It’s Day 11 of the NaNoWriMi challenge, and Maggie Womersley feels a bit like a sentence sausage factory, but not entirely in a bad way.
As you read this I will going for the burn - the NaNoWriMo burn that is - struggling to repair the damage that a weekend of fun away from the laptop has wrought on what was, until Friday, a rather muscular word count.
I’m currently 3,000 words down on my overall target, which means that tomorrow morning I’ll have to knock out a blistering 4,600 before I leave the house at midday to pick Dexter up from his nursery. A tall order for any writer, but especially one with a plumber coming round at ten to install a new dishwasher, and no edible food left in the house. Yes, I know that before I started this I said that I wouldn’t become one of those saddos obsessed with their daily word count, but thanks to NaNoWriMo, I have been forced to eat my words – although not literally, because I’m going to need every last syllable if I’m going to reach 50,000 by the 30th of November.
Of course you could look on the bright side and congratulate me for having written 15,000 words in just over ten days, which actually isn’t too shabby. If I carry on at this cracking pace I could have the first draft of a standard length novel completed by the end of the year. Except of course, I won’t. Not really. Because I can’t help feeling that even though I am writing, I am writing more like a robot than a human being, churning out the simplest plots, characters and language just to keep the momentum going. Which kind of goes against my writing grain.
Before I began this process, the novel I wanted to write – a time-travel thriller which also had something meaningful to say about contemporary society - was like a gleaming jewel in my mind’s eye, untarnished by the reality of any actual writing. However the reality is that now I’m in the middle of writing it, I just feel grumpy and full of despair that the writing isn’t living up to the imagined ideal. But isn’t that how most writers feel when they’re slogging up hill with a new book? At least with the NaNoWriMo challenge I’m speeding up that painful process. I’ve had to stop pussy-footing around my precious inspiration and I don’t have time to fine-tune every sentence before moving on to compose the next. I don’t even have time for research, which lets me off the hook for not reading A Brief History of Time – thank goodness. In short, what NaNoWriMo does is devalue good writing in favour of lots of writing and in some ways that is magnificently liberating when you’re working on a first draft.
Some other things I’ve learnt over the last ten days:
- Having your dishwasher break down during NaNoWriMo is a blessing in disguise - those extended interludes at the sink, day-dreaming out of the window in my Marigolds, have brought valuable inspiration and time to wrestle with time-travel conundrums. (Although I’m still glad the new machine arrives tomorrow).
- Joining Twitter and following a couple of much-admired professional authors has been both thrilling and disturbing in equal measure – it seems they also get writers’ block and go shopping – weird!
- Reading something pacey before bed is also helping – in my case it’s Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman –and it’s inspiring me to switch point of view every time I run out of writing juice.
- I can actually become immersed in writing with the soundtrack to CBeebies booming out from across the room, but having my husband sitting in the chair directly behind me, reading out snippets from the Sunday papers is definitely a no-no.
- Being part of the NaNoWriMo on-line community is actually rather comforting. I haven’t had time to download any of the pep talks but I really like fiddling about with the wordometer on my personalised novel page.
- It’s been great to share inspirations and encouragement with others undertaking the challenge, even if a certain someone (Cordelia, I mean you!) does insist on posting her ENORMOUS, expanding word-count on Facebook every half an hour! Seriously though, it peps me up to have a little bit of light competition.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll wrap this blog up for the night. There might just be time to spew forth another couple of hundred before bed, and I still haven’t quite worked out how my villain manages to bring back the key to the whole mystery from the future ….hmmm, isn’t it something to do with a butterfly breaking wind? Or have I got that a bit mixed up?