Each November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (nano-ry-mo). The national "competition" is a personal challenge for budding authors everywhere to complete their manuscript, whether it be the implied novel, or memoir. And while there are badges, and honors awarded, you aren't entering a traditional contest, nor are you cheating any people- NaNoWriMo participants challenge only themselves.
NaNo was born from the desire to get everyone who says they can write a book to actually do it. From its humble beginnings with only 21 participants in 1999 writer Chris Baty's brainchild has grown into a creative writing community supporting (arguably) more than a million participants. And Baty's project works! There are no less than a dozen popular books, and best sellers that originated from NaNoWriMo. In fact, self-publishing's Big Kahuna, Hugh Howey, completed the first draft of his mega-hit WOOL using NaNo. The novel, and Mr. Howey's subsequent work has made him a millionaire, and WOOL has been optioned by Hollywood-great Ridley Scott for theatrical rights.
So if the competition works, then why on Earth would I cheat, let alone do it so proudly? After all, I'm a fan of the annual event. Well, after having participated in NaNo three times now, I have found that what I end up with is indeed a completed manuscript. It's just a really really really bad one replete with typos, unintentional red herrings, and plot holes. Furthermore, I've found that I end up taking longer to hunt for, and fix mistakes I would never have made in the first place if I weren't in a rush to get 50,000 words on the page in 30 days.
So this year I decided to try something. I'd cheat!
I had been wanting to retell a classic story for some time. I believe that like all the great Shakespeare retellings, and others like Pride, Prejudice & Zombies, and Cinder- this was my opportunity to bring a great story to people who may be intimidated by antiquated diction, and unrelatable fatal diseases. This was my opportunity to record my idea in a short period of time. But to reread the lengthy book (did I mention the antiquated diction??), take copious notes, and change names, places, events & even plot lines to fit this century in 30 days would be next to impossible. By sourcing public domain material, I cut & paste chapters from the original (well over 200 years old, thank you very much) into my document. From there the fun began. I was able to rewrite each chapter chronologically in a new time and place with updated, and composite characters. One thing I've learned during this experiment is that the Victorian era mentioned everyone, and their cousin, in the ballroom!
Now, more than 20 chapters in, I feel great about following the blueprint of my source material. My new version also contains notes on how I can deviate from antiquated plots, edit or shorten otherwise bland scenes, and still come back to the mainline. Best of all, I was reminded of quotes, trivial happenings, and nuggets that made the original so great, and drop those into my new story as easter eggs for the savvy reader to find.
At the end of the month, I'll simply delete all of the borrowed source material, leaving only my revision. From there, I can also tweak the ending, or plot to better suit savvy readers like yourself. Granted, I know after that's done, I'm certain to have fewer than the 50,000 words that NaNoWriMo defines as a novel, but I'm guaranteed a clear outline for my next completed novel.
What are you writing?