Monday, 4 November 2013

Saying Nah-Nah-No-No to NaNoWriMo.

So... NaNoWriMo is upon us again!

And yes, you are correct in concluding - simply from the fact this post dates from 4 days into the event itself - that I am not partaking. But I'm cheering all you guys on who are, rest assured. Go team! and all that.

It's a fabulous idea, of course. The bestest kick up the backside an aspiring writer could have, with the added benefit of instant membership to a club of like-minded masochists comrades-in-arms for support. For many it provides the motivation for writing that novel that would otherwise never be written - and I'll admit it, I have an admiration bordering on awe for those people that actually complete the challenge. Fifty thousand words in one month? You guys rock. Seriously.

But NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. I know this because, for this year at least, I myself am very much not one of those everyone, even if I wanted to be (and oh! I so want to be..!) I could offer up the usual excuse - I'm a mum who has to juggle looking after a lively kid and running a house with my writing, blah blah, etc. etc, and yeah, I get it so put away that teeny-tiny violin RIGHT NOW...

But that, of course, is complete baloney and an insult to those who hold down full-time jobs AND have kids AND still manage to churn out best-selling novels by the bucketload.

No, the real reason I would fail at NaNoWriMo this year is because I am in the wrong place, at the wrong stage, to have any hope of achieving the goal. As anyone who has read this blog more than once will know, I am currently in the Draft Two stage of writing my novel The Renegades. I love this book like a sibling, i.e. it frequently drives me nuts and makes me want to pull its hair when it annoys me, but I am fiercely loyal to it because I believe I need to write it even if it ends up never being published. So I am not about to abandon it for another story, even for a month.

I did the maths (well, okay - I got a calculator to do it for me) and it soon became clear that, in order to complete the challenge of fifty thousand words in thirty days, I would need to write at least 1,667 words a day (I rounded that up because I'm not sure how you'd write .6-recurring of a word, but anyway...) And that's if I wrote every single day; if I decided to do the standard 'working week' thing of five days a week and two days off, that word count goes up to 2,381 words a day. On a Draft Two manuscript.

That's never gonna happen for me. At the moment, 600 words a day is me on fire. It's not because I'm lazy, or a crappy writer (well I certainly hope it's not the last one...) it's simply because I'm spending more time unpicking and rebuilding what I've already written to make it better - and that's harder and more time-consuming. No free-wheeling, brain-candy-dumping in that process...

And that's the key to succeeding at NaNoWriMo; having the freedom to write whatever crazy-ass stuff comes pouring out of your noggin. When you don't have to care about what you're slamming down on the page because, hey, you can fix it all later, you can party on through the alcoholically-liberated moonings and dodgy one-night-stands that constitute the average Pantser Draft One novel. After all, you get the prize just for writing those fifty thousand words; no-one has to actually read them as well.

(But even if you do end up writing fifty thousand words of utter pants at the end of the thirty days, you still rock. I wouldn't dream of taking that away from you, never fear.)

Some people like the ceremony of NaNoWriMo. Perhaps there's a part of them, deep down inside, that feels like they need... I don't know, permission to knuckle down and all-out focus on Getting A Novel Written. Maybe they don't have partners, friends and family who are supportive of their writing ambitions, and so they feel guilty about indulging in it - as if it's little more than a slightly nerdy hobby to be confined to snatched moments of free time. To do it with any degree of conviction at any other time feels self-indulgent, maybe even (shudder) selfish - but hey, it's November, so for this month being crazy-OCD-dedicated to that hobby that everyone sniggers at is officially allowed... the calendar says so. Well then - hell yeah, let's do this!

For those people, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing, and I'm glad it exists if only for them - although I can't help wishing I could just wave a magic wand instead, and give them the power to claim their writing time for themselves, all year round, without feeling guilt or shame. (If this person is you, hear this: you deserve that time, it's yours and you've earned it. CLAIM IT!) Or maybe getting a proper, formal kick up the writing jacksie that comes bang on schedule every year is a much better motivator for others than trying to maintain it all year round at a lower intensity. I'm glad NaNoWriMo exists for those people too. 

I wish you all the very best of luck if you are partaking - go nuts, enjoy the ride. But I will be cheerleading from the sidelines, if that's alright with you. I can't bring myself to cheat on The Renegades with some flighty new November fling - or, alternatively, to give her a month's worth of lousy lovin' just to rack up the number of times we've Done It. (That may well be the weirdest analogy I've ever used to make a point... but hey...)

Whether you write slow or fast, a trickle all year or a massive burst every November... enjoy it and claim it. It's yours. Do it.

Write! Go!

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