Somehow, I managed to finish this year’s NaNoWriMo a week early, which has to be a new personal record. And what have I learned this time round? Enough ‘wisdom’ to fill a blog post, it turns out.
The genre change to Western worked much better than I expected. You can fill daily word counts simply by having long journeys on horseback, forcing characters to chatter away for an entire chapter. You can also have two men stare angrily at each other for a thousand words before one of them shoots the other. I couldn’t find a way to convey ‘tense Ennio Morricone soundtrack’ in prose, but you can just imagine it while you read or something.
Genre wasn’t the only challenge this year. Like a massive fool, I decided to try first-person for the first time. I convinced myself a while back I just couldn’t do it for anything other than the odd letter or diary page, but it turns out not only can I keep it up for 50,000 words, but I can shamelessly copy Non Pratt and go for two alternating first-person viewpoints. The only problem was trying to jump between the eyes of a young teenage girl and a slightly jaded gaucho in his early twenties. It’ll be fixed in the edit, right?
Oh, the whole ‘I’ll write MG and it’ll all be fine’ thing. I got 8000 words in before my charming gaucho Toli dropped a swear word and sent this shit solidly into YA territory. And that’s not including the fact he speaks Guarani and so understands when goons tell him to go fuck himself with a cactus in his native tongue. Then Toli, erm, had to age a bit for Historical Battle Accuracy Reasons, putting him right into the NA target demographic. So that’s clear as mud. And speaking of historical accuracy, the owner of my lovely occasional Highlands writing garret has a special interest in the Cerro Rico mine in Potosi, where my teenager’s family live. I get the feeling the first edit is going to involve a few more textbooks than I had time to read before writing this nonsense. Have you hugged your novel cultural advisors today?
A writer who’s doing rather well for himself, whose views I value highly, suggested a good twist to help it stand out from being just another cowboy adventure. I came up with a good ‘dark secret from his past’ twist and that was fine… and then my gaucho kind of developed another twist in the form of a highly specialised medical condition that causes him to act somewhat erratically at crucial points where he’s meant to be throwing his bolas at a baddie. (BOLAS, I said. Rocks with leather straps tied to them. QUIET AT THE BACK.)
It took a lot of willpower not to drop back into urban fantasy. One writing chum said ‘but you have to write what you want’, and I could surely write in my genre for, ooh, at least another few books. But it’s nice to jump out of the comfort zone and not just write for that elusive future audience eager for 1980s urban fantasy novels involving murderous kelpies, lecherous selkies and misbehaving South American teenagers. The Saviour of Cordillera Central is totally different. I mean, Toli is just an angry young man who spends his time wandering round picking fights, trying to leap into bed with women and carrying a big knife- oh, right. It’ll be fixed in the edit?
Anyway, I’m fairly sure it’s better than the pulp novels I read before I started. And did I mention it’ll all be fixed in the edit? So here’s to a busy January nose-deep in Scrivener, and here’s to you brave souls still NaNo-ing up to the 30th. Keep on writing, be bold and don’t worry about those edits. They look much further away after a gallon of cheap mulled wine.