I know there’s a plethora of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month –
aka the nano) posts out in the blogosphere at the moment, but as I am
participating in the challenge, I thought it appropriate that I dedicate one of
my November posts to this writing marathon.
If you take on a demanding challenge, it’s usually because there is an
upside which outweighs the downside. The nano is no different. Deciding to
write 50,000 words in thirty days – one thousand, six hundred and sixty seven
words a day – is a test, but for many of us, achieving the first draft of a
novel is something we think a worthwhile endeavour.
To start with, that final word total can haunt you – if you let it – creating
a seemingly unattainable goal. But, as with everything else in life from
kicking a ball to getting a PhD in astrophysics, patience and determination will
get you to your destination, even if it doesn’t produce an instant masterpiece.
There may be novelists who can write their first draft in eleven days
(Catherynne M. Valente, The Labyrinth) but for most us there are any
number of factors which prevent our achieving this feat. Though it has to be
said, as an example of what’s possible, it is a good one. Consequently, the
pace at which you work can be one hurdle to overcome, especially if you are a
deliberate, thoughtful writer.
There is also a moment when you realize the time and effort involved
takes more commitment than you envisioned when you sat in your armchair or the
local coffee shop planning your novel.You doubt your resolve, wonder if you have what it takes to make it,
stare at how much you’ve done that day, and think about how much more you still
need to do before you can stop. Again, sheer dogged refusal to give up will get
you passed this stumbling block.
As the days go by, your word count does increase, your story starts to
shape up, and you feel encouraged. The hope you started out with becomes
conviction. You will make it.
Take a break and cloud watch
Each time I've participated in the nano I've had a different experience.
Three years ago, my first nano try, I didn’t complete the challenge. Two years
ago, I put my head down and ploughed through, surprising myself by writing the
required number of words (I’ve yet to return to and complete that novel); last
year, though, I had a lot more fun.
I realize one of the reasons I shot out of the starting post last year
was because I’d been thinking about the beginning section of the story for
several months. My initial outpouring did slow considerably as the month went
on, reflecting the fact that I didn't outline the rest of the story till a few
days before the nano started. A valuable part of what I’ve learned from the
nano is what works for me as a writer.
This year I’m putting down the rough draft of the second in my
paranormal series. I have done a fair amount of incubation of the story, plus
more planning than last year. What is different is writing another novel with
the same characters, which for me is a first.
The best word I can think of to describe my nano experience is
immersion. Immersion in the writing process; immersion in watching the flow of my
imaginings manifest on the screen in front of me; immersion in my story. As a
result, when I stagger from my seat, stiff-limbed and exhausted, I'm also
exhilarated, and all I can say is, brilliant, just brilliant!