Back in 2008 I heard about this thing known as the National Novel Writing Month. That is often shortened to NaNoWriMo. The whole idea of doing is that you join a group of writers who have always wanted to write a novel and then, you just write. The point it to write a novel over 50,000 words in the 30 days that are in November. There are all kinds of online writer communities and they have these get-togethers and they have special nights where you are all supposed to get together and support each other and just write. The point of it is to just write and not worry about the result. You are not supposed to worry about sentence structure or creating perfection. This is just to write and enjoy the process of creating. As someone involved in the whole thing once said, you can have National Editing Month in December.
Just the month before, in October, I had been out walking my dog. I live on a pretty busy street and there were cars all over the road. The sun was out. There was nothing indicating snow anywhere. Still, while I stood there and my dog did her business on the lawn, I had a sudden image. I suddenly saw the road around me covered in snow. I mean, in my vision it was just buried in snow to the point that nothing could move anywhere. The cars parked on the side of the road were covered and everything was buried in feet of snow. Then, in the middle of the road, I saw three men, all wearing black, walking down the center of the road.
I had already begun a novel. But with NaNoWriMo, you are supposed to start from scratch. So, I thought, I would maybe write something around this vision I had had. I wanted it to be in a small town, rather than in the middle of Chicago. I knew that the men walking into town were going to be bad people, but I wondered if this would be a story with some supernatural bent, or would it be a more standard thriller.
I didn’t even know for sure when I sat down to write. As I wrote, it became clear to me that these men were normal men and not vampires or demons. They were convicts, I thought, and during the night their prison transport bus had gone off the road. OK, I thought, good premise to start with and then I knew that they were headed into this small town to get something and that they were not afraid to use guns to get it.
The words just flowed. I was writing 2,000 words a day. Every night, I sat on my couch and I wrote. I wrote and I wrote. I didn’t worry if one of the scenes I had written didn’t quite work. I just kept writing. When I got the the end, with 55,000 words in 20 days, I had a novel I as proud of. It was a thriller filled with bad guys with guns and the people in the town who were determined to survive. It was exciting, I felt, bloody as hell, and I thought I had even managed to create some compelling and well-rounded villains.
The weird thing was, not long after that, I fell into a depression. As I edited the book I started to feel sad. I had suffered from depression throughout my life and I knew the signs. I was sinking. When the thoughts of killing myself started to come, I knew I had to get help. I got that help and, then, I had a novel I was proud of.
So, I have a soft spot for After the Snowfall. I think it is some of my best work in fiction. I think it is the best realized of my fiction. I think the characters are compelling, the action relentless, and the ending satisfying. The bad guys are bad and the good guys are good and I think the story works well. The reaction to the story, from those who have bothered to get back to me, has been overwhelmingly positive.
All that, and I damn near killed myself over it. I have not participated in NaNoWriMo again. I don’t blame them. I blame my own screwed up brain. Still, it was a lot of work.