I’ve always entertained the idea of writing a novel, and when I first joined NanoWrimo in 2007, I thought it was the exact stimulus I needed to actually finish a story. Sadly, I didn’t even get to the halfway point of 25,000 words. Until 30 November 2007, I was still stuck at 17,508 words.
At first when I considered the goal, 50,000 words, I thought to myself, if I were able to write half of my 385-page dissertation (yes, it was supposed to take 6 months, but can you spell mega-procrastinator?) in a month, 50,000 words would be easy peasy. Ha! It wasn't as easy as that. About a third of a dissertation is usually composed of a review of literature, and this meant quoting a whole bunch of sources and using them to “frame” your story. Of the remaining two-thirds, a third is devoted to the background, (i.e., significance: anong kinalaman ng thesis mo sa love life ko?) and the remaining two-thirds is composed of the analysis and results (the data goes into the appendix, at least it did for me), which one usually had already done. So in effect, a dissertation is the result of years of careful study crammed into an ultra-lengthy report that your audience will be able to relate to. In short, you already have a story, and all you have to do is write about it.
Not so with a novel. Even if you approach it scientifically as I did, sketching out the identities of the main characters and plotting out scene sequences and all, there is always a chance that they will refuse to cooperate. Sometimes, especially when your characters seem to have taken on a life of their own, you find a scene not going the way you want it to, or find a scene erupting out of nowhere. Although most novels try to be as factual as possible, it deals mainly within the realm of our imagination. It allows us to weigh the possibilities and realities, and gives us a stage on which to test out ways to bend them to suit our story.
Having finished NaNoWrimo 2008 has given me an amazing feeling of satisfaction. I’m already dreaming up my plot for this year ;-)