Honestly, there’s no chance of me getting through this post without, like, screaming I’M A WINNERRRRRRRRRR in my best Squidward voice so we might as well get it out of the way now:
What I wrote:
This year, I wrote what I was going to write last year. Like, I had it all vaguely planned and everything, and then on Halloween last year I just went NO I WANT TO WRITE HISTORICAL and so launched into a month of a queer historical romance without a) any research or b) any real plan. Then I spent the rest of the year going CHIP AND BRENDAN*, I WILL NOT FORSAKE YOU and lo! This November I returned to write a Christmas contemporary sapfest.
This was the synopsis I wrote for it last year, which more or less still applies:
A year and a half out of drama school, the only job Brendon can get is being an elf in a department store. As luck or someone’s truly unfortunate sense of Christmas spirit would have it, the guy working in the only good coffee shop nearby is Chip, the most successful graduate from Brendon’s year. He also happens to be very good-looking, very talented and very… straight. Between the new elf costume and the old crush, Brendon is not really feeling the season. Yet.
And THIS is the graphic I made last year (are you getting that it was a really really last minute decision to switch projects last year? Because it was.) back when this was going to be called tis the season and not A Christmas Blend, because I hadn’t thought about the potential for coffee-based romantic wordplay. WHAT WAS I EVEN DOING. CLEARLY COFFEE ROMANCE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ROMANCE.
* Potentially not everyone has spent the last month having me yell HERE IS MORE BIP at them but I have been referring to Chip and Brendan and also this story as a whole as Bip because, let’s face it, it’s so ridiculous that it’s basically obligatory.
What I learned:
- Shockingly, writing with a vaguer idea of a plan is WAY LESS TERRIFYING than having four days of NaNo left and literally no idea where the words are coming from
- My first drafts are more like… very involved plans. About halfway through I realise what the story I’m actually writing is, and that is… let’s say not always the story I have written up till then. Like, I drop characters halfway through this thing. I drop plot points. I introduce plot points. Did I go back and edit? NO. Because that way lies madness and not finishing anything. JUST KEEP SWIMMING, I said, a lot. SWIM TOWARDS THE END.
- Last year, I spent a lot of time worrying that the first draft wasn’t, you know, good. This year, I obviously ALSO spent a lot of time doing that but then also spent more time going JUST WRITE WORDS. LEAVE THEM. LEAVE THEM BEHIND as I sprinted for the finish line.
- Aiming to finish a complete story in 50k worked so much better for me than trying to write 50k of a story that then needed finishing. I finished up the first draft of last year’s NaNo in September this year. That is how long I dragged that out. This NaNo, I finished a whole story by the end of November and it feels soooooo goooooooooood.
- WRITING SPRINTS. I literally do not know how I would have got to the end of NaNo without writing sprints. I set a timer for 25 minutes, clap a pair of noise-cancelling headphones on, and WRITE LIKE THE BLAZES until the timer screams YOU’RE AWESOME at me and I can take, like, an extended break to catch up on very important Tsum Tsum playing. By the end of the month, I was averaging 900 – 1000 words in 25 minutes, which, for me, was essentially like becoming a phoenix – awesome and previously unbelievable.*
*Unfortunately I did not actually become a phoenix, but then, if I were a phoenix, would I have to learn to type with my beak? That seems much slower.
Because I wrote 51k of Christmas nonsense and the FINAL TEST OF BRAVERY QUEST can be to put some of it on the internet. ENJOY, MY DECEMBER LOVELIES.
“Guess who I saw today?” Brendan shouted, shucking his coat and bag. “Go on, guess.”
Tasnim and her girlfriend, Maisie, exchanged glances as he threw himself into the spare chair.
“Do you think?” Tasnim said. “Really?”
Maisie shrugged. “I mean, we’ve not heard that tone for a couple of years. We could be getting rusty.”
“Nah,” said Tasnim. “It’s pretty distinctive.”
“What are you talking about? Would you just guess already?”
“We don’t need to,” said Tasnim. “It’s Chip.”
Chip Glasston had been in their year at drama school if not their friendship group. He had been in the friendship group. There had been one of those groups in every year of school Brendan could remember, right from reception when Katy Donahue had come into class with a new kind of pencil case and suddenly all the girls were in uproar. That had been the pencil case for four year olds that term. Likewise, Chip’s friendship group had been the circle of friends to have.
Chip was their age, a little taller than Brendan and decidedly blonder. He had the sort of face to make a casting director weep: cheekbones, firm chin, eyes that went from kind to steely on a moment’s notice. He was the top of their class, and the top of their year, and when they graduated, Chip had gone straight into a West End role. Not a swing part, not an understudy track. A cast member.
He had been just that bit better at everything there had been to be better at. His range was a little wider, his monologues a little more convincing, his memory just a little quicker for the tricky kind of dance step that Brendan would trip over for another couple of days before catching. He and Brendan had never really spoken, never really hung out, but he’d been there, always there at the periphery, being good. Being better than Brendan.
“What do you mean, you don’t need to?” Brendan pulled the cushion off his face. “What does that mean?”
“It means, babe,” Tasnim said, “that you get a Chip voice. A special voice for Chip.”
“No, I don’t!” Brendan protested. “Do I?”
“Afraid so,” Maisie said. “You’ve had it since first year.”
“We didn’t know you in first year!”
Maisie shrugged. “Yeah,” she said, “but I’ve heard.”
Brendan could imagine. She and Tasnim were all but joined at the hip. They’d met on… Whatever the lesbian version of Grindr was, Brendan didn’t know, and had spent their first date talking so much about some obscure visual novel they both played that they’d just… not got around to the sex. Two years later, Brendan was living with them in a shared flat at the southern end of the Northern line and they remained sickeningly happy. They were toothbrush-sharing settled. They had the sort of easy intimacy that made Brendan ache to see, sometimes, when they’d pass each other in the kitchen and Maisie would move to let Tasnim pass without even having to turn to know she was there; when they were watching tv crammed onto the couch together, bodies all intertwined like there was nothing to it, like their space was each other’s space, easy as breathing.
Brendan put the pillow back over his face. “I don’t have a Chip voice,” he said, into the fabric. “I don’t. I don’t even like him.”
“We know,” Tasnim said. “You’ve told us.”
And now: DECEMBER! THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR. We have a Star Wars advent calendar so, you know, we are doing December right.
MM Florin writes things, sticks stickers on things, and drinks coffee from a variety of colourful mugs.