The month of November is the home of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. As the organisation’s own website explains, “Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.” The idea is that you pledge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. The outcome, if you achieve it, is that you have written all or most of a novel. A whole novel. In a month. Go you! It is, by all accounts, a fantastically motivating way to write; surrounded by others all doing the same, all around the world, you feel as if you are part of a wider cause, not writing in isolation.
I first learned of NaNo from G Benson when we met in Lesvos earlier this year. She’d already done it for the last couple of years, and extolled its virtues with a huge smile on her face. She’s doing it again this year, as are many other authors and want-to-be authors I know.
I did fully intend to do it too, but I’m not. Making the decision to pull out in the last week of October was hard. I’d got really excited about the prospect of writing to such a deadline, never having worked like that before. I loved the idea of being able to share NaNo achievements with all those like-minded people.
However, I had to pull out this year because actually, as it got nearer the deadline to start, I knew, deep down, I wasn’t remotely ready. Due to a combination of factors – my day job, having a couple of nasty flu viruses, general daily life – my plan to have my third novel written by the end of October had drifted (although I did actually finish it last week – yay!). On top of that, we are editing my second novel, Dark Horse, which is due out in February 2017, so obviously I can’t let that slide.
With all of these things converging on the end of October/early November, I had to take the realistic view that NaNo wasn’t going to happen for me in 2016. And then I got upset, and for a day or so, felt like I’d failed in a major goal I’d set myself for the year. It was only when someone at work asked me how my writing was going, and I rattled off what I’d achieved this year, that I sat back and thought, ‘Hang on, why are you beating yourself up over not doing NaNo?!’
Because this year, by my best estimate, I have already written 240,000 words. I have started and finished two novels. Two. In a year. From only beginning my first novel last year, and slowly coming to terms with the fact that I was going to be a published author, I have suddenly found the writing floodgates opening up and a deluge of words spilling forth onto the pages of my MacBook.
So yes, it would have been fun to do NaNo, and interesting to see how I would respond to such target-driven writing, but I’m not going to worry that I didn’t. Because there’s always next year, and it’s not like I’m not writing…
I wish everyone doing NaNo the best with achieving what they want from it – I see you all posting your progress, and I’m so proud of each and every one of you. And next year, I’m hoping I’ll be doing the same, and sharing in the spirit of this wonderful process.