I see from the many posts about NaNoWriMo that there is a summer version happening right now – they have called it ‘Summer Camp’ which doubtless resonates with American readers more than us Brits.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of NaNoWriMo*, basically you write 50,000 words of a novel** in a month. If successful, you can proudly print out a certificate to say you did it and can legitimately use the artwork you see to your right on my sidebar. There’s no other reward save for the satisfaction of knowing that you can write an amazing amount of a novel in just 30 days. Just starting it is a huge achievement in itself.
For a daystreaming procrastinator like myself, last year’s NaNoWriMo was the kick I needed to start BATDIG. I was actually writing another novel and, despite the reams of notes, had fallen into the classic ‘First Chapter Paralysis’ trap. I had also discovered the equally tricky ‘Last Chapter Paralysis’. So, I had a beginning, edited about fifty times and an ending, edited about fifty times. Just no middle. Now, this might not be a bad thing but this particular story needs its middle the way a chocolate-covered chocolate sponge cake needs a filling of say, chocolate buttercream. No matter how I tried, the main characters just refused to show me the way. I needed to take drastic action.
That’s when I heard about NaNoWriMo one morning, on the radio. I signed up that night with two hours to go to the start. The following day, I began to write another novel. That would show those pesky main characters!
I feel a little guilty about them now. They have remained, frozen at the moment that November 1st 2011 came along and took their creator away to a different universe where there are yellow packages and something happens at nine twenty five one morning around St Paul’s cathedral. They are frozen still, as I find out who did what that fateful morning in London. But I hope that they will have learnt their lesson when I return to them sometime in the Autumn.
One of the most helpful things I found about NaNoWriMo was the graph that showed you how many words you had written and how many you had to go. I have started to create a Microsoft Excel tool that will draw a similar graph but will read the file(s) associated with your novel automatically, without you having to cut and paste text into anything. Then, you can see at a glance how you are progressing. I found knowing the number of words I had written in one day really useful. I now know that I can write 5100 words if push comes to shove, in fact I reckon I can do better. Before NaNoWriMo, I wouldn’t have had a clue.
Above all else, if you like writing, irrespective of whether you want to try to make a living out of it or not, NaNoWriMo is fun. There are daily messages to give you inspiration and it doesn’t matter if you don’t reach the 50,000 word target. Starting to do it is the main thing. 1,666 doesn’t sound a lot of words a day but actually after a day of working at a ‘real’*** job, 10 words can be a trial.
Sometimes, starting is the most difficult thing to do. Sometimes, ending proves to be the obstacle. Occasionally, unlike chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream filling, the middle is the hardest thing to deal with.
However, just like I know NaNoWriMo will be there, beckoning in November for my attention, I know my characters from ‘The Writing House’ will still be waiting for me when I return to them. I just hope they’re feeling more cooperative!
*NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month, pronounced na-noo-reee-mooo (or nah-noh-reh-moh if you live in Boston, MA).
** An original novel, I mean. It isn’t just a typing contest or a test to see who knows how to copy and paste the contents of an e-book.
*** By which I mean, one that pays now rather than one that will pay one day, honest.