NaNoWriMo - Week One
What a lovely surprise
I am sure that many of us have heard of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which officially takes place in November? I have a friend, as I'm sure many of you will, who took part in this scribbling marathon in 2010. At the time I was building up my hub library, and working on my own novel, so I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo in November 2011 instead. After all, a person cannot possibly make time in each month to do absolutely everything they would like to do.
But I did not know then that I was going to be elbowed into undertaking the 50,000-word-novel-in-31-days challenge well before November. This Christmas I was given the above pictured novel writing kit, put together by the very same Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. My mum received a kit also. We decided not to delay, and began the challenge eight days ago. I had thought to start in, say, April. But when I visited my mum just over a week ago, she said 'okay, shall we begin this weekend?' and we were off. She was quite right, of course, and I realised that I had randomly chosen April as a way of putting the task off. April would certainly have come and gone, and either I would have just forgotten about the whole novel thing, or I would have found an excuse to put it off for another month, and then another. Best to just jump straight in, quite right.
And I must say that I have learned some very important lessons in these past eight days. Some lessons I already knew, from my experiences with other unfinished novels. But I'd forgotten those lessons, so it was good to relearn them. I will write more about what I have learned at the end of the thirty-one days though.
When you break it down, fifty-thousand words over thirty-one days is only a little over one-thousand-six-hundred words per day. Not really all that much (!), and if you sit down with a cup of tea (Earl Grey relaxes me and puts me in sublime writing mode) and a nice bit of Debussey in the background, you can get those words done in a couple of hours. Easy (!)
Of course, I'm only one week into the journey. It's been a glorious week, after I finally made that initial decision: which idea to choose. I texted several people thus: 'ghost story set in 1725, or science fiction set on twin planets with humans at vastly different stages of technological development?' It was unanimous - ghost story it was. I began, and lo! the first few hundred words read like the opening of a novel. Oh my word, this was amazing, a fully edited and perfectly worded novel was pouring out of me. This task was going to be a doddle for me. Characters emerged, fully grown and multi-faceted from the outset. Plot lines suggested themselves, and one in particular seemed very plausible and rather gripping. I knew exactly where to go to make the plot begin to appear. I even knew how to write in a few nice points of misdirection, red herrings as it were.
I was having a whale of a time (apologies for the sealife references - my story has a somewhat maritime flavour, which I am finding it difficult to shake off in my other writing). Surely I would have the whole novel written and ready for publication within the month. But realisitically, I knew that this word spawning session would not last. Oh, they are still flowing from me, being deposited in little packets, several hundred words at a time, like tiny little fish eggs, ready to hatch into a shoal of something stunningly beautiful and shimmering. But I anticipate the arrival of some word eating crabs and other crustaceans very soon, and my roe of inspiration will be gone.
I'm not being defeatist here, only realistic, and I am preparing myself for hitting the wall. (I will now switch unapologetically to a running analogy.)
Runners have a wall that they hit, and that wall is different for every runner. When I run I hit the wall at about three miles (do you now have an image of me losing my balance and being so weak that I have no control over my legs so that I run headlong into someone's garden wall?). I do not run far, and can only do about six miles in total. But I know, when I hit that wall (by now you will understand that it is a virtual wall, and that it will not cause me to have bruised knees) that I have to keep running to get over it and find my 'second wind' (no comment). It is just the same with writing - though much less physically painful, and marginally less sweaty - and a writer will encounter many walls over the course of a project. Successful writers (i.e., those who reach the finish line) are those who get over every wall. So I'm told. I don't actually know if this is true, since I have never reached the finish line yet.
But anyway, I have completed week one of NaNoWriMo, exceeding my word goal every day bar one. I have learnt that I can write plenty of good words every day if I just get on with it and stop stalling. You may also have noticed that I have learned to 'word pad' to an alarming degree, and that I can now pretty much talk about anything, even if it is not related to the topic I am supposed to be discussing. This is encouraged in NaNoWriMo. Also encouraged is self-praise, whether truly deserved or not. So I must tell you that I am doing a truly excellent job of writing my monthlong novel, and you'll never have read anything so fantastic and diverting in your whole life.
I have also learnt that I can write much, much more in a day than I ever dreamed possible. Which ever writer told me that we should aim for no more than eight-hundred words a day has done me a great disservice! That writer, whoever she was, is probably underestimating her own abilities - I know it was a woman, but that's all I know. She, whoever she was, said that if we aimed too high and tried to write, say, fifteen-hundred words, our writing would be worthless and would just be thrown in the trash anyway. This is so absolutely not the case. In the past week I have had several days in which I have just been on a roll, and I have steamed ahead and written two-thousand lovely words. Of course, you have only got my word for that - but hey, I think my word is good enough.
NaNoWriMo, you have changed my life,
You came into my world to bring me strife.
But I will conquer you, demon task,
I'm getting my words down, oh yes, just ... ask! (ugh, lame!)
(That's why I don't write poetry.)
So, only ... mmm, mental maths, not my strong point ... twenty-three days left to go. Can I make it to the end, with my brain intact? You betcha, I can! My plot is already getting a little thin and leaky, but I am going to perform some wondrous feats of word plumbing on it, don't you worry. There's no way I could tell you all about beginning NaNoWriMo, and then fail to finish it - how embarrassing would that be?!
(Hey, you know, I think this is the way to go, the way to get the novel done that I've been working on almost fruitlessly for three years - JUST WRITE IT! JUST WRITE IT ALL DOWN, even if it's crap! I think it will work - it'll be fun finding out...)