m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Stumbling Across the Finish Line

Another year, another novel:

NaNoWriMo 2006 winner

Those who don’t quite grok the National Novel Writing Month concept tend to ask what I’m doing with my novel now that it’s done—submitting it, or entering it in a contest, or getting back some unspecified results from NaNoWriMo. It’s surprising difficult to convey the notion that the outcome of writing 50,000 words in one month is no more or less than…50,000 words.

No less is one of the NaNoWriMo rules, so it’s no more that wants explaining. First of all, this year I wrote a fantasy, and 50,000 words is barely past the prologue in fantasy terms, so I am not done. Secondly, high-speed NaNoWriMo writing is not quite quality prose, so if the novel were done it would need some heavy editing before I’d show it to anyone. Thirdly, I’m a short-story writer, so even if the plot had gotten past Act II and the writing past See Thorin Run, I still wouldn’t have anything resembling a novel.

So why do I do this every year? I’ve come to the conclusion that NaNoWriMo is a world-building exercise for me more than anything else. The world and culture of my novel’s main characters now have a depth I hardly dreamed of at the start of November: a thousand years of history accounted for, a map of the continent, a disintegrating economic system, a global environmental disaster in progress, a minor migration, a calendar, a kinship system, a sketchy guild setup, funeral rites, pieces of a conlang, an architecture, unexpected steampunk technology, etc. Most of them are things I would not have thought of without the desperate need to write 2,000 words right now about something.