Yes, I did it. I won this time too, even if the short stories volume has still a lot to get in order to be labelled as completed.
It happens mostly in Marseilles, around 2012, in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood with Arabic flavour, but there are stories which happen elsewhere too, in past times, and are told by one of the characters which happen to be then in Marseilles. Some of the stories previously written were already posted on this blog (and in some literary magazines).
The Executive Director of NaNoWriMo said, in his congratulations message, and I agree with this view:
It’s an achievement worth a drum roll and a few blaring trumpets, but when I proudly told a friend that I won, he said, “Haven’t you done that before?”
I said no. Every win is one-of-a-kind because every novel is one-of-a-kind. Every win is a statement against the malevolent forces of the blasé and the complacent. Every win is proof that you’re a glorious dreamer, a dreamer full of can-do gusto and ink-slinging magic.
This year was a strange adventure, I already had troubles focusing and I admit that I needed to adjust (downsize) my goal for this Camp (it was allowed). But I wrote every day, even if some days only one paragraph. I had also problems with one of the short stories, which had received a too harsh critique (“That’s bullshit! Cheap movies! Why do you feel called to tell exactly this story which isn’t yours to tell, instead of telling something closer to your surroundings?”). After this I couldn’t write to finish it (and therefore to continue the short story anthology, because, like for the Mercenary volume, the stories are connected between them) for 8 months.
I have researched more in the meanwhile, and I am convinced she isn’t right. And this Camp NaNo made me progress with it and write some other stories in that series. It will get finished, ultimately!
Movies tell stories which might happen, or might have happened once. Why that exception wouldn’t be my case too? And I feel called to research and tell the story which gets alive in my brain, wanting out – this one had been alive for 30 years (and it got written in a certain form then, but it needed rewritten and transformed from a mediocre novella into a cherry-picked short stories collection). I write only the stories which inspire me, and I research thoroughly for each of them.
I got confirmed that certain death-facing situations can change a person’s way of thinking, certain beliefs he used to have proving wrong (at least in his mind), like an atheist or non-believer turning to God or even becoming fanatic, because only God had saved him from death, or a young soldier seeing the real horrors of war for the first time and becoming a pacifist.
It is also true that nobody can tell everything about how a brain function, and PTSD is different from a person to another in its symptoms or triggers. As we saw in a movie inspired from the truth of a Christmas truce in 1916, two (in my case, more in the movie) young enemy soldiers like my characters can fraternize, in certain special, life-threatening conditions where they are alone, just them two, for a few dangerous days. Survival gets primordial, then, getting to know each other, they might discover they as humans have more points in common than the thing which sets them at odds, namely the idea they are fighting for.
These are the premises the central story is based on, and someone in authority who called it bullshit (as if knowing more about the subject, since she is a lady who had never written about war or anything related to it) instead of providing constructive criticism, had succeeded to do enough harm until now. I am glad that I have recovered, due to this NaNo adventure. Nothing is perfect, and some texts might be worse than others. But the stories within us are the ones which have to succeed, to get out and get shape in words…
Four short stories finished and sent to magazines and contests, other two almost finished and ideas for more – these are the results of this Camp like no other.