“Won” NaNoWriMo again

There was a time when I wrote novels on the web, too! (And now I do it again.)

On the 14th of NaNoWriMo, the month formerly known as November, I had written 50 000 words on one and the same novel, which is the “winning” requirement for the National Novel Writing Month. So that didn’t take too long, especially since I started over on the second day.

It was pretty fast writing because it was fun to me. That does not mean it is fun to other people. I like superhero-themed massive online games, especially City of Heroes (2004-2012) but I have also repeatedly played Champions Online (although not weekly or monthly, but several times a year) and even tried my hand at DC Universe Online (not so much a fan of that). I occasionally donate a modest amount of money to Valiance Online (which is still in development, and very slow development at that, but can already be tested online) and especially to Ship of Heroes, another “spiritual successor” to City of Heroes which aims to especially preserve the optimistic, heroic atmosphere of the original game. I will surely play City of Titans as well, the first and biggest of the “successors” – if I am still alive and lucid when it becomes available. The official release date is still “fall 2018”, which is a couple weeks ago now. I believe their first release date was in 2015…

So I’ve written a number of attempted stories before that tended strongly toward City of Heroes fan fiction, despite changes in names and the addition of an extra power set. There is certainly some CoH fanfic tendency even in this fall’s story, but it is toned down further and the whole power system is replaced with one based on colors rather than origins. This is something I have used in my fantasy writing for some years, an earlier version of it was very similar to the system in Master of Magic and Magic: The Gathering, but again this has evolved with each story to become more and more unique. Writing a lot is important for this process, I believe, based on my own experience. There was a wave here in Norway of teachers writing their debut novel about a frustrated teacher. You have to write that stuff out of your system. There should be some of you left in your novel, but it should not be autobiographical unless you make that the point. And in the same way, I write the fan fiction out of my stories until it reaches a balance. It took four or five stories to get to this stage.

At this point, I enjoy developing my own imaginary superhero game with a unique power system, and turning it into a world with somewhat lifelike heroes (and somewhat less lifelike villains, so far). But at 50 000 words, we haven’t actually gotten very far at all. Many of those words are describing fights where a small group of newbie heroes goes into a cave or a warehouse to fight criminals, most of which don’t even have superpowers. Of course, we are not talking Superman-level heroes here either, getting shot with a handgun or hit with a baseball bat still hurts, even if it takes a number of such hits to send them to the hospital.

At the end of the 50 000 words, our main character is still level 2 out of at least 60 – and each level takes more to achieve. If I were to continue in this much detail, it would literally take millions of words for him to reach the highest level or anywhere close to it. Not that this is his goal, really. But just to put things in perspective. The main plot is barely touched upon. Interpersonal relationship are few and generally businesslike. Romance is limited to sporadic one-way flirting. We don’t know the general layout of the city where the story takes place, nor the specific layout of any of the locations mentioned. We know at most the uniform colors, sometimes race and general body type of the most important characters.

So what are those 50 000 words? Mostly fight scenes, characters talking about fights, and the narrator (who is also the main character) explaining the superpowers in enough detail to make sense of the fights. Hey, it works for actual superhero comic books. (And Goblin Slayer, but let’s not go there today.)

So anyway, you can read it here, as far as it has come, but I don’t particularly recommend it unless you can’t get enough reading about newbie superheros fighting criminals. Trigger warnings for violence (obviously), poorly hidden sexual innuendo occasionally, and an apostate main character. (Not autobiographic.) It is also a lot less funny than the stories I wrote when I was younger and more carefree.

NaNoWriMo doubts

Made from screenshot in City of Heroes

Example of possible book cover for superhero novel.

In past years, I used to be really excited about NaNoWriMo, the (inter)National Novel Writing Month. I would lay plans starting already in August, and on the last day of October – which some of us refer to as NaNoWriMo Eve or NaNoWe’en – I would restlessly visit the forums while waiting for the midnight hour to strike. Oh, and I took my vacation days in November instead of in summer. Not anymore.

This year I kind of intended to participate, but after midnight I still did not have any good idea about what to write about. No, it is not like I don’t have ideas. I have more ideas than I can count. Ideas are like cats: If you take in two of them, soon your house is full of them. They are on your kitchen counter, they are on your couch, they are under your cupboard, they try to follow you into the bathroom. Actually, ideas usually succeed at this better than cats, but you get the point. There are always ideas, but none of them stood out as This Year’s Idea for NaNoWriMo.

Around an hour after midnight, I picked one fairly pretentious one, a metaphysical fantasy about an unemployed warehouse workers which gets picked by the Universe to send to the Universe’s niece which was in a difficult age, with excessive magic production and wars and disasters. Insert deep teachings about the Great Chain of Being and the Descent of the Light into Creation. I wrote a bit less than 2000 words on it before I decided that this was way too serious a topic for speed writing. Also, not much fun. So the next day I started over with a fluffier story.

Currently I’m writing about a gamer who tried to be a hero in Real Life and was stabbed and died. Or perhaps he didn’t exactly die. It is hard to know. What we know is that he wakes up inside his favorite superhero MMORPG, which was closed down the year before. Maybe this is his afterlife – he and the game are both dead – or perhaps he is in a coma and imagining all this. Or perhaps it is the future and his frozen brain has been scanned and uploaded to a supercomputer. Or perhaps he has been in a coma for many years and his actual brain has only now been connected to a supercomputer. Who knows? How are you supposed to find out from inside the game? If reality outside of reality was easy to find out, we wouldn’t have dozens of competing religions in the so-called real world, would we?

But mostly it’s just the kind of fluffy feel-good superhero story with the occasional challenge thrown in, that I myself would like to read. It is almost certainly not going to sneakily save anyone’s soul while they let their guard down.

So in the end, I am once again writing the kind of story I like to read. In fact, I am writing it because that is the only way I get to read it – the muses in my head won’t dictate a whole book to me if I can’t be bothered to write it down. That’s just how this thing works for me. So I guess I am, as you say in English, just pleasuring myself – in this case my mind rather than my flesh. But in either case, it is probably not something the rest of the world is particularly interested in. I may put it up with the old stories that are linked from my front page, in which case I will likely only post the first chapters as usual. We’ll see, nobody knows whether we will be here tomorrow. But if I am, chances are that I am writing. I do that pretty much every day, after all.