It is November. For thousands of us around the world that means one thing. NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t have a clue what I am talking about, it’s National Novel Writing Month. It has become the month of the year where writers, both professional and amateur pick up their pens, pencils, typewriters tablets or computer keyboards and aim to write 50,000 words in the month.
This year I have thrown myself into Nanowrimo with vigour and enthusiasm. Since I graduated from my writing degree, the most I have ever written was a short story, and I have lots of those which aren’t even finished (On this blog for a start). Life always seemed to get in the way of finishing. I wasn’t disciplined. If I wasn’t in the mood I didn’t write. But for November, that has changed.
So far this month I have written just over 23,000 words towards my novel (and not including this blog entry). I’m just under 2k words short of where I should be. Yesterday was the half way point and I’m ok with that. For the first 10 days of the month I was ahead. Then I had a busy weekend (Dad’s only turn 60 once) so I didn’t get any writing done. On top of that, on Tuesday I came down with a terrible cold and I struggled to get to just over 1k words that day. Yesterday whilst off sick I managed just over 3k words in 90minutes of solid writing. I’m really pleased with my progress.
One of the things keeping me going this year (apart from the fact I actually have time to write in the evenings as I’m no longer marking students’ books or planning lessons they don’t want to listen to) is the social networks I have joined. I am in three groups on facebook and the support is amazing. One was set up by one of my lecturers from University. In that group I am surrounded by professional published writers and amateurs alike. It’s invigorating being part of a community where we are all in the same situation. We are all having days where writing our 1667 daily average word count is impossible. I am in two other groups, one for BUJO writers and one for writers in general.
One thing I am noticing in all of the groups is that some writers are getting very depressed about their word counts compared to others. There are some writers who are already at 50k! In 15 days?! Do you even have jobs? Then there are those who are juggling life and are only at 5k for example. I have one thing to say to the writers who are behind their target word count. How many words would you have written towards your project if it weren’t for Nanowrimo? I keep that question in my mind the whole time. If I don’t get to 50,000 words and I don’t win Nanowrimo this year, that is fine. As it stands I have already written 23,000 more words than I would have done had it not been for this “competition”. So just keep writing.
This month is about building in discipline; it’s about making writing a habit. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. There is only so much planning and reading you can do before you actually have to put pen to paper as it were. This month I have learnt a lot about myself as a writer already. I was a major planner. The novel I planned and started at university has never been finished. This time I did a brief outline. A chapter a day was my intention. I wrote the plan in one afternoon in October. I haven’t read it back since. Each morning I look at the plan for that day and I start writing. If I went off on a tangent the day before I just use my plan as a rough guideline and I keep writing.
The other key to my successful word count this time is that I am not re-reading anything. I am NOT editing until the whole book is finished. You can’t write a perfect novel in one draft, so why do we always beat ourselves up about our first drafts? Of course they are awful. We haven’t fully explored our worlds, our characters until we have written the first draft. The only re-reading I am doing is reminding myself of some details in previous chapters that I want to refer to. Conversation details, or a description of my character’s eyes as she casts a spell for example. Again, these are details that can be fixed in editing but it only takes a couple of minutes to skim through my chapters.
I’m hoping to get to 50k by November 30th but if I don’t that’s ok. (If I’m only a few hundred or a thousand words off I will pull a late night to reach the midnight deadline, I’m too competitive to be that close to a deadline). The main achievement for me is building in the habit of writing every day. I get tingly fingers already when I haven’t written anything during the day. So, I’ve been a paid copywriter this year, and now I’m halfway through a novel. I’m almost confident at describing myself as a writer when people ask me what I do.
Good luck to all other Nanowrimoers. Comment with how you are getting on or ask any questions. We are all in this together!