So, Wow. THAT Happened. (A Tale of NaNoWriMo in Three Acts)


2014: The year I mean to see my way to the conclusion of the Wilderhark Tales. The first new Wilderhark Tale I’ve written in years, the others close to completed when I decided to take the plunge and publish. For the first time, I’m working under the burden of expectation, and in the countdown leading up to the event’s start, the pressure was driving me nuts, to the point where I said to myself, “Y’know what? Screw this. The only way to be less nonsensically afraid of this thing is to just start writing it. And NaNo is not the boss of you. Now’s neither the time nor the place to be the punctilious rule-follower you’ve ever been. Put on your writer pants and seize the day!”

So on Wednesday, October 29th, I branded myself a NaNo Rebel by starting work on the book’s opening chapter.

My fifth NaNoWriMo, you are the one I reclaimed as my own.

– “NaNoWriMo, What Are You to Me?

Act One

There are some beasts you can face down simply by demonstrating you’re not afraid of them.

And then there’s Gant-o’-the-Lute.

Yes, the minstrel in blue introduced in Book Three and spotlighted in Book Four takes center stage once again in the Wilderhark Tales’ grand finale. And though there were some entertaining highlights along the way, neither of us went easy on the other for this one.

Those who follow along on my author page on Facebook had pretty good seats for the drama.

NaNo '14, the View from FB 1

As one could easily gather from my real-time updates, Book Seven’s been an emotional punch to the face. People who would otherwise assume that a Danielle E. Shipley fairytale series must by necessity have a happy-ever-after ending, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

But by Barry Manilow, I made it through the rain. Draft one of the novella = completed. Which left me without only about twenty thousand words to go…

Act Two

The following quotes have been lifted directly from a message thread between me and an anonymous friend.

Me: Seriously. I need to decide what I’m doing after this book runs out. I thought about whipping out some Wilderhark short stories, buuuuuut I’m kind of feeling Wilderharked out, right now, what with all the feels I’ve been going through in that world for the past dozen days. I want something easy. Something fast.

Will Scarlet: Sounds like a job foooooor…!

Me: Pfft. You always want me to write about you. … I don’t want to plan anything, ‘cause planning is work. But when I jump in without a plan, angels lose their wings.

Will Scarlet: It’s only 20K. You can dash off 20K like NOTHING if you just turn your brain off and type. Could be fun. Could be cathartic. How ‘bout a fanfic of your life? I could feature in that, hintity-hint.

Me: That idea is dumb. But it also sounds like a lot of stupid crazy fun.

Spoiler alert: It was all those things. For a happy-go-lucky quartet of days, I babble-typed to myself about what I expect would happen if Will Scarlet were to become an actual physical presence in my life. This is the first NaNo I ever let myself write something with zero expectation of ever charging anyone money for the finished product, which for me, slave to arguably useful pursuits that I am, is actually kind of a zany big deal. And who knows? I might be persuaded to share pieces of the story on this blog, sometime. I mean, if there’s an interest.


Besides yours, Will.

Act Three

And then, out of the blue—


Pardon – out of the scarlet… this happened.

Me: Every time I happen across the info for [this] one publisher’s upcoming short story competition, I think, “Man, I wish I knew the first thing about writing steampunk.” … I do have one idea that I might be able to make work… I’m just chicken to try. ‘Cause visualizing the fancy trappings is hard for me. Plus I’m still psychologically wrung-out from my last book.

“Tell you what, D,” Will says – which always makes me hopeful/nervous, ‘cause he’s about to make me do a thing… “Pause on your Will Scarlet fanfic, and we’ll work on drafting a steampunk submission.”

You’ve all met Will Scarlet, right? So I don’t even have to tell you how big— nay, HUGE of him it was to do that. At that point, I basically had no choice.

NaNo '14, the View from FB 2

And, in an instance of exquisite symmetry, this short story idea begun on November 15, twenty-fourteen was a new manifestation of my old nemesis of a project begun on November 15, twenty-twelve – a tale that, I quickly discovered in this latest attempt to finally see it through to the end, has the same mulish soul it ever did.

NaNo '14, the View from FB 3

Little did this story know, I had a few new tricks up my sleeve.

1 = I’d lowered my goal from a novel to a short story, cutting out all the parts I’d never fully figured out anyway in favor of focusing in on that one piece of the story that I haven’t been able to give up on for the last two years.

2 = The imminence and narrowness of the story competition’s submission window served as concrete motivation to wrestle this thing onto the page once and for all.

3 = Oh, silly project, have you not heard? This NaNo is mine. KNEEL BEFORE YOUR MASTERMAID.

“Pretty sure megalomania isn’t a new trick for you, Danielle.”

But it got the job done, Will, and that is what counts.


As of November 16, I have ripped out my heart for Wilderhark, had a field day with my imaginary BFF, throttled my two-pronged fear of steampunk and a punk of a story, and, incidentally, written over 50,000 words.

NaNo-wise, it’s been a year for the books. ;D

Muse Mug 02.2
I’ll drink to that. …in my new NaNoWriMo mug that’s so perfectly me, it’s not even funny.


7 thoughts on “So, Wow. THAT Happened. (A Tale of NaNoWriMo in Three Acts)

  1. Goodness sake, and I thought I was having a rough November! Congrats on your steampunk story, and I will add my “HECK YES!” to Will’s. 😉

    • “See?” Will elbows me. “The people know what awesomeness is! Thank you, Miranda! But say, what’s going on with your November? Trouble in the NaNo trenches, or what? I’ve got a listening ear I can lend out, if you need it.”

      • Haha, actually, writing is going great! Just a rough school semester. And you do plenty to cheer me up here, so many thanks for that! 🙂

  2. I want to see the fanfic. I can be awfully persuasive if I want to be. 😉 I raise my glass of ginger ale in toast to your NaNo, seized and throttled! Onward to the great beyond, and to the next ham sandwich, as my brother is fond of saying!

    • “A fine saying,” Will Scarlet approves, tipping his glass against yours. “Here’s looking at you, Danielle! And at the fanfic that will unarguably be gracing this blog.”

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