We novelists love our wise sayings and rising speeches. “Come on and do the NaNoWriMo!” we cry to our fellow writers. “It is a journey! It will be an adventure!”
And I can promise you all the glory of such words, too. The daring and excitement, the soaring mountains and mysterious caves, they are all there. Yep. Adventure and glory.
You might meet a white knight and be swept off your feet. A black knight might just cut you off at the knees. On the other hand, there could be a gray-ish knight who has nothing whatsoever to do with your lower extremities and everything with needing a gentle push in the right direction.
Unexpected parties will invariably show up at the doorstep of your plot. Characters you never planned on will surprise you in the most imaginative ways. It will delight and shock you.
Whether you are writing fantasy, scifi, romance, thriller, mystery, alternative, or even non-fiction, there is one part of this adventure which is rarely discussed in the forums, written about from the trenches, or spoken of with the teary-eyed honesty of the immediate experience.
That’s because it is the part of the adventure that’s just a little too close to the heart, too personal.
Simply put: the adventure changes us. Writing a novel is bound to change you, of course. Over several months or years, the changes might be chalked up to the course of time or other life-events. NaNo, on the other hand, is an earthquake. The shifts leave piles of rubble and gaping holes all around.
It happened to me yesterday. I knew I was coming up on a part of the story which would entirely alter how my protagonist views himself and the world. My feet began itching for a walk, I couldn’t focus, and there was an inexplicable heaviness to my heart.
That’s when I realized something. My story had changed me, and it was done in one simple realization: I could never return to the way things were. A lot of things have changed in the last 14 months, and I didn’t really think I had failed to move on until yesterday. That’s when the words of Tolkien returned to me. “How do you move on? You move on when your heart finally understands that there is no turning back.”
I think he knew a thing or two about this. Adventures do have all the fun stuff – occasionally a bit of heartbreak, too. The hard things to talk about are the realizations that we aren’t who we thought we were.
Bilbo: Can you promise that I will come back?
Gandalf: No. And if you do, you’ll not be the same.