It is a truth universally acknowledged that people doing NaNoWriMo should not post a blog, two weeks in, saying how brilliantly well it’s going.
Because almost exactly half an hour after posting my previous entry I wrote a paragraph which suddenly laid bare an enormous plot hole. Which then led me to spot another, and another until my happy playground of a work-in-progress had transformed into a lunar landscape of epic plot craters.
Oh, that was a fun afternoon. And then of course there was the inevitable day of work lost due to kiddy illness – and I’m sure there’s more of those who follow. This is another reason why the timing of NaNoWrMo sucks – it’s the start of cold and flu season and if you’re a parent you’re often permanently up to your neck in snotty tissues and Calpol between Halloween and March.
This year, though, I was incredibly strict with myself and on days I couldn’t work I would drag myself into the office/dungeon after bedtime and blearily crank out a couple of paragraphs of sheer nonsense to keep my head above water. I’m definitely not heading for 50,000 words but every little helps, I guess. Current word count so far is 20,421 which to a feature writer like me still seems like a lot of words.
Anyway, no learning experiences or amazing insight here but if you’re in the same boat, please do let me know and share any wisdom you may have. In the meantime, I’m off to bang my head repeatedly on the keyboard and include the results in my word count…
If you’re a freelance journalist the timing of National Novel Writing Month sucks. The ideas of putting aside all paid work THE MONTH BEFORE CHRISTMAS to work on a novel which may or may not get published is something I’ve struggled to get over year after year.
In fact, when I logged on and looked at my profile at the end of October, I found three versions of the same novel with three different now-discarded titles and dismal word counts for each. It was a fascinating glimpse back in time but also kind of depressing.
This year, though, was going to be different. Previous novel is finished, edited and re-titled, and I now had a fresh new idea I was itching to try out. Plus a small posse of online buddies who were doing it with me. Bring it on.
I’m half-way through it now, and here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1: It doesn’t matter if you write a pile of crap. The sanctimonious little chart on my profile tells me that I should have written 25,000 words by now. It also says that to make the classic NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words I need to write 2,250 words today. Well, that ain’t happening.
I have all my best ideas while writing crap
I’ve often thought the emphasis on words can be a unhealthy – you write a load of old rubbish just to bump your word count and end up having to go back and unstitch it later. But now I’ve got the first novel under my belt I realise I have my best ideas while writing crap (and also while in the shower for some reason.) Also, the unstitching is actually an unavoidable part of writing a novel. I have a trifling 13,993 words under my belt so far and half of those are utter crap but, like the weirdo I am, I’m actually looking forward to going back and changing it. I like seeding in all the good ideas I had while I was writing terrible stuff.
2: Buddies really do help I’m lucky enough to be friends with a few unpublished writers online, and we’ve been bolstering each other up with word counts and pep talks. This wasn’t the case for the first few years and it’s made such a difference knowing I’m going to report back to people about it rather than just sitting here writing into the abyss. I spent my whole journalistic career with editors breathing down my neck, and I now can’t work without deadlines and pressure – or with the mutual support of colleagues.
3: Once a Brownie, always a Brownie Back when I was in the Brownies, I loved getting a badge and being part of a tribe but I have to admit I find the whole tribal thing a bit cringy these days. And I’ve always thought the badges on the NaNoWriMo site were a bit patronising. You get a badge on your profile for writing two days straight, one for a week… etc. Pathetic, right? So why was it that last Saturday I wrote for 15 minutes between 11.40 and 11.55 so I could log a word count on the site and get my “Updated My Word Count Seven Days In A Row” badge? God I’m sad. But if it works, it works.
Some of my friends also prepped beforehand – putting together a day-to-day (or even a scene-by-scene) plan of what they were going to write, reading the pep talks on the NaNo website, going to write-ins. I’m not that way inclined, being more of a “splurge the words onto the page” kind of a writer, but it’s nice to know those resources are there if I should ever have a personality transplant.
All I know is that at the beginning of November I had the stub-end of a novel and, if I continue writing on the same track, by the end of November I’ll be well into the second half – even if a large part of it is drivel. So, cautiously and with a due sense of trepdiation, I’m calling NaNo 2019 a win.
Last year I attempted to do National Novel Writing Month properly for the first time. I cleared my schedule, I did some preliminary work on plotting. I told my friends and family and any bugger who wanted to hear about it on Facebook. As November approached, I was ready.
Then on 31st October my little boy got ill. And we were in hospital for three weeks. It was a terrifying, horrible time which involved sleeping on a camp bed next to his cot, listening to machines beeping. Some people would find it helpful to have something else – a novel – to focus on. I found it impossible. I just couldn’t concentrate – all the emotional highs and lows has been drained out of me by the time he’d gone to sleep. A few times I stayed up using the glow of my screen as the only source of light and I wrote. But I can’t say I produced anything amazing. By the end of the month I’d written about 3,000 words.
This year I had no intention of doing it. I had too much on. Money to earn, commissions to chase. What if the nipper got sick again? Let’s face it, producing 50,000 words in a month wasn’t realistic.
And then on the afternoon of 1st November I got a message from a friend to say she was doing it and I thought, sod it. Life is always going to be busy. There’s always going to be money to earn, commissions to chase (I hope) and kids are always going to get poorly – although hopefully never that sick again.
I thought, sod it. Life is always going to be busy
I had made no preparations, my characters were floundering, the storyline petered out. I had lost the plot. In fact I wasn’t even sure I wanted to finish the book. It felt like a meal that I’d been pushing around on the plate so long that it was no longer appetising.
Still, I sent my friend a message to say I was in. I set myself a new goal – 1,000 words a day should be quite enough for a YA novel as I was already 26,000 words in anyway.
Now I’m seven days in and results are mixed. On the minus side, I’m waaay short of my target. Because guess what, the little dude was ill for one of those days and a massive handful for two more of them. But on the other hand I’ve found a missing link which I think will give one of my characters the storyline she needs. And I feel like I’m back into it. I’m doing good things.
So I’m going to check in every week throughout the month, let you know how I’m doing. But only quickly, because I’m writing.