Tomorrow is the start of National Novel Writing Month, that time of the year that writers give themselves a collective, organised deadline in order to encourage, promote and help each other. The aim is to write 50,000 words in a month, which will act as the start of a novel, most of a novel, or a complete work.
I first attempted NaNoWriMo back in 2012, where it became apparent (fairly fast) that I wouldn’t make it to 50,000 words. I think I finished the month closer to 20,000 words, if I’m being generous.
University work and my declining mental health were both contributing factors, but I had a lot of fun writing that story, and elements from it have featured in my later works. It’s cool to know that some of my anxieties, imaginations and thought-processes are consistent enough to be recurring themes.
After moving to Colorado at the end of Summer 2017, I started to wander a little, and needed something to focus on. I knew I wanted to get back into creative writing, as I hadn’t done much since graduating. November rolled around and I thought I’d give NaNoWriMo another go. It had been five years, so surely enough personal growth had occurred for me to be victorious this time?
Well, yes and no. I did finish the 61,000 word novel, but not until just before Christmas. I’ve written about this book before, about how I’m still happy with a lot of the story elements, and that with several redrafts it could be a good slice of fiction. The key takeaway from last year is the idea that I can finish a longterm project with my own discipline, without the fear of a school or professional deadline.
And if I can do it, with all of this mess rattling around my brain, then so can you!
My current project, that YA dystopian novel I’ve been blogging about, is on its third complete draft. I’ve revised some chapters more times than others, but everything has had at least three rewrites, to the point where I’m now waiting on some feedback before I write another (and then submit for querying!)
I’ve decided that whilst I’m waiting for feedback, I’m going to write the opening several chapters of the second book in the series (of a planned four). I’ve been frantically plotting out the story of the last few days, which itself is based on ideas I’ve had swimming around my mind since I started writing the first book. My character arcs are mapped out and I feel as ready for a first draft as I ever will.
I don’t think I’m going to pledge to NaNoWriMo, but seeing everyone gear up to write their 50,000 words has certainly given me the itch, the pull, the drive. My logic, and self-justification, is that by writing the opening “act” of my second book, it will help to inform the next redraft of my first.
If I had the time to attempt the 120,000 words (that will likely make up the first draft of the second book) for NaNoWriMo then I would. However, with podcast editing and the rewriting of the first book, I don’t think I have the time. At least not without neglecting other projects, and I’m currently enjoying the balance of productivity I have going.
This sort-of turned into a bit of an update on my works and that’s not really what I wanted.
What I really want to say is good luck to anyone who is taking part in NaNoWriMo 2018, it’s a lot of fun and the online community can be extremely motivating. Remember to not spend too much time on social media, and if you do, then stick to the NaNoWriMo tags. Although try not to get lost in those either.
Oh, and don’t get angry that people are posting the exact same writing memes over and over again in exchange for thousands of likes and retweets. How do they have time to do that and write their book? They don’t. They’re fishing for an audience that they’ll never be able to provide content for. Just keep your head down and your story will come to life, which is beautiful.
If you’re writing your first novel, don’t put pressure on yourself to hit the 50,000 word mark by the end of November. The point is to show how much you can write if you apply yourself. If that means 10,000 words, then that also means you could write a novel in six months! Which is pretty good going.
Don’t worry if you haven’t meticulously planned your story. I didn’t plan my novel for last year at all, I just followed an idea and fleshed it out along the way. Writing is rewriting, so maybe it’s more important that you put your fingers to the keys for an extended period of time, in order to teach yourself a discipline. That’s certainly what I needed this time last year.
Finally, have some fun with it! NaNoWriMo is a silly, motivational project that we all contribute towards, and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Use it as an opportunity for self-growth, to improve on an area of your writing that you know is lacking a little something.
Struggle to finish projects?
Write something fun that keeps you engaged. You need to prove to yourself that you can finish a project, so maybe this story is just for you.
Struggle with dialogue?
Write an emotive drama. Step out of your genre-fiction comfort zone for a month and return to your fantasy kingdom with the tools for more realistic conversation.
Struggle with world-building?
Write a fictionalised encyclopaedia for NaNoWriMo, there are no limits to what constitutes a story, as long as it’s engaging. Tell the world about a place, its laws, its people, all from the perspective of an archivist.
Struggle with characters?
Tell a micro story with an intense, central protagonist. Keep the world small, with few characters, but give them big, three-dimensional personalities.
Struggle with narrative?
Start with where you want your characters to end up and then ask how/why they got there, and what they had to do to be in that place. Honestly, that’s 90% of stories.
Struggle with self-confidence?
You’ve got this. This year is your year, because last year was mine and it’s your turn now. You are capable of all that you can imagine — That’s storytelling.
Today is Wednesday, October 31st and it’s all a little bit spooky out there today. Also snowy. It snowed.
Tip My Jar?
If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?