The Year My Characters Revolted During #NaNoWriMo

“Yes, I’m doing NaNoWriMo.”

If you know any author personally, you’ve probably heard (or read) those words. National Novel Writing Month takes place every year, when hundreds of thousands of writers vow to write every day for a month, producing 50,000 words each by month’s end. Why? Because they can. Because writing can be a lonely endeavor and for one month suddenly we all have a community that is dominating social media and cheering us on to write more, write faster, just write, write, write!

So, yes, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. Again. NaNo is intense. It’s exhausting. It’s like the Olympics for the literary world because relatively few people (who are not writing full time already) have the stamina to sustain the pace of writing for several hours every day for thirty days (especially when you consider that we’ve got Thanksgiving this month, and by the time the turkey’s tryptophan hits us, we’ve already devoured the leftover Halloween candy stash that was supposed to get us through the month. Hell, we polished that off the first week!).

Let me let you in on a little secret: Writing is not easy. It’s not just sitting down at the keyboard or kitchen table and pounding out a bunch of words. Writing can require hours and hours of advanced prep work (something my teachers all referred to in a derogatory tone as daydreaming) not to mention the time spent agonizing over the right word, the right tone, the right tempo of a sentence within a story. And then there are the characters—the greatest divas in all existence. You can have the entire character profile done, the plot of three novels in a series mapped out, and the first ten chapters of book one done and your characters will still wake you up at 3 am to let you know that they will no longer be following your script taking them through a treacherous but exciting adventure on the Andalusian Islands, but instead will be babysitting miniature unicorns while listening to Bieber audition tapes on YouTube, so deal with it and fix the plot…now!

Ahem. Okay, so I might still be dealing with my own characters’ revolution three days before the start of NaNo this year. Sorry, I will do better to keep my frustrations in check.

This year I decided not to work on just one novel. Instead, I prepped ideas for three different novels, worked out the plot lines and characters’ backstories, and identified intriguing connections and themes I would like to explore. The idea is not to get 50k words on all three novels done, but rather to work on whichever novel calls to me each day. And the novels are wildly disparate. Well, they do all have sisters in them, but that’s where any similarities end. One of the three is going to be particularly hard to write because the way I envision it is actually three novels in one. The core detail tying them all together is a particularly abominable crime carried out against two elementary school-age sisters.  I’m absolutely terrified of writing this novel—not because of the subject matter, but because it is so far outside my wheelhouse that it would take a spaceship to find it. But the characters and their stories won’t stop tormenting me, so by God I’m gonna try just so I can make the voices in my head go away.

Luckily Charli Mills over at the Carrot Ranch worked her magic yet again and set up the perfect little challenge to get me started down the path of one of the characters’ stories. This week’s challenge is to write a 99-word story that includes a tool. So here we go:


Earl rolled his rusted-out Ford to a stop in the overgrown lot. He was not a successful man. He was not a doting father, a hardworking employee, or an affable neighbor. He poured vodka in his beer cans and spent his janitor’s paycheck on Pall Malls, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese—the orange glue being the only food his youngest would eat. She’d been buying more when it happened.

Don’t think about what he did to her.

Earl slid the pliers from the glovebox, gripping them until his knuckles turned white. All because of that damned orange glue.


  • It is totally impossible for the imagination not to go where you do not want it to go. And I really do not want to think about what pliers could do a little girl. I think you have written the equivalent of an ‘eyeworm’, I cannot unsee the images in my mind.

    KirizarNovember 3, 2015
    • That is actually one of the things I struggle with in writing. My brain goes a lot of places it shouldn’t, and 9 times out of 10, I want to write about those things, but I always have that nagging worry that maybe I have crossed a line. But then I remind myself that, if I can think of it, someone has done much, much worse already (which is not at all a happy thought). But just to clarify in this tiny piece (b/c I was so deep in the story I didn’t even think it might be interpreted any other way…dangers of not editing), Earl actually plans to use the pliers on the bad men. Thanks for stopping by!

      C. JaiNovember 3, 2015
  • Three cheers for NaNoWriMo and tackling three novels! I feel we are connecting over the number three — I have three character POVs over a span of years and begins with one dying at the old age of 98. Delicious complexity, and I only have two bags of Green Apple Sugar Babies left. Good for you to write something that scares you. But you might need to leave a nightlight on! Chilling flash!

    Charli MillsNovember 4, 2015
    • Teehee. I got a whole bunch of goodies that were supposed to last me through the month, then ate everything while doing my crazy editing month in October (ended up editing 2k pages, which almost double my monthly average). But I do still have plenty of the most important essentials: caffeine and dog/cat food. I do seem to be cycling through the novels. I didn’t set up any plan, it’s just these are the three on my “to do” list so I prepped them all to see which would grab me. I’ve already worked on all three of them during NaNo (once the words finally got flowing).

      C. JaiNovember 4, 2015
  • March 6, 2016

    […] Unraveled by C. Jai Ferry […]

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