NaNoWriMo 2012 Postmortem

Yesterday I missed work because of a migraine, but got a net gain on writing time as I spent the afternoon and evening well-rested and at the computer. Then this morning I had one of those bouts of insomnia that I get sometimes, and woke up at around 3:30 a.m. with little hope of getting back to sleep. [1] I pushed past 50,000 words and finished up my first draft of Magical Girl Radiant Yuna just before I left for work at 6:30 a.m. I don’t regret doing it, but I am very glad that it’s over. I feel an extra layer of exhaustion that goes beyond what the sleep deprivation can explain, and among other things I think if I do NaNoWriMo in the future I’ll do it with something more lighthearted.

What I have is most definitely a first draft. It has several parts that I really, really like, but also some glaring weaknesses that I’ll have to try to address once I get into the revision process. There are some plot elements that I need to just plain do more with, including some of the major characters. While I like the ending I came up with, the last quarter or so of the story seems very rushed, the kind of thing you get when the anime studio suddenly finds out they have to wrap things up in a couple episodes before the show gets canceled. I have a natural rhythm of stepping away from a project to digest things and come up with solutions for those kinds of weaknesses, and NaNoWriMo forces me to just write more regardless. It forces me to complete a narrative rather than neglecting a project indefinitely as I too often do, but it also seems to inherently mean there are going to be some flaws in the story that will take time to untangle. Of course, when I look at the stories that I really admire ( Wreck-It Ralph being one that was on my mind a lot lately), it’s obvious that they didn’t get that way on the first draft.

Although compared to previous NaNoWriMos I had a better idea of what I wanted to do with the overall story, there was still a tremendous amount to discover along the way. Some of the characters surprised me in odd ways, and new twists were emerging in the story right up until the very end. More than once I came up with something just to toss in to fill word count, and found I couldn’t imagine not having it in the story. There were also some things I thought were just plain neat, like an American magical girl in a wedding dress with a shotgun with intricate carvings of roses, or Ami Watanabe, the magical girl who now heads up the Japanese government’s underfunded supernatural intelligence agency. When I was gearing up to do this project a friend of mine asked me how it was going to be different from a Madoka Magica fanfic, and I didn’t have much of an answer because it was so obvious to me that apart from some superficial details, the differences massively dwarf the similarities, and that only became more true as I kept writing. To pick just one example, Pyonkichi, Yuna’s mascot/tsukaima, started off as a low-rent version of Kyuubey I came up with for the Magical Burst book, but he wound up having a character arc that I personally found much more interesting. Where Kyuubey knows exactly what he’s doing and simply reveals more of it over the course of the series, Pyonkichi, who takes a certain twisted pride in his magical girls, experiences profound conflict when he learns what’s actually going on. (I got a WordPress plugin that allows for spoiler tags BTW.)

Another thing that I realized is that at some point I would really like to put together an anthology of Magical Burst short stories. Evil Hat did such an anthology for their game Don’t Rest Your Head (which was an influence on Magical Burst coincidentally) called Don’t Read This Book . While I like where I’m going with Radiant Yuna, I deliberately made Magical Burst a game where the group playing it has a lot of power over the setting, and I want to make stories that explore not only other possible settings, but different tones besides the Serious Business one I struck for the novel. I especially want something zany that feels like a Studio 4°C short. But, that’s way in the future, probably well after I finally publish Magical Burst in the first place.

Focusing on one project for an entire month was an interesting exercise, but it really made me appreciate how I normally allow myself the freedom to jump from one project to the next at random like I usually do. I’ve got this big backlog of other projects that I want to mess with, and in fact a couple of times I couldn’t help but poke at some things. I do need to be better about making a habit of writing a bit every day, especially where writing prose is concerned, but forcing it to be on one project does violence to my normal creative process. Now than NaNoWriMo is behind me, I think my output of blogging and podcasting is going to go through the roof for a bit, because I have a massive number of things I want to work on on those fronts.

[1] Dehydration seems to be a big factor in this, and I’m planning to go buy a humidifier after work today.

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