Thursday, 1 December 2016
Glorious Victory (2016 edition)
I am pleased to report that I have once again successfully completed the Nation Novel Writing Month, having written 50,000 words over the course of November. Hurrah for me!
I have to say though, that I have not been as satisfied with this year’s effort as last year’s. I was aware, even while I was writing that some of it was just filler to make up the word count while I tried to figure out exactly where to go next, and that it would be sliced out during the editing process. This isn’t necessarily discouraged by NaNoWriMo, who cheerfully accept all sorts of nefarious word-generating ploys, and insist on the total primacy of quantity over quality when it comes to the first draft, but as someone who (arrogantly perhaps) actually believes that I’m a fairly good writer, it irked me.
There was much about the story that didn’t quite sit right. The main character was supposed to be an authoritarian commander turned ruthless crime boss, but I struggled to make him quite as ruthless as perhaps he should have been simply because it would have also made him a rather unlikeable character. As it was, he extorted money without a qualm, and took over a brothel without raising a hair, his only stipulation being that none of his men be sold a certain addictive narcotic. Drunkenness, gambling, prostitution and extortion though were all accepted, and I found even this troubling. The character needed to become a successful crime boss, and this requires committing and profiting from crimes, and I didn’t want him to become a Robin Hood-esque ‘good’ criminal but a genuine mobster, whilst keeping him relatively sympathetic and relatable. The idea was that, later on he would take up the cause of the poor against the decadent rich, but only after having established himself as a genuine power within the criminal hinterland, not as a long-term altruistic goal to which crime was merely a means. I certainly didn’t get that far within the 50,000 words; he’s still establishing and expanding his criminal empire, although see above regarding edit-worthy filler.
There were several times during the month when I wished I’d gone with the other option of working on my Zenith series. Edmund Zenith at least has no intention of becoming a ruthless crime boss, but then he also hasn’t been betrayed by the country he serves (yet!), and he was certainly an easier character to pin down, in terms of personality. With General Lucas, I found it hard to remain consistent. He was supposed to be honourable but fairly ruthless, careful of his men and their wellbeing, but more for the sake of efficiency than benevolence, strict but not hidebound, and I found it hard to stick to this, or at least get it across in the writing.
Still, I succeeded in completing the word count, and I now have a (very) rough shape hewn out of the rock which I can build upon and refine later, although I suspect that for the near future I will return to Edmund Zenith and his rather more dashing world of airships and Imperial intrigue, and leave Guil Lucas in his muddy, violent slum for a while to brew and mature.