Novel Month 2021: Here we go again

Hard to believe that another November is upon us. Seems like just yesterday we were fighting to regain our freedom from the tyrannical lockdowns and mask mandates, and now here we are…fighting to regain our freedom from the tyrannical lockdowns and vaccine mandates. The more things change, right?

The whole point of writing, at least for me, is supposed to be an escape. I don’t know about you, but I desperately need an escape right about now. With the fight for freedom, my continued failure at living up to the standard I set for myself, and now the rigors of an actual job, I want nothing more than to jump into any of my created worlds, because every single one of them is better than this one. Even the one from The Linear Cycle, with its magical zombies, would be more enjoyable.

You know the drill by now, surely. One month, 50,000 words. I can start at midnight on the 1st, and I have to hit the 50K mark before November ends. This will be my 11th attempt at the goal, and I’m hoping to reach it for the 10th straight year. As always, here’s what has come before:

  • 2012: Heirs of Divinity
  • 2013: Out of the Past
  • 2014: Before I Wake
  • 2015: The City and the Hill
  • 2016: Nocturne
  • 2017: The Soulstone Sorcerer
  • 2018: Seasons Change
  • 2019: Winds of Change
  • 2020: On the Stellar Sea

Heirs of Divinity was my first serious attempt at writing a novel, and it shows. In my interminable editing cycle, I’ve reread the whole thing a few times, and I’m struck by how rough it feels. That was definitely before I found my stride and my voice. I had always hoped I could go back and revise the text, because there really is a great story in there, but…I know I won’t live long enough for that.

Out of the Past didn’t even receive its name until almost 4 years after I wrote it. It was the original Otherworld story, and the only one of the first drafts that I kept. In other words, it started an obsession that is now 8 years old. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Before I Wake was a lot shorter, and it became my first published (okay, self-published) novel. I wrote it in the wake of my cousin’s death, which was my first true experience with catharsis. I truly love the story I created; it will forever hold a place in my heart.

The City and the Hill was the first of the “new” Otherworld novels, after I revamped the setting, the characters, and the very premise. Some parts of the old Otherworld #2 remain buried in there, not that anyone else would know where to look. And this is where the series began to click for me. Everything suddenly made sense.

Nocturne. What can I say about this one that I haven’t already? A few hours before I wrote this post last Monday, my brother showed me a picture he received from his online not-quite-girlfriend: her paperback copy of Nocturne. That was a rare ray of sunshine in this dark world. I still contend that this one was my best work as a whole, too. It hit all the right notes.

The Soulstone Sorcerer is, as I have said before, the book that nearly killed me. About 150,000 words, and I very nearly finished the whole thing in November. 2017 was just like that, though. At the time, I didn’t realize just what it was like to be depressed. All I knew was that I was writing, nothing else mattered, and I was perfectly fine with that.

Seasons Change represented a change for me, too. That was the first time I tried Nanowrimo while being in something approximating a relationship, as well as the first time I recorded my progress where other people were actually reading. It was fun. I made a couple of friends, neither of whom I even talk to anymore, but that’s okay. What came out of that November built a lot of the Otherworld story since, so it was worth it.

Winds of Change is almost like a rerun of the year before. This time, I wasn’t just in a long-distance relationship. No, I was in love. That shows very often in the text, because I couldn’t help myself. When I have positive feelings, they creep into my writing whether I want them there or not. I only wish they would come around more often.

On the Stellar Sea, the start of the second half for Orphans of the Stars, and the first time in years that I’d called an audible. I simply could not bring myself to write my original idea, Otherworld #20 (which became Laws of Man, which I finished a couple of weeks ago) in the conditions I had suffered under throughout 2020. The story was too real to be an escape. As this was the first time I’d be attempting Nanowrimo in the depths of true depression—nothing like what I thought back in 2017—I needed something that would take my mind off it all. So I turned to a bunch of kids.

That brings us to this year, 2021. For the fifth time in all, I’ll be doing an Otherworld story: #21, which I’ve titled Light to the Depths. For the first time since 2017, I’ll be writing without a muse, because part of my mental illness is that I have to throw away what little good there is in my life. For the first time ever, I’ll have to juggle a full-time job and the hobby that long filled my days.

In the past decade, I’ve sometimes wondered how many times I could pull this off. Would this be the year that the streak ends? Would enough bad finally outweigh the good and stop me from reaching the finish line? Every year, though, I kept on going, and it’s brought me to this point, where I can, if all goes well, say in a month’s time that I have accomplished one of writing’s great feats 10 times in a row.

Unless something drastic happens for the better in the meantime, 10 might be the limit. I doubt I’ll have the heart for it next year. After that…well, I honestly don’t expect to be around for Nanowrimo 2023. So, if I have to go out, let me go out on top.

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