Its finally over! Thirty days of writing fury: of non-stop plot-weaving, of unrelenting creativity and of a brave foray into the unknown. Well, that’s what NaNo is supposed to be about. As it turned out, my experience wasn’t quite like that…
I started NaNo reasonably well, managing to rack up close to a thousand words every day, for a few days. Not bang on target, but a decent effort nonetheless. It was then, about four days into NaNo that things started to fall apart. I think it was probably a mixture of not enough plotting (you know, actually knowing what happens beyond the first third of the book), too much time spent making planning spreadsheets in Excel and not having a clear enough vision for my story.
Let’s talk about that last point. I am easily influenced by the stuff I read, the games I read and the movies I watch. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but mostly it’s not. It’s fine to be inspired by great stories and worlds, but I really have to learn not to grab those elements and throw them into my stories like some overfull fondue pot. I start out having a clear idea of what my story is and what it’s about, but then I begin to work in other elements which only serve to confuse the whole project. It’s like making a nice spaghetti bolognese and then adding curry powder. You may love curry powder, but in a bolognese it clashes and confuses the dish. It’s unnecessary, so it shouldn’t be there.
About halfway through NaNo I officially threw in the towel. My project wasn’t working in the slightest and I needed to go back to basics and really get to the root of what I was writing about. Some of my enduring influences in writing fantasy remain The Lord of the Rings, the characters of Conan and Elric, the Redwall series (Brian Jacques), Warhammer Fantasy, Warcraft and anything by Joe Abercrombie. Diverse and somewhat random, I know, but these are the works, worlds and characters that have had the greatest impact on me over the years and shaped my love of fantasy. The problem with my NaNoWriMo project was that it was too far from these influences.
That’s not to say I can’t write anything that isn’t somehow related or similar to any of the above. These are simply the things that give me my passion, not necessarily the things that I actually write about. But when I’m writing a fantasy set primarily at sea, with an “original” take on pirates, wizards and dragons, you know I’ve taken the new Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag a little too much to heart.
Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson and I’m back working on a novel that I had been writing for a long time – one which I can safely say is true to me and is not an imitation. Overall, NaNoWriMo was an interesting experience. It taught me an important lesson in staying true to your influences and forced me to actually sit down and have the discipline to write every day. If only for that, I think taking part in NaNo was worth it.
If you’ve made it this far, drop me a comment below and let me know how you got on during NaNo, if you took part this year. What inspires you to write fantasy? What are your biggest influences? I want to know!