NaNoWriMo Tips: Telling Your Story

Welcome to the fifth post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.

I’m going to talk about the concept of telling your own story by telling you a story about a story that isn’t my story.

Make sense? Good.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the coolest things I’ve seen done for NaNoWriMo is when bloggers do the project by publishing chapters of their story as blog posts. I did this with my 2011 project in its entirety, as well as putting selected chapters of my 2015 up for public consumption. My experience was largely filled with people who were supportive of my story, with the comments generally being questions as to what would happen next, mundane ‘good job’/’so exciting’ statements, or questions about where I was headed with the story.

I followed a handful of other bloggers in 2011 who also followed the blog post is a chapter way of writing their NaNoWriMo novel. One blogger in particular decided to write this sci-fi love story that I found to be incredibly intriguing1I’d love to link to it here, however the blog appears to have been taken down.. The first few chapters wherein she was doing world building received minimal interaction. However, near the end of the first week, her story began to pick up steam, both in terms of plot development and in terms of attention.

Overnight, I watched as the chapters went from receiving 3-4 comments per post to 75-100 comments per post. While the blogger typically tried to interact with everyone who commented on her blog, the sheer volume of comments must have made it difficult to continue to do so and still write her novel. More importantly, at least in the context of this story, the commentors routinely provided unsolicited feedback as to where the story should go next. Some of the comments were relatively benign, though there were a handful of people who — quite loudly — stated where they felt the story should go next. They were insistent that the lead character (let’s call him John, since I don’t remember the actual name) should end up together with his nerdy assistant, Lara2Again, fake name.. When the story’s middle produced a turn where John begins dating another woman instead of Lara, the anger in the comments went through the roof.

Never mind the fact that John’s love for this other character caused Lara’s villainous turn that would ultimately cause the book’s climax to happen. Never mind that the commentors weren’t the ones writing the story. They felt they had been wronged by the author of the story because their ship had sailed3Or didn’t sail? I’m unsure of the terminology here..

I talked with that blogger a few months after NaNoWriMo and the holidays died down. They shared with me that they had used their novel as a way to deal with a rough relationship situation they’d been through. That other woman introduced mid-story was the writer’s proxy character for herself, meant to show the hypocrisy that John and Lara’s characters had shown throughout the first half of the book. And while she felt she had delivered the message she was looking to get out well, the fact that so many people focused on the prospective relationship between John and Lara rather than the larger story being told frustrated her to no end.

If enough people read your novel, someone is going to hate something about it. Some of those people are probably going to hate everything about it. And if you’re serious about turning your NaNoWriMo project into a real, published novel, you’ll likely go through a long editing process that will help you to clean up some of the things that those angry people may have valid points about4We’ll talk about editing near the end of the month.

Until that point where you’ve gone all-in looking to publish your completely written novel, however, you should be writing your story. Not someone else’s. Not the story Twitter wants you to tell. Not the story the comment section wants you to tell5Never read internet comments.. Your story. This story has been living in your head for however long it has been there. Tell it. Even if you end up hating the story by the end, tell it. Don’t change your story just because someone wants your story to have a different couple together at the end.

Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

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