• M.K. Beutymhill

The NaNoWriMo Rebellion

For the past several years, I've (unofficially) participated in NaNoWriMo's annual writing challenge. For those not familiar with how it works, the gist is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I say 'unofficially' because I tend to dedicate all my attention on one novel at a time - my method to ensuring I complete it so I don't end up with a laundry list of unfinished, neglected projects. And because I neither punch out carbon copy novels on production lines, nor do I go long stretches without writing, well, the schedule doesn't usually work out for me to begin a new story to fit NaNoWriMo's timeline. So every time November rolls around, I miss my window to participate.

At least by the rules.

Instead of using poor timing as a perpetual excuse, I use the opportunity to set goals relevant to whatever my current novel is at the time. Around 2009, I used NaNoWriMo to spur writing sprints to complete a troublesome first draft. In 2011, I overhauled an entire outline's plot, and applied critiques in 2014 from a recent round of beta readers. Last year, I wrote up new scenes that were needed after some major edits had been applied to a manuscript.

These are just a few examples of how I've utilized the challenge, but no matter what my goals have been, regardless of which story I've applied them to, NaNoWriMo has been the kick in the pants I've needed to keep me accountable. Eventually, I'll do the challenge for realsies - plan a novel from scratch, get that word count tallied in all its hideous, first-draft, garbage-pit glory - but for the time being, I'm holding fast to those rebel ways, because, well, it just works for me.

This year, I returned to A Peculiar Count In Time, a short story first published in When to Now: A Time Travel Anthology. Originally intended to be a novella, I found myself performing surgery to get it to a reasonable length for the anthology. I wasn't stoked about cutting so much out, but I edited that puppy into a cohesive short (if-not-on-the-longer-end-of-short) story, and I was even pleased with the result! But I had to eliminate several arcs, many of which contained a sizable chunk of the story's tension. I lost characters. I lost swanky relics. I lost elements of St. Germain's mystique, and cut eight time-traveling stops down to three. I lost Isabella's hats, which - come to think of it, makes no sense in this context - but my point is that she wasn't done wrecking shop after parting ways with Giovanini. More on that here. And the research, you guys. With all these cuts, a metric dump-ton of research was gone.

So once again, my goal this NaNoWriMo was not to write a new story, but to bolster one already in existence. I spent this past November revisiting the scenes deleted in the anthology's edits, weaving them back into the narrative and writing up passages that never made it past the outline. With any luck, the full, unabridged version will be made available for those interested in delving deeper into that rabbit hole. News forthcoming!

"If you're going to rebel, do it with purpose." ~Unknown