NaNoWriMo Update

Well, it’s November 25th and you may remember that, all gung-ho, and full of vim and vigour, I announced my participation in the NaNoWriMo project twenty-three days ago.

The premise is simple; glue your butt to your chair for an extended period every day during the month of November and produce 50,000 words at the end. You will then have the bones of a book that you can work on and edit to your heart’s content and try to shape it into an actual book that you can bring to market. Like most things worth their salt, NaNoWriMo has its detractors: Some writers claim that  it’s difficult to work like this, ‘churning out’ 2.000 words a day every day on average on one project. Others heave a sigh of relief when November comes around, safe in the knowledge that the support of the project will motivate them to get some words on a page. Still others see it as a month of indulgence to  write on a pet project, or try out a new genre – one they have never fiddled with before.

I approached NaNoWriMo with a project I’ve been wanting to work on for quite a while. I was really excited to try my hand at a bit of fiction. I’ve done a bit of plotting, I’ve gotten to know a little bit about some of my characters, I have a few set-ups for them and I have scenes written (in my head only, mind!) that had me crying in the shower as I felt the emotions of the characters involved and put words in their mouths and hearts.

So, I sat down, committed to writing my socks off and producing the required 50,000 at the end of this month.

Didn’t happen.

I have about 7,000 words of my book written. Look, it’s 7,000 words more than I had a few weeks ago, but I’m not going to nail NaNoWriMo this year. I’m not even going to start on the whys and wherefores of why I have so little done. I’m neither ashamed nor embarrassed by my lack of wordage. NaNoWriMo has served me well; I have spend the month thinking about my writing – thinking about what I want to write, what I want to focus on, what really matters. I’ve formulating a good, solid plan not just for the book I’ve written and am ready to market, but about the next one, the one after that and the spin-off work that could come from it if I market it properly.  I have looked long and hard at self-publishing rather than going the traditional route and have not decided against either (yet!). I’ve changed focus and looked at the bigger picture, the long-term and asked myself serious questions about where I want my writing to take me and what I want it to do – the purpose of it, if you will.

I’ve also been writing a bit more than usual – and remembering the joy I get from writing, how easy it comes to me if I just let it, how good it feels to structure a sentence that says exactly what I want it to and how the flow of words from brain to fingertips feels as good to me as a run in perfect weather feels to a professional runner: The exhilaration, the triumph, the purification of the exercise that release endorphins and spur you on to do more, to do it again, to keep going.

So, the end of November will come and go, and I will not be a NaNoWriMo winner. Except, in a roundabout way, I will. I’ll have a course plotted, a strategy devised and a much clearer picture of who I am as a writer. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win.

NaNoWriMo 2014

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – turns 15 this year. I did it for the first time back in 2004. Actually, I started it in 2004. I didn’t make it across the finish line. In hindsight, it was gloriously optimistic of me: I had just (a few weeks beforehand) moved continent and ended up in a place I hate; I had a five month-old and a two-and-a-half year old and no practical or emotional support with raising them, and I was trying hard to figure out what my Next Move would be.

So I got to about 10,000 words and left it.

This year, I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo again. NaNoWriMo has changed in the intervening ten years. It’s now a very sophisticated affair – a slick website with FAQs, forums, discussion boards and lots, lots more. I’ve signed up because, to write consistently on a specific project, I need a prod. I’ve discovered that much about myself in all these years of writing. Whether that prod is the deadline imposed by a TV studio, a magazine or newspaper editor or a conference organiser. Or even a friend.

I wrote the first draft of my memoir with the prodding of a friend – who happened to be a newspaper editor – in India. We had a deal that I would write a minimum of 500 words a day and email them to him. If he didn’t get the words, he’d ring me to find out where they were. The strategy worked. Not least because there is a five-and-a-half hour time difference between here and India and if I didn’t turn in my words, I’d get a call at Stupid O’Clock to ask me where they were.

That book got written because I committed to writing a minimum of 500 words a day – because 500 words is easy; it’s doable. I set out to write 500 words a day, but often wrote 3,000. If I’d set myself a target of 2,000 words a day, I doubt I’d have lasted a week.

There’s an idea for a novel that has been rattling around inside me for more than two years now. Some days, I feel that if I don’t sit down and write it, I will wake up some morning and it will have written itself on my skin from the inside out. So that’s my NaNoWriMo project for this year.

I was exhausted yesterday after just 3 hours’ sleep the night before, and was sorely tempted not to write – to put it off until ‘tomorrow’. But I’ve got a writing buddy this time around. A real-life, real-world friend who has signed up as well – and there was the prod I needed. For extra pressure, Kashmira (who is not quite ten and a half) has signed up as well and she got off to a cracking start yesterday.

So I knuckled down and wrote a modest 1,123 words. I’ve started. I’ll let you know if I finish.

If you’d like to join the madness (it’s not too late!), you can sign up here.