapter outlines kept me focused and on track throughout the story. I’m so glad that I had wrote them out ahead of time but at the end I had surpassed them and had no time to write new ones so I just wrote from the seat of my pants like many other NaNo “Pantsers” out there. Admittedly most of this huge production of words was complete crap, stuff I should have erased as I was writing it and I know that later I’ll groan when I have to go back and read this stuff. The point is that it got done and I did something I thought impossible.
As I was writing this portion of my NaNo story I wondered if I should be more suspenseful. I obviously decided against it (XD) so I’ll just tell you how the whole submitting process went. So I arrived at work really early, hours before even the early morning cooks, and opened up NaNoWriMo.org. On the website I searched the FAQ section. I had seen that there was a way to “scramble” the words of a submission before it’s submitted for validation. I followed the steps which was really just using Find and Replace on MS Word to replace all letters with capital and lowercase A’s. I did this because I am way too paranoid. Now I will admit here that I cheated in validating my novel. I hadn’t kept up with transferring my written words into virtual text and had given up before even the halfway point to focus strictly on writing the story out. Knowing this I simply used my previous novel, Average Joe and the Extraordinaires , to validate this one. Underhanded I agree but I assure you that I kept very accurate word counts in my notebook. I took a count after every page and wrote the number at the top of that particular page. I only validated what I had written.
After submitting my novel for validation I got my official word count (51,816). I watched the awkward-ish (though charming) video of the NaNo crew and could do nothing but smile. I felt so damn good. I downloaded all of the cool winner’s graphics that they put up on the page and marveled at my wonderfully inaccurate word count. The website shaved off 16 words but what’s 16 words between friends—a lot if my novel was 50,015 words. After I sat there a while and quickly pondered over the month I couldn’t help but feel sad. It was all over and I knew what I would do next but also knew that I would have to come out of this intoxicating bubble—this solitary private party—and join all of you back in the real world. Life demands balance and I desperately needed to get back to mine.
So I was now done and I had won and won big. What did I win? A headache I suppose. A 51,816 word labyrinth that I had to search through to find something worthwhile. NaNoWriMo doesn’t really give it’s winners a prize but I believe that it does reward winners with something very useful. The contest rewarded me with the ability to silence my inner editor whenever I want and helped bolster the production of my writing. I can now put myself in a “NaNo state” at any given time in order to shut all the distractions out and get serious production going. Towards the end I honestly did see a glaring weakness in the way that I wrote. I wrote mainly to satisfy my plot with all other elements coming in second to that. Now I don’t think that this is the proper way to write. The character should always come first and not just the main character but every character in the book. Your mains should have an arc and your supporting characters should all have interests and fully developed lives outside of the plot. If you can find the time you should fully flesh out every character even if you use them once. Character growth and themes have always been important to me but now they’ll be at the forefront of my works instead of at the background like before.
Now that I’ve won this year’s NaNoWriMo will I participate next year?
I really, really want to! I can only see myself participating if I have the proper time, workspace, and no other projects looming. It’s tough to dedicate a whole month to just one thing and NaNo 2013 demanded that I dedicate any and all hours of my life that weren’t already spent at my job. I can’t do that again. There has to be a balance. I can’t run around like I was forced to do this year. I must start building a proper workspace well in advance of the contest. I also won’t participate if I’m working on any video or board game projects with FlubberKnuckle Studios. It’s just way too much work for me and way too much stress. I’ll know for sure later on, most likely in the middle of next year.
So I won, what’s next?
The next step for me is actually a backstep. I want to return to my first book and boost the content there and make the transition from Average Joe and the Extraordinaires to Average Joe and the Beauty much smoother. I want to make sure that the first book is also a much smoother read overall by tuning up the prose a bit, adding more detailed character descriptions (since I seemed to have nailed them in the sequel), and foreshadowing some of the outlandish concepts that I have in the second book. I think these changes will strengthen the first book a great deal. The primary goal is to perfect that first book and get it out ASAP. I’ll most likely learn some HTML too in order to start perfecting the book for Kindle release.
So all in all I love this contest; the pep talks from real authors, the goals, the preparation month leading into the contest, the local writing events, the fervor, and just the basic aspect of man, imagination, pencil, and paper (or Word Processor) all coming together to complete a seemingly impossible monthly goal. If you haven’t tried a NaNoWriMo yet then I suggest you do. You just might learn something new about yourself and about your project.