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Monday, 18 October 2010

My Take On NaNoWriMo

Yes, I'm adding my voice to the multitude clamouring for attention as November approaches. For anybody who's been living in a cupboard for the last few weeks, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual event that takes place in, you guessed it, November. The goal is for you to write 50,000 words within the month and (hopefully) have fun doing it.

Now I know there are many many reasons not to participate in NaNoWriMo.

You might have a full-time job. You may be a student struggling with hefty novels or textbooks. You may have a family that takes up the majority of your time. The thing about NaNo, however, is not reaching the finish line. It's having fun trying to get there and maybe discovering something about yourself in the process. Perhaps just that you're not cut out to write a first draft in a month!

The first year I came across NaNo was 2008. I threw my hat into the ring then promptly ran away pre-November. I didn't write a word. What did I blame at the time? Well, I was working on my undergraduate dissertation and living in a nightmare student house so that was that.

In 2009, though, I decided to actually make an effort. I'd just finished my MA Creative Writing and one of the problems I'd discerned in my own work was that I thought about things too long. Perhaps if I just had a crack at it, let the words run away with me, then I'd have that elusive article - a finished first draft. It didn't matter what state it was in, I just wanted that clump of paper staring at me from my desk.

So I participated. Not only did I achieve the 50,000 words within November but after the first week of December I found I had a first draft of just under 70,000 words to play with. The momentum that had started me off had obviously stuck, along with the desire to get that first draft finished.

Now, this novel was absolutely terrible. At the time I was sending chapters to a couple of close friends. Their desire to read the next part spurred me on to carry on writing it. Without that support I might easily have drowned in my own doubts. But none of this meant it was a good piece of writing. Far from it. The plot needed a complete overhaul, I needed to cut one major character and several minors. I found there was one character who could become significantly bigger and the whole thing became a trimmer, prettier version of what it had originally been.

That was the second draft. The novel, still untitled, is now on the fourth outing. This time I'm debating over where to stick commas and exposition rather than overhauling the fundamental plot points. I have NaNoWriMo to thank for getting this far. Without the push that the dreaded 50,000/30 Days gave me I would've dawdled and talked my way out of this pretty good idea. In fact, I liked the idea of these targets so much that I set myself another one in February or March. I didn't get 50,000 words written then but I came close and did indeed complete another first draft soon afterwards.

This year I plan to go one step further with the NaNoWriMo experience. I want to be part of the community. I'm planning on going to meet-ups, write-ins, anything I can find time to go to. Because of this I might not reach the finish line this year but does it matter?


Though when my annual competition begins with a few close friends I might change my mind...

1 comment:

Ann Marie Gamble said...

I can circle around my character studies for a long time without getting anywhere on a plot. Something like NaNoWriMo gives me a deadline and a push--and then, as you say, I've got something to edit!