This year is the first time I am participating in National Novel Writing Month. I am doing this partly as a challenge and partly as a way of getting another book written under pressure. Today is Day 21 out of 30 and I am only on around 18,000 words.
Why I am doing this thing:
My first novel took 5 years to write. The second took a year and now I am trying to do it all in a month. I wrote nothing in the last five years because I was very put off and I wanted to give up. I can’t give up because in my heart of heart I am an addict, I am consumed by writing and though I have tried I cannot quit. I don’t know why because it is very masochistic and I can’t stand being hooked to anything. Obsessive yes addictive no.
What about the word count?
I know it’s ambitious and I will not make the 50,000 word count in 30 days because that would be writing 1,667 words per day. I am too busy working, looking after children and the house, exercising, cooking to be able to churn out the required amount. In my opinion you either have to be very young or very old to be able to afford the luxury of time, where you would wake up every day and wonder what to do – “oh yes, I know, I will write! Yes I have so much time to write until bedtime! Why not write?”
Writing is pain: if it don’t hurt it ain’t true
As I am no longer a novice(!) I am quite capable of writing every day but I really want to make them count so I don’t want to and can’t write rubbish. I would rather sit and think for an hour than to put rubbish down. I find it very hard to just let rip. There is no correct way to do a first draft but for me, if I let rip and have verbal diarrhoea, it will be very depressing to mop up the mess later and the editing will kill me. So I am going with my slow and steady way of doing things, it will be right in the end, I know it will. Each word I am squeezing out is like a drop of blood. I am having to take paracetamol on word sprint days because my head wants to explode. On average I have been doing 893 words a day as a result of this way of writing.
Here is my screen shot from today, you may have noticed I have written zero words (as I am doing this blog, which does not count as a novel, of course):
What I like about NNWM:
The masochistic aspect. This is all a self-imposed middle-class deadline, don’t forget. I am not a factory worker in Bangladesh who has to write all day and all night and if I didn’t I would be killed or my fingers taken off. If my suffering means I have to take paracetamol or glass of wine, then I feel that I have achieved something, and it wasn’t easy. I also enjoyed the company and the posts from fellow writers I have met on the FB group Ninja Writers. For someone who has always known that writing is a solitary profession, for someone who enjoys being alone, the discovery that there are so many people out there enjoying being alone is insanely wonderful! I did not think this was possible! They have been encouraging and helpful, generous with their wit and humour. Everybody offers, accepts, gives, takes advice and tips. In writing there is no right or wrong. (write or wrong).
What time and place is best for my writing
I tried every technique to test out writing time. Times include: I tried waking up at 6 am to do it before the children are up, in the morning after coffee or after vigorous exercise, at night after the children go to sleep. Places include: on my lap, in Caffe Nero, in the library, at home, in bed, on the floor. All are fine as long as there are no children around If children are around, you can’t even sit for a second let alone write.
I have my special lucky pen and my notebook.
In my old age I am very superstitious, I can only write with one pen and I am lucky if it’s pumped already. I can only write on an unlined ringbound notebook. Nothing else works.
It’s called routine. If you do it every day, it does not matter what time or place. This is called the vintage life or some kind of madness. Cutting off the world and entering your own. The words will come. Anyway wish me luck, after all there are 9 days left.