Remember, remember, it’s NaNoWriMo
Yay! It’s November. The month when writers globally take part in NaNoWriMo. And no, I’ve not lost my mind. Or talking utter gibberish.
For those of you who don’t know – it’s National Novel Writing Month, where writers get their teeth into a story idea and bash out a novel in a month. Although I’m not taking part in the challenge, I have now surpassed the mid-point of the first draft of my first novel – that’s 54,000 words to you.
In terms of writing endurance, it’s not been such a long journey – I started the first chapter on the 16th September 2013 and I’ve been writing virtually every day since. If I keep up at this rate, I’m hoping to complete the entire first draft by the beginning of December (unless it ends up longer than I expected). By posting this, it means I can’t back out. It’s a challenge I’ve set myself, and you are all witness to it.
Now, you might say that, by pounding away at a keyboard every day, with no real regard to quality, my novel’s not going to be up to much. And you’d be right. You can be certain there’s no way I’d show anyone anything I’ve written up to now. However, as I’ve been far more productive this time than during my first attempt at writing a novel – halting abruptly to an end at 14,000 words – I’m not in any rush to alter my method. I still weep when I think about the energy expended on those words – back in 2011 – for them to be simply locked away, abandoned and unread.
How hard can it be?
Looking back at my original attempt, there were a number of flaws in the methodology of my writing, which meant I was doomed from the beginning:
1. No plotline – I was starting off without any real thought as to where I was heading.
2. No character planning – I wasn’t thinking deeply enough about the characters in my story. I also hadn’t considered how these things would impact events within the story, which led to confusion as I tried to untangle the jumbled mess.
3. Too much exposition – I was constantly explaining instead of showing characters behaviours and motivations, which I was aware would lead to inevitable reader boredom. This was because I didn’t know my characters well enough.
4. Constantly seeking writing perfection – ie. going back to edit and re-edit instead of focusing on the story ahead.
5. Forgetting what I’d already written – as a result, expending time and energy having to check and re-check the story.
6. Failing to set a specific writing time – I was either constantly interrupted or found excuses not to write. I could always ‘do it tomorrow.’
7. Failing to set a specific writing target – if I had writer’s block that day, it gave me an excuse to stop.
8. Getting too involved in a minor character’s story or point of view – sometimes the internal dialogue of my characters were extraneous to the plot. I was constantly veering off at tangents, unsure of what was important (or not) to my story.
Practise makes… er… it better
The hit-and-miss/write it-as-it-comes method is probably why many of us, as novel writers, fail, unless we have particularly amazing memories, imagination and skill. Some people are that lucky. But not me.
After attempting a novel once, it took a long of energy for me to try again. In all honesty, I was disappointed with the way I handled it – I’m a perfectionist, and hate it when things aren’t right. So, basically, I gave up. This time, however, the more pragmatic side of me knows that my first complete book is likely to be less than I want it to be.
Remember when you first wrote a short story? It wasn’t that great, was it? Oh alright, show off. Yours might have been, but mine wasn’t. I had to practise over and over to improve. And I’m still improving now.
If I’m really lucky, my completed novel will be of a publishable standard, but it’s much more likely that it won’t be. Is this a reason to stop? No. The next time I attempt to write a full length book, it will be a much improved experience, because I should have learned from my mistakes.
Not that I’m being negative – I’d love to be published. But if I’m not, I’ll be following that age old adage… If at first you don’t succeed.
Writing a novel isn’t about half measures. It’s about motivation, energy and commitment.