This year will be the third time I’ve done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). (You can see my profile here , if you must.) I’ve done it a couple times before, though both of those times were while I was working as a security guard and could get in as much as 4,000 words in one day by bringing my laptop and typing while watching an empty building. Now that I have a full-time office job as a localization editor it’s a lot harder to make time to keep up the word count. I want to make the effort though, because in the past few months I’ve kind of fallen off the wagon when it comes to writing stories. I’ve been putting a ton of energy into designing card games, and while that’s included stuff like Channel A that involves words and creativity, they’re pretty far removed from writing stories.
I had originally intended to try to execute the “Tiny Aliens” story idea I’ve been kicking around for the past year or so, but in the weeks leading up to November I got heavily inspired to work on Magical Burst , my dark magical girl RPG, which in turn has led me to start working on the tie-in novel I’ve been wanting to write to go with it, tentatively titled Magical Girl Radiant Yuna . I’m writing this blog post on Day 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve already broken 6,000 words. That’s partly because I’m writing both a foreword and an appendix of game stats for elements that appear in the book, and those things are generally a lot easier to do than story prose. On the other hand the pure prose part of the book is up to around 3,000 words. I don’t at all expect to be able to keep up this pace (if I did I’d hit 50,000 words in less than two weeks), but I’m glad to be off to a good start nonetheless.
A big part of what’s different this year versus the two times in the past when I did NaNoWriMo is that I’ve done more and better outlining for the story. There’s still a lot I’ll need to figure out and discover, but especially in this initial sprint I have a clearer idea of what I’m trying to do. For UFO Girl and Slime Story: The Legend of Doug I produced first draft novels in one month, but I still have a ton of revision to do on both of them. That’s partly because I’ve matured a bit as a writer since then, and partly because there are issues with plot structure and such that arose from the mad rush to finish by the end of November. (Seriously, some parts of the Slime Story novel are just embarrassing.) Sometimes I need to let stuff simmer until the right solution for how to handle something comes along, and I think that’s even more true of stories than games. In the days leading up to NaNoWriMo I did some fairly critical outlining work. I removed some of the more contrived elements of my earlier plans for the story (like there being a clone of one of the major characters), and I think strengthened the planned core plot immensely. I’m already doing some really weird stuff with the story anyway.
One of the interesting things about writing a story based on Magical Burst in particular is that the game has an awful lot of elements intended to help jog creativity. A lot of such tools exist, like Rory’s Story Cubes , Daniel Solis’ Writer’s Dice , and the Seventh Sanctum random generators site. I picked up the habit of using that kind of randomness in a big way from Maid: The Role-Playing game , which makes extensive use of random tables for character creation, random events, random items, and more. (If you’re not familiar with Maid RPG, here’s a fan-made character generator .) Magical Burst includes tables for most every element of magical girl creation, plus tables for creating monsters and mascots, for generating the mutations magical girls can sometimes suffer, and more. It both provides something I can fall back on, and gives me a decent checklist of things to be sure to cover, making the magical girl characters for the novel that much richer as a result. I didn’t go so far as to randomly generate an entire character (though there is a fan-made generator for that ), but the tables in the game have enough ideas that it’s never hard to figure stuff out.
The biggest lesson that I’m taking from this is that I can make time to be creative if I really try. I think it’s a lesson that needs to be reinforced from time to time, since apparently I forget just how much I can get done if I’m feeling obsessed enough. The turnaround time from the spark of an idea for Channel A to the “OAV Edition” I have up for sale on The Game Crafter was ludicrously short all considered. All of this makes me realized that NaNoWriMo and similar events like NaGaDeMon and Script Frenzy are just a really good idea. It’s easy to let life become a bland paste of random stuff happening, and it takes a certain amount of effort to turn a day into an occasion or a holiday. NaNoWriMo does that with novel writing, turns it into a celebration and lets you do it alongside countless other people.