So..I finally did it. I wrote over 50,000 words in one month. It was an incredible feeling to see that stat counter finally go green (Scrivener) and purple (NaNoWriMo website). To me, it represents something I thought I couldn’t achieve this year, because time was running out and I hadn’t got a clear idea of where the stories I wanted to tell were going. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a plan – you can fly by the seat of your pants and end up somewhere near the end with a jumble of plot, dialogue and the ‘bones’ of a story – all in one month. I mean, I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go, and begun by reworking a story I had already written a few chapters of – I started again completely with that, and it took me somewhere different this time. Fiction writing seems to be an organic thing, something that is alive and could go in many different directions. Sure, it could go that way, but today it has decided to go this way. That is the beauty of not excessively planning a novel. National Novel Writing Month is precisely for this kind of writing – just getting the idea down, giving yourself permission to just write without worrying about whether a sentence works – it doesn’t matter because it takes you a sentence closer to writing ‘The End’.
I’m sorry to say that although I reached 50,000 words, I didn’t exactly write ‘The End’ but I’m plodding through that last chapter or two so by the middle of the month I’ll have a complete manuscript ready for adding to, editing, revamping and smoothing over. There are plot holes as big as America, but I’m sure I’ll manage to sort it out eventually. You can tell my inner editor is gagging to be let out of the dungeon I sent it to. I suppose because I’m serious about wanting to come up with a coherent novel, it did take me longer than I thought it would, because I was concerned about actually having something that made a bit of sense, and had a rough plot structure and character development and story arcs. I’m fairly sure that I wrote some horrendously clichéd metaphors and similes, and there is a lot of repetition of phrases going on, but I’m happy with the outcome so far. This is further than I’ve ever gotten with a novel, and I’m excited about how it will develop and change over time.
There’s not much a book about writing can tell you about the process of writing that you can’t learn as you go along, when you’re actually doing the writing. The important thing is to get that story onto paper or onto a screen, without worrying so much about the finer points. It has taught me to not get so hung up on one or two sentences that I think are rubbish, and above all it has taught me to keep going, even when things are going so slowly one day, that you only manage to write 100 words in four hours. At least you’ve written something! Writing isn’t easy, even though anyone can do it if they want to put their mind to it and put in the effort. I think the problem comes when you have to learn to take constructive criticism, to not take things too personally, to understand that in the pursuit of a dream, there are going to be very cold black holes, where you stare into the abyss and wonder what it’s all for. This year, some months have been agony – I had a business plan, I thought I knew what I was doing month by month, but it is only November where I have finally unblocked myself and understood that writing is just that – writing. You put in the effort each day and hope that something comes out of it. It’s fine if it doesn’t because there are going to be bad days, rubbish articles, crap paragraphs of prose, silly poetry. But when you get a beautiful sentence, a stunning paragraph, a poetic story – it is all worth the digging in the mud to find the diamonds.
It’s strange how you can lose touch with what made you want to do something in the first place. NaNoWriMo has given that back to me – given back that love of writing that I lost sometime around June when I finished the Open University course. Part of that was overcoming the fear that I wouldn’t write something worth reading – which is something that all writers go through, at some point. It’s funny how we love to write and love the stories and characters that come out of that work, but then have this horrible panic that what we’ve written is rubbish. I mean, even if it is kind of rough, that’s okay, because first drafts usually are rough and need a lot of work before they’re readable. Over time, you’ll start developing your own voice, and it becomes more obvious that this is something you’ve written, and you’ve got your own style. I think that comes with time and experience, and when you stop worrying too much about what other people think. There is a time for worrying about the reader, and that isn’t when you’re writing something, even if you have a reader or target audience in mind.
So yeah, I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m hoping that this time next year, I’ll have a finished manuscript. I hope that if you did NaNoWriMo you enjoyed the journey, wherever you went.
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~ Sylvia Plath