For what it’s worth, and to close off the first real series of articles on this blog on the first day of December… I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line on Sunday evening with nearly a thousand words more than the goal.

NaNoWriMo 2020 is in the bag. Complete. And I sit at my desk as we roll into the final month of this insane year having written what I can humbly, but proudly claim, is probably one of the best first drafts of anything I’ve ever cranked out through a keyboard.

I guess that means I won, right?

The planning and plotting in October was a significant reason I am where I am.

Having sketched out a step-by-step outline of the plot, rather than simply forging ahead with a vague idea and hoping it worked out, as well as setting up a very defined cast of main characters, focusing on key locations, and wrapping it around a big broad theme, all made it so that when I sat down to write each day (usually leading late into the evening hours) my map was draw. I found I was simply filling in the blanks.

The success is definitely making me consider how I can build on the process for a next project, maybe even well before next November.

I assume if you are reading this, and have made it this far, it is because reading about the writing efforts of others is of some interest to you.

And after spending the last month with this book, being specifically coy about how much I shared here, it is only fair that I elaborate on the actual plot that I propped into existence.

Having lived through the better part of year in a pandemic lockdown I was feeling two things.

First, I was stressed that I hadn’t been part of that cadre of people who had “taken advantage of the bad circumstances and accomplished something.” In the cloud of bad news and being wrapped in a daily dose of the inner workings of a government pandemic response, my days had leaned heavily on the negative side of the pandemic … which is arguably the larger, more relevant side of it. Yet, personal mental health and trying to find a beacon of light in the dark left me searching for something personally fulfilling I could do to find that balance. Writing was on a very short list of ideas, but for seven months I had actually become less productive than more.

Second, I was working from home, and becoming more entrenched in the lifestyle the longer it went on. I used to spend my days going up and down elevators to different floors of multiple office high rises for meetings. Then I would spend my lunches trying out the numerous amazing hole-in-the wall restaurants and food stalls. In August I went downtown to get some files and the place was a ghost town, and I went to one of my favourite food vendors and was struck by how they were just barely getting by. I ordered a large portion, gave them a generous tip, and apologized that I wouldn’t be around much anymore.

This inspired me to write something, and that something turned out to be something I was living with, thinking about, and wondering how it would all turn out. My scenario, fanciful and fictional, grew from that.

What happened to all those empty towers? In my novel, fifteen years has passed and countless floors of vacated office space has been turned over to a local agency which has turned it into what is essentially a collective of makeshift tenement shelter housing.

What happened to the kids that wound up there with there pandemic-ruined parents? They grew up and got stuck in a system that drained them of hope, bullied and oppressed them, and fed them terrible food.

What happened to all the small food vendors and other businesses? Most of them vanished, but a hardy few hung on and built a rogue, travelling food court that was hidden away in the dark corners avoiding detection while they plotted ways to bring better food to the thousand of people living in the forgotten towers.

My main character is one of those kids, on the the verge of adulthood as he comes of age in pursuit of a better life for himself and his small family, chasing down the mythical roving food court, and … well… no spoilers.

My draft was called Dutch and the Midnight Grill and it turned out far better than I would have hoped when I started playing around with the idea. It has character growth, it has love and tragedy, it has recurring themes and connected bits, and if Chekhov had wandered by with his gun I would have found a way to shoot it.

December is time to let it rest and settle in my mind, but in January I will be thinking about how to edit this into something I can potentially publish.

And that’s why I’m calling myself a NaNoWriMo winner this year.

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