November, aka NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It’s a month where budding writers sign up online and commit to writing – or at least trying to write – 50,000 words of their novels. That’s 1,667 words a day. Easy right? Well…
This year was the first time I’d signed up to the challenge. This year finally, after years of saying I wanted to write a book but didn’t have a clue what it would be about, I had an idea for a novel. It’s an idea that’s been playing on my mind for months now; an idea which started off as a joke as things played out in my life and I thought “I should turn that into a book,” but it soon snowballed into a fully blown outline of a novel, with characters that just won’t leave me alone no matter how hard I try and forget about them. Now everything I observe in life, everything I experience, overhear or am told about by friends and family is a potential plotline for my book; every person I meet inspiration for my characters.
Earlier this year, during a rare burst of confidence at YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) I pitched my idea to a literary agent, who surprised me by responding more positively than I ever imagined. That motivated me into refining my idea and tailoring it more to a young adult audience, building on the thoughts I already had. I figured there was no excuse not to enter NaNoWriMo this year and make a good start on my novel, and so on 2nd November, a little bit late like the professional procrastinator that I am, I signed up and was ready to embark on just under a month of plotting, planning and writing.
Except…well unfortunately, like most things in my life, it didn’t turn out like I planned. November was a busy and stressful month personally and professionally, with a hectic social calendar, hospital appointments while my mum prepared to start her cancer treatment and important work meetings (excuses, I got ‘em!) At one point, after entering a measly number of words onto the NaNoWriMo website, I was not-so-helpfully informed that taking into account the speed I was currently writing, I would finish my novel in 2031. Great.
This at least spurred me on to write a little bit quicker – let’s face it, I couldn’t go much slower – but still, by the end of November, I’d written 5,068 words, 44,932 shy of target. It’s not great I know, but despite not reaching the holy grail of 50,000 words, I wasn’t disheartened and in fact, as December rolled around, I was more inspired than ever. This past week has been full of spidergrams, name lists, timelines, character plotting and sourcing images of hairstyles, clothes, houses and almost anything else you can think of. I may not have written my 50,000 words yet, but my book is certainly more advanced than it was at the start of November. Now I’m using my lunch breaks and train journeys (when I’m not napping of course) to plot the finer details and to start writing sections of chapters.
By the time the challenge rolls around next year, I hope to have finally finished my book, and I’m now motivated to do so. To all the other writers out there who didn’t meet the target for one reason or another – don’t be downhearted. The fact that you want to write and have an idea to write about is success enough in itself. So thank you to NaNoWriMo for inspiring me, and here’s to the next one!