Novelizing

About ten years ago, I did NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I didn't have any aspirations to be a novelist (and I still don't), but it was a genuinely life-changing experience.

It's an exercise where you're committing to write 50,000 words during November. The idea is that everyone thinks they'll write the Great American (or wherever you are) Novel "tomorrow", but you really shouldn't wait. It's also that writing isn't just about being inspired, it's about doing the work of writing, which means also showing up and powering through even when you're not inspired at all.

The goal is also ambitious enough that you've gotta write a significant amount every day. I write really fast, and it takes me about 45 minutes, minimum, each day to get to the 1,600 words (or so) I need to stay on track. And you cannot do any extensive editing if you want to write at a sustainable pace for the whole month. Hell, you can't even really plot, because you've gotta write fast enough that you just write... whatever.

And that's the magic of it, for me.

When you're just forced to write, and you can't plan, and you can't edit, you go places you don't expect. Your characters come alive, and direct you where they want to go. They do things that you would never expect them to, and following those surprising twists and turns is incredibly exciting.

It completely changed not just how I write things, but became a catalyst for changing my entire creative process, and even how I manage folks when working through creative collaboration. It's not about the plan. It's about knowing at a high level where you want to go, keeping that in mind, but also exploring and experimenting, and following promising leads to places you don't expect. It's about not worrying whether it's perfect, it's about moving forward. It's about the work of creativity, and how you don't get inspired and then do the work, you do the work and it inspires you, which lets you do more work, which inspires you some more into a big virtuous cycle of self-reinforcing creativity.

It's about letting go of that inner editor that is scared the ideas aren't good enough, or perfect enough, for the world to see. it's about letting go of the idea that this might be wrong, or stupid, or a waste of time, because sometimes you've got to power through the less obvious places to get somewhere special.

But mostly, it's about showing up and never quitting.

On days when nothing's easy. On days when everything you do is garbage. On days when you ask yourself why you're doing this stupid thing wouldn't you rather be watching TV?

The thing that NaNoWriMo did is it changed my life. It showed me that creativity isn't the magic fairy dust. It forced me to understand that inspiration is the result of work, not the other way around. For that, I'll always be grateful.

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This year, I'm doing NaNoWriMo again. I'm using the month to just write about the world that Give Me Fuel is in. What the cultures of the three factions are like. How their technology diverged. What they think of each other and why, and how reality isn't at all like their prejudices. How the world burned, why. What it's like to try to survive on the surface of a world and scrape out a living on a planet that's no longer fit for human life.

It's been interesting. Lots of little details emerged that I didn't expect. I think, for instance, that this is actually a prequel to the game, and that the timeframe the game will take place in is when the three factions finally meet - not just on the surface, fighting each other for the scraps of civilization that remain, but when they actually meet and start talking to each other, and exchanging bits of their culture. It makes more sense from a "mechanical" perspective to have these three cultures intermingling, but to not have things figured out yet.

We'll see. There's still a couple weeks to go. Tonight, I'll cross the 40K word mark.