Not all of my blog followers are writers or bloggers themselves, so a brief explanation – NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. It happens every November. There is a website which offers support, encouragement, and verification of your word count. If you complete the 50,000 words, you are deemed a winner. The website is: http://www.nanowrimo.org/
The idea is that you tell your internal editor to take a hike, and you rattle your way through it, trying hard not to judge your writing, or to look backwards, just keep going forwards. Plenty of time for editing once November is finished.
Before I explain why I said I ‘sort of’ did it, let me answer a few of the other questions that you’re no doubt desperate to ask me…
Why did I do it?
I’ve done lots of different types of writing, but had never written a novel. Like most people, it was on my list of things I’d like to do, but it just felt like such an onerous thing to tackle. I work best to a deadline, so this seemed the ideal opportunity to have a go. There was a strict deadline, and it also brought out my competitive side because you have buddies on the NaNo website (a bit like facebook friends), and you can monitor how others are doing with their word counts along the way. I also wanted to see if I had it in me to write a large volume in a short space of time. Even if I ended up with a complete load of trash, I would only have invested a month in it. Nothing to lose by giving it a go right?
How did I do it?
I work full time, I have children, I have lots of other things going on in my life, how did I find the time to write the 1,500 – 2,000 words a day required? I just muscled my way in with my elbows and squeezed out bits of time where I could. Some days I woke up earlier and did some before work, some days I stayed awake later at night. When I was cooking, I would have the laptop open on the counter and keep tapping a few words out in between stirring things. And really, I didn’t burn THAT many dinners. Weekends I was able to grab a few extra hours. I can’t say it was easy, some days when I was feeling tired and uninspired, forcing those words out was really hard work, but marathons of any sort were never meant to be easy.
Was it worth it?
Absolutely. I learnt a lot about myself as writer – I won’t go into all that now, but even if I never do any more with what I have written, it will have been worth it for what I learnt from the experience.
And finally, why DID I say that I ‘sort of’ did it?
Well, I cheated a little. Twice. On one occasion, I was really stuck for inspiration. I had something that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, so I made my main character log into the internet, and read someone’s blog, and I then typed out this other thing I’ve been wanting to write, as if she was reading it on screen. I deserve a few points for inventiveness right? But it really was nothing to do with the story. On another occasion, again, when I was completely stuck, I had two of my characters sit down and listen to some Bob Dylan songs, and talk about how much the lyrics meant to them, and I then wrote out a whole load of Bob Dylan lyrics. I’ve let myself down haven’t I.
Now I know that lots of other NaNo’ers have spoken about doing similar things just to get their word counts up. The NaNo rules are done on trust, so there are lots of ways to cheat if you want to, but in the words of all our old school teachers, we’re only really cheating ourselves; it’s not like we’re playing for cash prizes or anything. But I didn’t want to go against their rules. It’s not that I was expecting everything I wrote to be of high literary quality, but I did expect it to all be relevant to the story, and to all be my own work, which clearly the lyrics were not.
So whilst officially I am classified as a NaNo winner, I’m really not. Those extra bits I threw in come to around 2,000 words, so I wasn’t THAT far off. Hang on a minute…there are a few more hours left before the end of November! I still might have time to replace those 2,000 words with real stuff! Be back later…
Oh, before I go, I must also give a shout out to my partner Neil, who did it too, and completed his 50,000 words! Woohoo! A big achievement as he lost over a week at the start of the month due to some technical issues. And big congratulations to the rest of you who did it too!