So it’s that time of year again. I speak partially of National Novel Writing Month, but not really. The part of NaNoWriMo I love is actually October, the month before the legion scribblers begin to scribble, when they reset and reopen the forums. Friends, there is no greater, or more interesting, window into the aspiring writer’s soul.
First off, full disclosure: I’ve never actually participated in NaNo, mostly because whenever it comes around I am either already working on a novel or just finishing one (I tend to be a summer writer, more sunshine makes it easier to get up early). I also don’t like the “get the words at all costs” nature of the contest, which I feel moves the focus from story to numbers. Buuuuuut, I get the point of the exercise and I think that, if NaNo is what it takes to get someone to finally start their book, then more power to it!
However, writing part of NaNo itself is immaterial at this stage. The reading I’m lurking the forums looking for has very little to do with actual books and everything to do with how people describe their books, which is often way more interesting than the books actually turn out. Whenever October rolls around, I head for the NaNo fantasy forum (which, for some reason, is always 10 or 20 times larger than any other genre forum. I have no idea why this is. If anyone has a theory, I’d love to hear it) and see what’s big this year.
So far it seems to be Steampunk, but there’s the usual smattering of epic fantasy, demon lovers, and vampires (though everyone seems to think (or at least type) that vamps are currently declasse). Steampunk is definitely the winner, though, and threads run wild with fake Victorian English accents and barely plausible alternate histories which are none-the-less fascinating in their sheer profusion. There are also the standard dozen parodies of “high fantasy,” which, after reading the descriptions, sound more like parodies of Japanese RPGs than a jab at Tolkien. This is fine, I’m actually really looking forward to novels of the videogame/anime generation (of which I would technically be part if my mother hadn’t denied me my basic human right to a Nintendo), but I do find it funny that most people seem to think High Fantasy consists of a balanced party of 5, complete with tank and healer, going into a cave to fight monsters. Is this Fantasy or Warcraft?
Best of all, however, are the “describe your story in 1 sentence” threads that popup like weeds every year. I LOVE these threads, because people are forced to cut straight to the heart of what makes their story unique and interesting without all the bother of execution. Sure, you get plenty of “Hero A meets Heroine B and fights Bad Guy C to Save The World (D)”, but you also get totally awesome gems, like the ones listed below:
(Apologies, all of these excerpts are taken from memory, if I could give credit I would, because these deserve it!)
- He broke the world, can he fix it? (That’s all there was top the post, and I was instantly intrigued. CAN HE?!?)
- Mary, the only survivor of a fearsome bandit attack, is raised by unicorns. (There was more to this one (maybe faeries?) but I can’t remember it because the idea of a young girl being raised by unicorns blew my mind. Only virgins can see Unicorns, right? Well, what if this girl, completely untrained in sex education (unicorns are probably the least appropriate animal for proper sex ed), had a teenage roll in the hay with some woodcutter. When she came home, she wouldn’t have been able to see her family anymore!! Think of the possibilities: Sheltered magical girl, alone, possibly pregnant, has to make her way in the harsh world.) (I think I just laid out the opening for an awesome fantasy YA. )
- Little House on the Prairie in Space (Pleeeease someone write this. I will read it.)
- Space Nuns who run around as a mercenary fleet killing people with their holy chants sung through cannons that turn soundwaves into deadly weapons to save the universe from sin. (Hell yeah, singing space marines in habits on a holy crusade!)
And those are just the ones I remember. There’s just something about the NaNo forums that brings people out of the woodwork. I think it’s because NaNo (especially NaNo in October, before any actual NaNoing has begun) is all about the most beautiful part of writing, the initial flash of inspiration where anything is possible, the pure vision before mundane things like plot or actual words get in the way. (You’ll notice that no one ever talks about December, which is National Novel Editing Month… yeah, not nearly so fun.)
If you like spectacle and have a few minutes (and a strong stomach for forum sludging), the NaNo forums are definitely worth a gander. Check it out if you’re interested, and please share if you find something awesome!