Story of a story

November is gone… Really gone.

On one hand, I’m really glad: NaNoWriMo is over, and I managed to reach the 50,000 words target. Now, I can relax and enjoy finishing the novel at a more humane pace. I can now see the end of it, the real finishing line, and the months of editing and pulling my head ahead.

Last year I didn’t make it, but this year I started in good spirit, knowing it was doable. Fine, I had already a good start, having a story and the plot outlined from last year, but I didn’t know what would happen next with the story, and I didn’t include those words in this year’s count!

It was interesting to see how my approach to the novel had changed over the past 12 months. At first, I begun the novel more of a “quick, I need a story for NaNo” than anything else, and decided to try to write a pre-quel to the novel I really wanted to write, and that I had already started, actually, only I didn’t want to use it with NaNo, in case it ended up being a disaster…

The story felt a stranger at first, like new shoes. You know you like them, you know they will be comfortable, but later on, at the moment they feel too new and stiff. I know, I know, for a writer, that’s probably a bad literary metaphor, but it fits my feelings perfectly.

After a while, after dragging the words out of my brain slowly and painfully (I still have the marks of their nails, trying to remain inside and fighting with all their might to be kept untold), things got a bit easier. I managed to get the few first out, then the next group, then the next. At some point they simply realised there was no other escape and sooner or later, they would have to come out and tell their story. However, it didn’t feel right. I could feel they were still fighting me. They came to me, sure, but they were not willing.

For the whole of November 2011, I could tell I was killing their spirit, their will to live. They were telling their story sure enough, but they were not putting passion into it. I kept trying, and failed.

NaNo 2011 ended up with me writing roughly 36,000 words. It’s a great count, of course, but it hadn’t felt right. It hadn’t been easy. I had walked in those shoes, and now my feet were full of blisters… So I did the only thing that felt right at the moment: I hated the story.

I didn’t really hate the story… but I looked at it with wariness. I didn’t trust the story, we were not friends, not even enemies. We were simply strangers forced to work together.

For a year, I kept thinking about it, and toyed with the idea of writing again, but I could never bring myself to do it. It felt wrong, it felt like I was going to fail again. Then, October came, and suddenly NaNoWriMo 2012 looked extremely close. I wanted to participate again, and somehow, it felt like all the issues were long lost in the past. Surely everything was forgotten, and now we could finally get to know each other as equals, as friends.

I had a look at the story, I printed it and read it, just to make sure we were both on the same page. As I was reading, I felt a bit better with each word. It wasn’t such a bad story, it had potential. The words had done their job, but I think they hadn’t trust me enough to let me know how they felt at the time, so it all had felt strange, but there they were, telling a story.

At times, I could feel really hooked to it, but mostly you can see it feels awkward… I decided to give it another try, knowing that this time around I could understand, I could see what needed to be done. We were not strangers any more.

The first words came out stiff and wary. They had been locked inside for so long they needed to stretch themselves first. Soon enough, probably when all the doors to my head were wide open and the sunlight shone through them, they felt the warmth outside and they looked through my mind’s windows, to try to recognise who it was calling them.

I couldn’t have expected their reaction. While I approached them slowly, trying not to scare them again, they leapt to my arms in recognition. Suddenly, the past was forgotten, and they were just happy to see a familiar face. The fear of the unknown was not there any more. During the year, we had learnt to trust each other. I had learnt to let them tell their story, they had learnt to let me write it down my way.

We worked together for a while, and then I had to stop. I got busy and a bit overwhelmed. The challenge seemed extremely far, and I felt discouraged.

However, as soon as I sat down again and told these words my situation, they all came to my help and rushed out of my fingers into the computer keyboard. We were in this together, they cried out as they leapt out of my mind. We will win this year.

In one weekend I managed to write down 20,000 words and with that, I was back in the game. As I saw how the words were there to help me, as long as I let them, I felt an immense sense of satisfaction.

We had started like strangers, talking about the weather, with a strange step, with blisters, with mistrust… Now we were best friends, talking without speaking, winking at each other, helping each other tell our stories, and merging them into one.

I know to those of you who don’t write this might seem like a lot of nonsense (that’s not the word I had in mind), but some of you fellow writers might understand. You might have a different mental image of your relation with your story, but you might have felt something similar.

I never thought writing a story could be so easy, and so difficult at the same time, but I’m glad I tried. Now, I’m 86,000 words far in my story, and still counting, and I wouldn’t trade this feeling for anything.

I might be weird, a bit geeky, loud, crazy, sometimes grumpy, sometimes too friendly, you might like me or hate me… I’m a mishmash of things, but hey, I’m a writer after all, I have thousands of words inside me, eager to get out… I have dozens of stories to tell… I guess sometimes it just shows in how I am!