This year I sat down and looked at what kind of stories make good NanoWriMos. While some folk see Nanowrimo as an opportunity to burn through a practice they’ve never finished, I learned, last year, that I don’t need that. While I feel bad about missing it this year – none other than Christie Yant and Amanda Davies both encouraged me to do it – I’m still proud of what I did finish.
I think for me, a Nano is a novel that’s allowed some excuses. It can be derivative, it can be simplistic, it can be compressed. What’s important is finishing something, so it lends itself to certain kinds of stories.
I’ve never been one for The Sprawling Epic. I think you can do sprawling epics without dragging one story on endlessly, artificially trawling the same cast of characters across a huge expanse of time and space and forcing them to matter to dozens of political structures or narratives. On the other hand, a Sprawling Epic that’s made up out of short, punchy, pulpy stories? That I like. If every part of your story is worth reading then I will happily devour more and more of it. Game of Thrones? If you started reading it when it was new you’d be fifteen years later without resolution or conclusion. You’d have a very pretty, very stylish alternate history, and some folk like that (clearly), but it’s really not what I want. I want every part of a story that I read to matter.
One Nano I wanted to do this year was to take another (much bigger) story and break it down into a smaller version with a better narrative/characterisation. This was actually tripped up this year in part by the furore around HP Lovecraft and re-examining my relationship to that work. I mean, I still like it, but I think this re-examination makes it even better and gives my idea further refinement. I think this is a good format for a Nano – condensing an existing story. After all, we’re all telling stories to a structure of sorts, we might as well make sure we’re honest about it.
Another thing I thought might make a fun idea is a sequence of novellae. Four little stories, maybe about 12kish words, which were… well, I was just going to make smut. Alas, I wasn’t able to really dedicate the time – and privacy – it takes to write good, long-form smut. That, and it’s often harder to get good feedback on and refine this sort of stuff.
Finally, I was thinking of a short mystery story, which was meant to be much more about the character central to it, than it was to the story she went through. This is the hardest one for me because while she is wholly formed, smart and sharp in my mind, I cannot for the life of me tell you what she does, where she goes, or who she meets. And I barely even know her name.