Category Archives: writing updates

NaNoWriMo: 10,000 words in

I started my novel-writing month a day later than expected, on Tues 8th February. As the sole participant of this unscheduled challenge I see that as my prerogative, although now I’m determined to stick to the rigid 30 days.

The first week has been an interesting experience. I’d felt that the first act had been fairly tightly plotted in my mind-mapping sessions. But, as it’s transpired, a swiftly written novel likes to untether itself from expectations. Frequently, characters have ended up in unexpected surroundings, plot points have been revealed far sooner than I’d anticipated, and whole new events have unfolded without planning. NaNoWriMo forum members have talked about ‘characters leading the way’ – I rather see it as the desperation of writing quickly produces shortcuts and forces odd associations in the brain to become meshed within the story.

One of the biggest challenges so far has been to reign in the plot. I keep threatening to reach milestones far too early. This feels like good experience – I think I tend to rush through stories, and while it can at times feel like ‘padding out’, I expect that on rereading it’ll all still feel breakneck. We’ll see, because I’m determined not to reread any of the story until the 30 days are up. Even then, I think I’ll need a break before I face up to what I’ve created…

The 1667 words per day is proving perfectly workable. I’d banked a full day’s extra wordcount in order to take a day off on Saturday, on a London visit to celebrate Rose’s birthday. I’ll aim to build up an extra few hundred words per day as I go on, too.

So, in summary: this is an excellent project. I’m aware that I’m producing some turgid rubbish at times, but actually getting to the 10,000 word mark this evening – far more words than I’ve written in total in the last three years – was exhilarating.

Writing a novel in a month

Since New Year, I’ve fretted about not writing. My resolution to write something original each day has been a help – although it’s been derailed slightly into diary entries, blog posts and long-overdue emails.

I’d heard about the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a while ago, through a friend. The principle is that each November, any number of would-be novelists club together for mutual support, and aim to each write a complete 50,000-word rough draft of a novel in just 30 days. The emphasis is on quantity over quality, skipping over difficult research and unsuccessful passages in a blind rush to reach the word goal. As a procrastinating self-doubter, I like this idea very much.

November is too far away for my possibly-shortlived enthusiasm to wait, so I’m going to go it alone. Without the NaNoWriMo community to back me up, I’ve mentioned the project to several people in order to have a useful sense of guilt if I’m falling behind. I’ll use this blog as a way of publishing my wordcount failures – or even successes – too.

The most helpful piece of advice so far has been to allow myself only one week’s planning time, and to choose an entirely new story idea rather than a pet project. In one fell swoop, this has freed me up enormously. I’ve several story ideas knocking around, all of which I feel too precious to mistreat in a month’s frenzied typing. I came up with a new story idea on Tuesday, and by Thursday night I’d written plot notes and created a mind map using the Freemind open source software (the first time I’ve successfully used this type of planning tool – it’s been perfect). On Saturday I scouted some potential writing spots (Costa and the Oxford central library) and created another map, this time showing plot events in a rough order.

My novel-writing month starts tonight. In theory, I need to write 1667 words per day. I’m already feeling my nerve faltering, with anxiety about an overly complex plot and a potential inability to give each character a distinctive voice. But then I remind myself that the aim is to break down the normal criticality and just produce something complete. Perhaps it’d be helpful to think of it as ‘typing’ rather than ‘writing’…