NaNoWriMo 2010 That Went Kaphooey

About a week late into NaNoWriMo, I decided to do a flash story collection that consisted of 100 flash stories of 500 words each. How hard was it to write four 500-word flash stories per day for a month? Writing was the easy part if I had the idea for a flash story already in my head. I certainly didn’t have 100 shovel-ready ideas to go in my head, and the few that I did have weren’t that great to start with. Kaphooey.

I then decided to re-start my third novel idea and wrote 1,040 words in a few days. Unfortunately, that’s all I had of my proposed third novel. I had a great opener that excited me but no actual story to hang the rest of the novel on. Double kaphooey.

My first serious attempt at NaNoWriMo was a failure.

In some ways, flash stories—especially at 500 words—are the prose equivalent to writing haiku poems. You need to master the form and let the form master you. Once you have reached that level of writing, a flash story or haiku poem is relatively easy. But it does require preparation. An idea must be in my head for a while before I can transform it into a flash story.

I tend to write four flash stories in a two-week period. I had written three in the past week and will write one more before New Year. Each one inspired by a brief news item that I could spin a story around. Each idea floats around in my head for several nights before I decide to put pen to paper. Writing the story itself takes about two hours, and another two hours to edit the story into the proper form.

Was the concept of writing 100 flash stories in a month unreasonable? Not at all.

Remember that purpose of NaNoWriMo is get everything written and worry about editing later. All I needed to do was focus on writing four 500-word flash stories every day for a month. If only I had the ideas to make that work. November and December became a dry spell where nothing came forth from the creative well.

For flash story writers, writing and editing one per day would be a reasonable challenge. It’s something I could do, if I wanted to and wasn’t being a lazy writer. (Writing can hard work if the creative well is bone dry.) But, like writing haikus, they often come in sudden, unpredictable bursts. It’s not your job to force them into existence but wait for them to arrive before you start writing.

As for the third novel, I had a great opener and no preparation for anything beyond that. Alas, that great opener had the making of a prologue that would’ve been cut in revision. It described who the main character was but doesn’t really contribute to the overall storyline (if there was one). I might have done better by picking up where I left off with the second novel and running with the detailed Post-It Note outline on back of a poster board.

The one successful aspect that I did learn from NaNoWriMo was to edit on the computer. I’m something of a traditionalist with a typewriter on my desk, where I start and revise everything on paper, and using the computer only to store drafts between printed edits. Although my various plans for NaNoWriMo went kaphooey, every attempt was on the computer and became a struggle to break the revising on paper habit. I eventually started revising the current draft of my first novel on the computer, where the characters and plots are still in a state of flux. I’m looking forward to getting that revision done in the New Year.

As for NaNoWriMo next year, I might give completing the second novel a chance—if I’m prepared for it and not being a lazy writer again.