Last November I took part in a writing event that thousands of people across the globe were sharing in, NaNoWriMo. Every day I would sit down in front of my laptop in the small moments of free time I could find and spend as long as I could writing a story called Postcards. In the evenings this was often for as long as I could stay awake or could force my addled brain to work for.
Over the course of the month I saw my daily word update as a small graph on the NaNoWriMo word count, like a staircase leading up to some hidden prize. On days where I did no writing the staircase would stubbornly remain at the same level. On the days after this they would form a small cliff as my word count shot up due to my efforts at catching up.
After I watched the first of many pep talk videos posted on the NaNoWriMo website, I realised I had been pronouncing NaNoWriMo wrong; it wasn’t NaNoWreeMo after all. I spent the next week or so trying to
convince myself that everyone else in the world was wrong about this until I finally resigned myself to common sense. I still find myself pronouncing it NaNoWreeMo in my head, like those words we read in books that have their own pronunciation in our heads.
By the time the last day arrived I had scheduled my freelance work to allow myself a day off to catch up on the 3,600 words still left to do. I wrote the final words just before lunchtime, and then put the whole thing aside whilst the rest of life caught up with me.
It was a wonderful experience, especially the times when the story just seemed to write itself, the characters revealing more about themselves in the words that appeared on my screen. On those days where I found it hard to think of what to write or where the story was heading, well… I just wrote a crazy dream sequence, sometimes based on my own crazy dreams.
This weekend was the first time I had revisited what I had written and I found it rather encouraging. Some of the writing was of course very hurried but I had the bare bones of a story there, it was just that a lot of it just didn’t make sense. So, I sat down with a pen and paper and started working on a plan.
A couple of days later I now have more of an idea as to what on earth this novel is about. I know what significance the postcards in it have, although I can’t tell you that yet I’m slowly rewriting sections of it and adding new ones and have thought of some major plot changes that work much better. My aim is to eventually release it as some kind of companion to the album I’m working on of the same name.
It’s strange looking back as all this came about from my attempt at working through the Artists Way. It took me over a year and I still never got pass lesson 7, but it rekindled in me a desire for story writing. Something I used to be quite into but had just restricted to my song writing these past few years.
Here are a few of my NaNoWriMo tips:
- You’re doing this for yourself so don’t worry about following the rules and feel free to ignore the tips that follow this one if you feel like it.
- Try to write something everyday. The daily target is around 1600 words but even if you just manage a few sentences or a couple of hundred words you’re breaking the back of it a little.
- Do some practise writing before November. This will help with the next tip.
- Find a writing method that works best for you. I used a combination of Scrivener and pen and paper.
- Don’t worry about making a plan. I had a very loose outline at the start and just made up the plot as I went along. The end result was probably less well formed and structured than it would have been had I had made a plan but my aim was to just get some ideas down that I could work on afterwards.
- Don’t worry about both writing really good prose and finishing the story within the 50,000 words at the same time and within the month. I ended up with some sections being better written than others but I didn’t manage to finish the actual story within the 50,0000 words.
So, would I recommend taking part in NaNoWriMo? Of course. It’s a crazy idea and often those are the most fun and reap the greatest rewards. Hopefully, I’ll have finished rewriting my novel before this years November NaNoWriMo and the whole crazy episode starts all over again.