November is National Novel Writing Month – a month when thousands of writers around the world unite in a common goal to produce a 50,000 word novel in a month. Some ‘serious’ writers frown upon this activity – how can one possibly produce anything ‘of value’ in such a short timescale. I admit I was also sceptical at first. My first completed novel took over 3 years to produce and I was impressed that some writers could produce a book a year. But in a month? Impossible! That was what I thought until I tried it!
This time last year I was in a very dark place. A string of family bereavements and pressure at work led me into depression and stress-related stomach problems. My writing output had dropped to zero. Being off work, I had more time on my hands than usual and I stumbled across NaNoWriMo. I’d been dismissive in previous years, but this time I had nothing to lose. I wasn’t working on anything else and I desperately needed something to focus on other than my woes. The germ of an idea came to me from an advert in the classified section of my local paper and it was something with which I was already familiar so research requirements were minimal. With just two weeks to go I had no plan or outline but, what the heck, it cost nothing but my time and I had plenty of that so I signed up.
You can participate in NaNoWriMo for free, it is a voluntary organisation supported by donations but there’s no obligation to donate and no pressure (I did donate before the end of the project but only because I wanted to show my appreciation for the support I’d received). There are no prizes other than a certificate to show you reached your target word-count (actually, there are some other donated freebies and discounts from sponsors as well). You also get tremendous support and encouragement, both on-line and locally, but no one is checking up on you, or pressuring you to complete the project – all you have to provide is the commitment to produce approximately 1700 words a day for 30 consecutive days.
So what did I personally get from it?
The joy of writing freely – without feeling the need to get it right first time (which no first draft ever is no matter how hard one tries!)
A tremendous start to my new novel – I completed the target but didn’t finish the first draft for another two months (80,000 words). I’m still editing and polishing but it’s almost finished and that’s just fine. It’s still taken less than one year to near-completion!
A new method of working that suits me well – this approach of getting it all written first and then going back and improving has really worked for me and is an approach I shall always adopt going forward. I’ve also learned that I definitely write better with a deadline!
There’s also a wonderful sense of achievement in overcoming a tough challenge – many fall by the wayside!
The discovery that I can really write anywhere and don’t need a special room, or desk, or place, or pen (I rarely use a pen these days anyway!) – I even managed a few thousand words with my iPad balanced on my lap in the passenger seat of a car travelling down the M4.
Some lasting friendships – I attended the local NaNoWriMo meetings during November run by a marvellous Municipal Liaison (ML) volunteer, Jaywalker, and made some great new writing friends with whom I naturally have a lot in common: Some of us even formed a mutually supportive group with the aim of finishing our novels and publishing them. We meet every 3 weeks and have kept each other going through the highs and lows of creating our novels.
Self confidence in my writing – as I said above, last year I found myself at an all time low. So much so that I’d stopped writing and even worse, stopped believing in myself. Participating in NaNoWriMo last year gave me back that self-belief!
So what are you waiting for? Why not sign up now and give it a go?
You’ll find all you need to know here: www.nanowrimo.org