For anyone who may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when writers attempt the Herculean labor of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. This year, I got wind of a different challenge; a not-novel writing month, as it were, in which the goal instead is to write a flash fiction story every day.
This is actually incredibly difficult, as it turns out. The challenge isn’t in meeting a word count or writing in bulk; you could finish the goal with less than 500 words per day. The hard part here is actually being able to storify something every…single…day. Not merely to throw a few words on paper, but to create something with a beginning, middle, and end; and with character, antagonist, and some kind of plot. To do that anew every day takes serious creative effort.
So how did it go? Incredibly well.
No, I didn’t come anywhere near the goal of writing a new piece of flash-fiction every day. I didn’t quite get halfway there (12 stories, 6300 words). But I wrote a lot and enjoyed the heck out of it, and that’s a win.
I also published a few of my very short stories here at the Far System. Here are the fruits of my labor (not all; only the fruits that weren’t too embarrassing to show in public).
They actually got a very good response (compared to the rest of this dusty little corner of the internet anyway), which was a very nice feeling indeed.
So would I do National Not-Novel Writing Month again? Yes, absolutely. It was a game changer for me.
I had honestly almost given up on writing before I started this. Well, not entirely given up — I write things for various purposes all the time (including my day job as a copywriter), and I’m not going to quit playing with words until I’m pushing up daisies — but the idea of writing fiction for other people to read was almost dead.
Whether I’ll publish anything in a paying venue (or try to) is still an open question. But the last month of writing reminded me again how fun and fulfilling fiction writing is.
Recent NaNoWriMo attempts had me feeling like I was floundering pointlessly. I wasn’t getting anywhere near the word count goal, and my stories never really went anywhere. I was starting to wonder if I even had the ability to do it.
The short story challenge of a not-noveling month, in contrast, compressed the act of story-writing into a small space where the focus is entirely on the fundamentals. The plot (what little I had) couldn’t get lost or tangled in a 600-word story. It was all about economically setting a scene, establishing character (often just one), and making something happen for the reader.
It brought my favorite part of writing — making words do what I want — to the forefront and reminded me that I actually do have some story-writing chops to work with. I’ll probably always be more of a wordsmith than a storyteller, but I can get better at stories, and they’re a lot of fun.
I plan to keep doing the not-novel writing thing. The goal now is at least one short story every week. I have enough ideas stored up that I’ll never be hard up for something to write. Even if they’re not all proper stories, that’s okay. The point is, now that I’ve got into a bit of a writing groove, to keep going. Eventually some of these stories will amount to something, and I really want to see what that is.
So, to sum up, the not-novel writing month is a lot like the artificial horizon: better than the real thing. At least as far as me’n Stephen Wright are concerned.