Wednesday, November 2, 2011


…and how I’ve decided to abandon it after one day.

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??? Stop nagging me! I do what I want! If I’m honest, listening to everyone talk about their writing and their word counts completely puts me off doing my own. I know it’s meant to be inspiring and encouraging, and for many people it works brilliantly to be writing with others. That's great! Doesn't really work for me though. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t. It’s completely irrational, but that’s just how it is. Maybe I’m just too much of a loner to really embrace a communal effort.

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

1 comment:

  1. I agree that 50 000 words isn't a novel and what's the point if you have to chuck half of those away because you just wanted to meet a number? I'm not expecting to reach 50 000 and I won't feel like I've failed if I don't. I'm using it as a way to meet new people and at least try to write something every day, even just a little bit.