So first off, I should probably explain what #Nanowrimo is, for those who might not have come across the term before. National Novel Writing Month has, amazingly, been a thing since 1999, and a registered non-profit organisation since 2005. The idea is to write a (50,000 word) novel in a month – not publication ready, but just to get a first draft out of your brain and onto paper, virtual or otherwise. It’s a surprisingly big deal and there are people who have taken that first draft and successfully published, so just because you are writing quickly it, doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be any good.
I think I properly became aware of #nanowrimo last year, probably at almost exactly this time, i.e. 2/3 of the way through November, the month of writing. It sounded like a good idea, I mean how hard could it be really? And then I buddied with @Debsdespatches, as a mutual New Years’ Resolution, and we set out some writing aspirations and eventually went on to co-found Fiction Can Be Fun. I’d set myself the target of writing a novel in a about 15-16 months (there was a specific reason for this, and no, I’m not going to share that reason). Nine months later and whilst I was further on than if I’d not set the goal, I really didn’t have significant progress to show, which was a shame, but a reflection on life in the round. #Nanowrimo loomed and thought about knuckling down to do some serious writing.
People talk about ‘winning’ #nanowrimo, by which they mean completing their 50k words in the month – that means writing at a rate of ~1667 words per day. This is not undoable, but bear in mind that most people joining in also have a day job. Bear the number in mind, we’ll come back to that later. In a nut shell, I looked at that number and decided that it was unfeasible, this year at least.
And then I saw this article, via twitter. “YOUR VERY BEST = NaNo WIN”. Well, 50k might not be doable, but surely I could do something? If you have been following along on the other blog, you might have seen my #secondthoughts post on #1linewed. (In a nutshell, I outed myself as shamelessly subverting the form of #1linewed, by using it as a prompt to kick-start scenes for the book that I really will get written one of these days). It occurred to me that perhaps I could use #Nanowrimo to get started on building on the #1linewed contributions that I’d been submitting over the last few months. I even went so far as to pull all the lines into one document and have a look at which had been the most popular. (For the record, my most popular to date was ” ‘I’m of the belief that people drinking other people’s coffee should be careful of the comments they make’, Terry said, pointedly.”*). My plan, as far as it went was to write a scene a day, or about 500 words, whatever, I could manage. @IsaLeeWolf was very encouraging (curse her), but given that she decided to work on two projects at once**, I can probably ignore her as being a dubious advisor.
*If you are interested, Terry is the Office Manager, and an ex-Sergent-Major, from the Royal Logistics Corp. He runs a tight team, and does not take kindly to people drinking his coffee…
** At least, that was the plan until the US Presidential election. As an active member of the Rebel Alliance (against an emperor closer to Pee-Wee Herman*** than Palpatine), I’m not sure how much time she’s had for writing. But then she is a pro, so she’s probably typing faster with one hand than I can with two and running Rogue One via Twitter with the other.
***Do feel free to suggest an alternative suggestion. PWH just came to me as I was writing, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a PWH film.
Shameless self-promotion mode/
Digressing, very slightly but in a relevant kind of way, earlier in the year I was talking to @funsizesuze about a different project to the current one, and she said that I should contribute to a #bookspring the @MarkLorch was organising. I was clearly more enthusiastic than I realised when talking to Suze, because the next thing I knew, Mark was emailing, and was even prepared to let me Skype in, because I wasn’t sure that I could make the date. #Booksprints, as the name suggests, happen quickly. The aim here was to write a book in a weekend, which, by and large, we did.
The book is called ‘The Missing Science of Superheroes’ and you can find out more about here (which includes links to the Twitter Moments I made from everyones’ tweets on Day 1 and Day2). What was truly amazing is that one of the contributors wrote not one but two blogposts. I’ll make sure that there is a link on the blog when the book gets published next year!
But why mention this here, when I’ve been angst-ing about #nanowrimo? DO you recall that ~1667 words that you need to write per day to ‘win’? Well, for the #booksprint I had to go up to Manchester for a weekend a knock-out my chapter in a room with all the other contributors – which was surprisingly fun, different and something I recommend any writer to try at least once. Initially I’d been told a chapter length of 3000 words, but in the briefing on Day 1, 5000 was suddenly being bandied around. The average word length in the English language is 5 characters long (although you can imagine that something a bit technical might require a few long words – muscular hydrostat bumped up my character count a bit). Add an extra character for the space between words, a few characters here and there for punctuation and suddenly you’re talking about ~35,000 characters to type. If you’re looking at a typical working day (8 hours) then that comes to about 1875 characters per hour or 31.25 minute. You need some breaks in there though, and did I mention that I had not completed all my research before I started writing? Eeep. I was quite impressed with myself – I managed to write over 5000 words, although the chapter wasn’t quite finished. (By the time I’d filled all the gaps, and done a little light editing, the chapter was over 6000 words, including references, title, abstract and section headings).
Recently, I wrote a short story for FCBN (What did you send?) and I managed to do that in under an hour – writing, light editing, posting. I had done a lot of thinking about, and the story flowed very easily once I started writing it.
/end shameless self promotion mode
So, about this #Nanowrimo. My apologies, but I’ve ducked it, for this year at least. My very best wishes go out to all those writing away on their novels – if you have some spare time then do go and check out #nanowrimo and send some poor writer some comfort and cheer. What I have realised is that whilst I could give this a go, at this point in time I don’t have structure to my days, nor yet the energy, to sustain even 500 words a day for a month. When I get the time, when the muse is upon me, then 500 words is easy. This post is a substantial way to words 1667 words, and I’ve done some other writing tonight. But there are some other things that haven’t got done, and there’s only so much of that the system will take. So the good news is, that whilst I need to figure out a way to fit enough time in to each day to do some writing that I want to do, I know that it is achievable. And there’s always next year for #nanowrimo…