Speaking to you live from the cave of your favorite Nomadic Troglodyte, I have … *drumroll* a NaNoWriMo Update.

So here’s the thing about NaNoWriMo: it doesn’t really inspire good writing. However, it inspires lots of writing, which is the first step in achieving good writing, so it’s practically half-way there.

For those of you paying attention, you may have noticed that I’ve written a lot in the last two months (not as much on this blog, but that’s beside the point). I got to ‘the end’ on The Queen’s Assassin in October, adding to the total word count of that novel by nearly 50% in a mere twenty days. The beginning of The Queen’s Assassin was what I blitzed through NaNo2015. Then there is my NaNoWriMo 2016 project. Earlier, lacking a proper title, I referred to him as ‘Bill’. I’m still not sure about the title I put at the top of my manuscript as it contains a spoiler fundamental to the plot, so I think I’ll keep calling him Bill for now.

Bill and I are on track as of last night. Over 16,666 words, and generally in about the right place in the outline. I’m a plantser-leaning-outliner: I write an outline as guardrails on the highway, but anything can happen on the road. I’ve been trading chunks of NaNo with my brain-twin (who’s opinion is gospel, btw), and she informed me that Bill is her favorite thing I’ve ever written. My brain immediately translated that as ‘the best thing’ I’ve ever written.

The what now?

I’ve written a few novels at this point, kids, a couple of short things, a passel of essays, a chunk or two of fanfiction, and a smattering of poetry… and this one – the one I was writing as a palette-cleanser between The Queen’s Assassin and The King’s Philosopher – is the… best? Well, color me white and call me a mushroom. How unexpected.

Sure, it’s funny. Sure, the main character is engaging and relatable and a big cinnamon roll. Sure, the side characters sparkle with idiosyncrasies and small-town charm. Sure, the dynamic between my two main knuckleheads is cool. Sure, I know how to write a sibling dynamic like nobody’s business. Sure, the world keeps falling into a more elegant and cozy aesthetic and the magic begins bleeding through the lines of the story. But… Bill is best thing I’ve ever written? Well, when I put it that way, it starts to make a little more sense.

And that’s what I’m here to talk to you about today. Bill is, in many ways, the sum-total of my writing experience thus far. I have a rock-solid structure for the story, and even though details are changing, the thing is still standing strong. I’m not being too fancy with my prose or overusing my metaphors, but I get to have moments this one…

“But now I’ve upset you.”

Godric shrugged. “What color does that look like?”

“More blue than anger, more green than sadness.”

My characters all behave like very different people, talk like different people, and throw wrenches into the plot even I don’t expect.

Participating in NaNoWriMo is fun, painful, and exciting. Does it produce good stuff? Not often. But when you write enough, when you’ve crafted and experimented and failed a few times, sooner or later, you find yourself with a project like Bill: someone else’s favorite.

I couldn’t have written Bill without having first learned my metaphors and imagery in the body of A Skylark Wounded. I couldn’t have written so fast, or such good tension without The Queen’s Assassin. I couldn’t have written the male-female dynamic without Avalon. I couldn’t have written siblings if I hadn’t first failed them in Vaniria: Book 1. I couldn’t have written a squad if I hadn’t first crafted one in The Butler, The Governess, and The London Underworld.  And I couldn’t make my characters as engaging, hilarious, and relatable if I hadn’t ever tried my hand at fanfiction. The list goes on, but I’ll leave you with this.

My lifetime NaNo word count is 136,125 words. My real-life word count is far higher – more than triple when you consider that The Queen’s Assassin clocked in at over 157,000.

And each and every one of them was necessary to getting to Bill.

Keep writing, people. Good things will come.

Skeleton praying, detail from the marble floor, Cornaro Chapel,Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. Italy, 17th century.