Letters Home from Camp NaNoWriMo

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I used to do NaNoWriMo whenever it came around.  It wasn’t easy getting 50,000 words down in a month, but knowing that thousands of other people are suffering along with me does wonders for my motivation.  Maybe I’m a sociopath or something.  Anyways, in spite of the fact that I have yet to pack up my action figures and I still combat invisible adversaries with a toy sword in my living room, I’ve somehow become a “mature adult,” or so people tell me.  And part of being a “mature adult” is that I don’t have the kind of time to be spending a couple hours a day writing.  I’ve tried a few times, but my word count has been so pathetically low that the comments of this post would be full of people laughing at me were I to mention it here, so I won’t.

Luckily, NaNoWriMo’s little brother is on the scene!  For the past couple years, there’s been Camp NaNoWriMo, where you set your own word count goals and work towards it during a month that’s not November.  As you may have gathered from my taking the time to write this post, I’m taking part in it, for their April session.  I’m going for 10,000 words over the course of the month, which should be a pretty modest goal.  Hell, I’ve written posts on this blog that are close to 10,000 words.  It started on the first of the month and I’ve written a grand total of… 0 words.  Yeah, I’ve been procrastinating a bit.  That’s what this post is all about, helping me procrastinate.  I am writing words here so I don’t have to be writing words there.  So by reading this, you are officially helping me screw around and not write anything.  Thanks for that.

With this writing exercise, I’m wanting to explore areas I’m not familiar with.  Normally, I like to write grand plots, where events therein change the course of nations or worlds.  With this story, I’m wanting something much more personal in scale.  I’m really comfortable with writing momentous fight scenes; this project will have to largely deliver conflict without direct violence.  In general, stuff like that.  I’m also wanting to keep this relatively short, wrapping things up shortly after the 10,000 word mark.  I usually write much more long form than that, and it’d be nice to try writing a more accelerated story.

First step of the process for me was coming up with a story concept.  Which I really should have done before the month started, but hey, procrastination.  I came up with a couple of concepts.  The first was to just write whatever ridiculous thing came to mind with absolutely no filter in a stream-of-consciousness type thing, but that feels dumb and cheaty.  The first real usable concept I came up with was inspired by someone unironically using the word “muggle.”  Sometimes, that’s all it takes.  Lifting the idea of a whole secret magical underworld from the Harry Potter series that inspired the term and putting my own spin on it, I came up with the concept of a mage’s police force, tasked with ensuring that magic remains an unseen, unknowable force in the world of mortals.  The idea would be to deliver an urban police beat/investigation story with plenty of fantastic elements.

Thing is, though, that would require some worldbuilding, and I think I’d want more than 10,000 words to work with to pull that off properly.  One way to avoid that would be to stick with elements that most of the audience is already familiar with.  So drop the magic, because that varies too much between fictional worlds, and stick with something where the rules are largely the same between portrayals.  So maybe like, vampire cops or something like that.  A lot of urban fantasy works have the whole Masquerade deal, where there’s the whole secret world beneath the normal one and everyone involved has to go to great lengths to keep it hidden.  I like the idea of a story where the masquerade falls, and the public is made aware of all the magic/weird creatures in their midst, and everyone has to deal with the fallout.  Thing is, I think I like that idea too much, and again, I’d want to devote more than just 10,000 words to exploring that.

So what if we played up the more personal tone I’m wanting to go for.  Make it just one person who reveals too much to another, and take it from there.  That’s the idea I ended up going with, although I’m pulling back a little from the whole ‘secret world’ thing.  Since we’ll just be dealing with a couple people in this story, it makes sense to have them more as independent operators rather than having to involve the shadow organizations and whatnot.  Still have to do a bit of world building to establish what’s going on, but since we’re only having one magic man it will be a lot simpler to do it through his actions rather than background narrative, dialog, or anything that doesn’t move the story as far.  As for what’s going to happen in this story… I dunno.  Usually I have at least a few major points planned out, but this time, I’m writing entirely by the seat of my pants.  Hey, I was wanting to explore new ground with this project, this is just one more area I get to do so.  Will this turn out the greatest short story of our generation?  Will it at least be good?  Probably not.  But it will be a learning experience, and that’s more what I’m looking for right now.

Now I just have to figure out how to start the blasted thing.

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