As a first post on a blog, this might be an awkward one. I’ve got no introduction, except “Hi, I write horror fantasy now!” So let me tell you about the novel I’m writing, which I call Night Demon, and about NaNoWriMo this year.
The itch to write this story came somewhere late September when all of America got in their annual Halloween mood. I don’t celebrate Halloween myself but if you spend even a moderate amount of time online, you know what’s up. I wrote some short blurbs for a psychological grimdark set in the 19th century and the ideas began to stick and swirl in my head. I guess it’s like my namesake and fellow pantser Stephen King (that’s where the comparison ends) describes his process of developing a story: You think about it every night and the story kind of develops in your head.
So over the course of a few weeks a lot of these ideas began to develop and connect with one another. Night Demon takes place in a 19th Century “Western World” in a small industrialized town. Can’t go wrong with Victorian horror of the Lovecraftian kind right? But I wanted more than just mythos and organically but at the same time disturbingly shaped gods and creatures. What I was looking for was more internal, inside the mind of a person. Call it morality or spirituality, that’s what interests me. Night Demon is as much an investigation of what is right and what is wrong as it is a suspenseful horror thriller.
Emotion is another key aspect I believe must play a central role in any horror story and should be held supreme particularly in a novel. Even if the physical description of a thing may never be transferred from the mind’s eye of the author to that of the reader perfectly, I believe emotion can be. Or at least, much more closely than images can. In Night Demon I want the reader to experience what the Main Character is experiencing inside their heads; be it delight, relief, regret, gripping desperation, stifling fear, and so on. I consider it a job well done if I can make the reader feel the same way as the character.
Put these two together and the logical conclusion is a single character point-of-view in which we get intimate, very intimate with the Main Character. You’ll have to forgive when I can’t divulge much of the plot or the characters just yet.
When the month started, I only had a very, very rough outline and a Main Character. That, and the lofty goal to finish Act 1 and 2 before the end of November. I had to invent not only a bunch of lore, which I needed to feed in very gradually throughout the story, I had absolutely no clue about the majority of the other characters. I had some ideas about a couple of them but that amounted to a grand total of four notes, each less than a hundred words.
Figuring out the pacing and the speed at which I needed to be drafting in the week before NaNoWriMo, I settled on having to write 2500 words a day (97,500 in 30 days). That should have finished most if not all of my main plot up until Act 2 and would be my goal for this year’s Nano. Spoiler Alert: I failed.
Having never done NaNoWriMo before, I decided to follow a writing sprint. The Fate Weavers must have smiled upon me when the only person online was Deborah Lau a.k.a. Paper Tiger. I followed her daily sprint streams every day of November, missing 2 streams of one day and one whole day on the 28th. Deb likes super long sprints, which I liked too. She lives on the other side of the world for me so when she wasn’t online, I tried some other sprints too. But they all wrote for like 20 minutes and then chatted up the room for at least 20 minutes more. That wasn’t going to get me to 100k words any time soon, so I’m lucky I found just the right stream for me. Deb, me and a few other participants also seemed to get embroiled in a (very friendly) word count competition, so that was good.
The first week was fine and I wrote a little over 2500 every day, usually between 2500 and 3000 thereabouts. The second week was harder for me. I had the first 25,000 words written, Act 1 was done and Act 2 was well under way. The story had really taken root and if I wasn’t careful, it could just go on and on without a clear goal. I had that happen twice to me now, so I knew it was time to start plotting a bit more of the story. That slowed me down in week 2 where I wrote the bare minimum 2500 words a day. Week 3 seemed to bother the other writers I was sprinting with more than me. They all slowed down, while I sped up. My best day, if I remember correctly, was over 6000 words and that weekend I nearly got another 10,000 words in.
The last week I came closer and closer to finishing Act 2. That really slowed me down once more as I came across plot endings, which I wanted to make sure were done tidily and wouldn’t become too much trouble during revisions (fingers crossed). With over 75,000 words in the bag I wasn’t concerned I wouldn’t make Nano’s official goal but if I could finish Act 2 in the remaining 7 days and not make it awful. Turns out, I couldn’t. I ended up with a little over 93,000 words and about 1,5 chapters away from ending Act 2. I did end up with the highest word count on the sprint, even when Deb gave it one last valiant effort the night before where she did a massive, final 4 hour or so sprint and got up into the 92k range.
So, am I disappointed? No. On the contrary. It would be kind of silly if I were, after all during one sprint session I told another writer that ultimately, NaNoWriMo doesn’t matter. What matters is if you’ll finish the novel. By doing this crazy, crazy month, I’ve written so much of the middle that writing the ending is almost a given at this point. So although I failed, I aimed to fail from the get go.
“Strive for perfection, but never intend to get there.”
My next update will most likely be after I finish the first draft. When that is, I’m not quite sure. But I’ve already set my next goal and want it done before Christmas.