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Maggie Womersley
Maggie Womersley

Maggie grew up in West Sussex and moved to London in her twenties to work as a  film-researcher and then producer in the TV industry. Her credits include Rich Hall’s How the West was Lost, A Perfect Carry On, Royalty Unzipped and To DIY For. She has also made promos for the BBC, Sky TV and certain adult entertainment channels that are best left unmentioned. She is married with one son. In 2007 she completed the Birkbeck MA in Creative Writing. She has recently completed her first novel, Eddie Bain’s House of Horrors. Twitter: @MaggieWomersley

Novel in a Month 3

Today I have the unappealing smugness of the school swot who has handed her homework in early and has nothing to do all weekend except rearrange her Sylvanian Families into appealing tableaux. Except of course that I have to file my report to you first, dear Hub reader. So please excuse me if I don’t hang around too long—there are important jars of buttons to be sorted and fresh Christmas crafting supplies to caress.


So, how did it go? Well the early mornings were a bit of a killer, but not as bad as the couple of occasions when I tried to stay up late to get ahead of the word-countometer – I really can only write words of one syllable after ten o’clock at night, and those wine-fuelled middle chapters were definitely a mistake, even though they seemed to whizz by at the time.


Dexter wasn’t too keen on some of the enforced naps I bribed him into taking so that I could write in the afternoons, and his Dad is pretty sick of mince for supper. So am I, for that matter. Even though doing NaNoWriMo seemed like a pretty good excuse for not doing any cleaning, not leaving the house on wet days, and not getting up early for my driving lessons, life did have to go on, and as always, the writing had to take second place to family life most of the time. On a more positive note I passed my driving-test, welcomed a friend’s new baby into the world, went to an ENORMOUS craft fayre at the NEC, peopled by the STRANGEST sect of odd-balls I’ve ever seen, and saw friends and family most weekends. I’m also up to date with Homeland, The Killing, Masterchef and Rastamouse so my telly viewing hasn’t suffered, you’ll be impressed to hear.


Apart from the satisfaction of completing the task, I would have to say that the end of NaNoWriMo has been a bit of an anticlimax so far. I did enjoy the 20 second film of the NaNoWriMo officiators clapping and cheering me and calling me “Winner!” when I filed my final word-count. It was a bit cultish and Californian, but in a good way, and I do quite like my t-shirt which will come in handy at Pilates as I try and undo the damage that hunching over a laptop for thirty days has done to my posture, but what else have I really got to show for my efforts? Oh yes, a very badly-written first draft of a story that I only got halfway through anyway.


Of course I’ve got no-one to blame but myself for that last part. It was a crazy move to try and write a time-travel thriller set in two different time periods without spending a bit of time plotting out how it was all going to work. In the end I treated the narrative like scenes from a film, concentrated on action and setting and not enough on character. If I did this again I’d make sure I had the whole plot worked out beforehand, rather than diving in blindly, and I’d try and keep the action more compact and let the story come from how the characters react to it. You know, like one of those really wonderful Booker-Prize novels where not much happens, but the characters get all churned-up inside about the not much and become conduits for the great writer’s themes and beliefs. Not Back to the Future meets The Conversation via Twilight, which might sound good as a pitch, but believe you me, is very hard to pull off.


So where do I take it from here?  Well, there are a lot of spelling mistakes to go back and correct and I know that at least one character’s name changes halfway through, so there will be a house-keeping draft to complete for starters. The NaNoWriMo ethos is that you should never read back what you’ve written or edit a single word, which went straight out the window for me on Day Two because I have to read over what I last wrote in order to lure myself back into the story.


Then there’s the question of whether to carry on with it. Should I block out January in my calendar for JanNoWriMo, or would my family revolt? Or should I just go back to the day-job of plodding through the fifth draft of a novel that has taken five years to write, rather than five minutes? Right now, I can’t decide. So I’m off to Hastings for the weekend to look at the sea. What I would say about the NaNoWriMo experience is that it sets you free from all the excuses writers pull out to stop themselves facing up to the fear of the blank computer screen. On the other hand, trying to churn out 50,000 words in 30 days is a bit like being taken to a beautiful location like the Lake District and being told to scale the highest peek without stopping to admire the view. On a bad day, when you really don’t feel like writing, when you’d be better off going for a walk to think your characters through, it’s hard to feel the love for what you’re doing, and I think that’s where I’m at today. I’ve got 50,000 new words in my laptop, but so far, I’m not really feeling the love for all that many of them. Would I do NaNo WriMo again? Hell yes! The positives of the experience outweigh the negatives (apart from all the mince) and 50,000 words is 50,000 words to edit and refine and improve on. Who knows maybe by this time next year I’ll have NaNoWriMo-ed the sequel.




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