Officially, National Novel Writing Month kicked off yesterday. It’s my third year – I won the first, didn’t win last year, and was all set to go for this one. I didn’t have a plan but seeing as I am the type of person who wrote essay plans for submission after I wrote the actual essays, this didn’t phase me. Yesterday I wrote 1363 words, which is 303 short of the daily target but close enough not to really be an issue. And yet here I am today, ready to call it quits.
Look, I like the idea of NaNo. I like that it creates this lively community across the world and all the socialising is a blast. But in many ways, I also feel that this is a valid point of view. 50,000 words is not a novel, and on average, churning out 1666 words a day is not necessarily the greatest way to go about writing. I am notoriously bad at doing what I’m told – for example, I never really did the in-class writing exercises at uni and I never wrote essays during class time in High School. I don’t like the expectation that I should be doing something, especially when everyone else is doing it. So the expectation that during November I should be writing 1666 words a day is not really something my personality is all that compatible with.
And it’s not writing under pressure that’s the problem, I excel under pressure. The whole reason I first decided to do NaNo was because I usually work far better with a deadline hanging over my head (and leave everything to the last minute). I think it’s more the idea of everyone writing at the same time – like every time you turn around someone is there, writing, and what are you doing? Shouldn’t you be writing? Why aren’t you writing???
Of course, whatever you write in November will have to be edited. Probably more painstakingly and stringently than a first draft novel written on a “normal” schedule needs to be edited. This is a given. There are few things in life I hate more than editing – in 6 years at uni I never once, ever, edited an assignment. The only re-drafting I did was for my creative pieces done under a supervisor, which is really like working with an editor telling me where I need to lift my game. But me, for myself? Not great at the editing thing. Which is precisely why my first NaNo novel continues to languish in a ridiculous, didactic state. Not that it didn’t serve a purpose – I’ve certainly never stopped thinking about the premise, even if I do now want to turn it into a graphic novel.
Now I’m at an impasse of sorts. I don’t want to feel like I’ve given up without even trying, but we’re two days in and I’m already feeling a nagging apathy settling in. I have a cool story that I’m dying to tell, but I don’t want to have to write huge chunks of it at breakneck pace while others are doing the same thing. So I don’t know, maybe this format isn’t really for me. And considering that I write, on average, 2500 words at work a day, I’m pretty tapped for words as well. Even if it’s just boring craft terminology, it’s still using the same part of my brain. Oh, and I still have an essay to write within the next week too.
I think NaNo is a great thing as a motivational tool, it gets people writing, brings people together and generally it’s quite fun. For me personally though, maybe it would be better if I was just 'racing' myself and my writing practice. So maybe I should just be more rational about this and instead of trying to fit into this model, I need to adapt it to suit my own style. Who knows, I might still finish anyway – sometimes it’s hard to stop once you get going. But I won’t beat myself up about it if I don’t. With that in mind, I think this November I’ll aim for 20,000 words and then just keep going. 700 words a day, give or take, is not such a huge ask.
Music: Fairytale of New York - The Pogues feat Kirsty MacColl