The process of novelwriting is an educational one, as it turns out. Here are a few insights from personal experience based on this year’s attempt at Nanowrimo:
- It’s absolutely critical to recognise an environment where you’re not going to be able to get any writing done. For me, 2 biggies were home, and work.
- Along similar lines – ensure that your writing tool of choice is one that you’re comfortable working with, and don’t have a hateful or spiteful relationship with. For example, if you despise your handwriting or find writing by hand for long periods painful then make sure you’re using a laptop. If you’re using a laptop, ensure that it’s one you’re happy using and not one which you hate with a passion and would much rather see pitched into Plymouth Harbour.
- Keep writing – when coming up with an idea for a 50,000 word story it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll entirely prepare the story in its entirity in your head. You’ll write a few thousand words and then realise that you don’t know what the characters are going to do next. It’s critical at this point not to sit there wondering, but rather get on with writing another part of your book – even if you don’t know where it’ll fit in. Though the finished product – should it ever become one – will be read front-to-back, that doesn’t mean you need to create everything in order. And the best way to be a writer is to write – sitting around thinking about what to write doesn’t make you a writer.
- For the purposes of Nanowrimo, don’t focus on wordcount – if you just keep writing then your brain will throw more things at you to put in the story, and provided you just keep on going then there’s not much chance that you won’t make it.
- Don’t delete anything. The point of the exercise is to write 50,000 words of story rather than finishing with a story that’s 50,000 words long. If you write something that you think is crap then cut & paste it into a section at the top or bottom of your document and leave it there in case there’s something in there you can reuse or integrate later, especially if it was character backstory – it all helps shape the characters in your mind.
- The Nanowrimo word counter thing locks off at midnight on November 30th, so you really do only have the month of November to upload your word count. None of this pesky finishing-typing-that-night-and-uploading-the-next-morning… Hence, my profile page is advertising the fact that my novel was 2,845 words long.
- Lots and lots of really cute girls seem to do Nanowrimo.
Having said all that, I failed to make it to 50,000 words. Had a great time though – I wrote what I think was just over 10,000 words. The trouble being that with the debacle of the craptacular laptop I wound up writing most of it in my moleskine notebook in pencil (presumably the same way that many iconic writers have also done throughout history), so in the back of my mind was the idea that the more I wrote this way the more I’d have to subsequently transcribe from notebook into laptop in order to be counted in the total (by the automagical Nanowrimo word counting jobbie). I didn’t think this would be a barrier, but every time I sat down to do the transcribing, it turned out it was a barrier.
The actual process of writing I enjoyed immensely – it’s the first time in many, many years I’ve tried to write straight fiction, and I was quite pleased with my initial premise (the idea was that a multidimensional being appeared on Earth, who had caused The Big Bang to take place, and therefore proved that evolutionary theory was correct but also gave concrete evidence that all religions were incorrect). (Yes, a comedy, obviously). It was incredibly revealing too, I thought, as to where the limitations in my “writing style” are – the bulk of the 10,000 words was straight third-person past-tense narrative (Mike did this. He said “blah”. Then this happened.), so should I ever want to develop my writing abilities it’s pretty clear there’s evidence for new devices on the stylistic pallette.
(I’m equally aware that in blog-form I not only have the third-person past tense, but also endlessly talking about myself. So at least there’s variety there, eh?)
In all, I think I will either have a crack at it next year, or I’ll just get on with finishing the story I started, because it was a massively enjoyable process – and now armed with a shiny new WORKING laptop and the knowledge that getting out of the house/office to write is quite a pleasant way to spend time (admittedly it’s probably not going to work to go to Plymouth every time I want to write a chapter).
November wasn’t, however, a total dearth of achievement: whilst not participating in Movember in any sort of sponsored way, in the spirit of the thing I concluded the MOnth with this fairly impressive Derek Smalls-esque arrangement.
Oh no wait, this one’s me. Always get them mixed up.
Almost a shame to get rid of it, really. Not enough of a shame that I’d keep it, however.