I have decided to participate in the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I learnt about it a couple of days before it began and thought it might be way to focus myself on writing more regularly, something that i have been working on and had varied success with so far. Up until this point in the last 6 months since i seriously decided to take up writing again and actually try to do something with it i have written in short intensive bursts with large gaps in between. This process has gotten me to a point where i have a decent jump start on the beginnings of a novel that i have a fairly decent outline for and a half finished short story that i had begun in mid October.
I had realised that years ago when i first attacked the idea of being a writer and had written up a manuscript of approximately 70,000 words, i was writing much more regularly than i have been. Back then i was writing something almost every day. This was partly helped by my then job as the front of house in a small chinese restaurant. I was it out the front and so when there was unfilled downtime (it did mostly take away business, so a fair bit every shift) i would sit at the desk near the kitchen door and write. In hindsight the owner was kind of relaxed and didn’t ever say anything about me sitting and writing while i was at work. The upshot was that i wrote at least a little on most days and kept myself in a pretty good habit of adding to my manuscript.
I had been thinking about these things and feeling that while it’s great to write when inspiration hits, and I’m usually quite productive when I’m writing during those times, it may take a very long time to get anything significant finished (like a whole novel). I was also realising how easy it was to get distracted, sidetracked or just to put it off in favour of other things. Like any good relationship i felt that i really needed to be making time for writing rather than just doing it when it was most obvious that i should.
So. #NaNoWriMo. Its 50,000 words in a month challenge spoke to me in some way and i decided to give it a shot. I hoped for two things going into it.
1. That i would get some writing done this month.
2. That i might connect with some other writers out there in some way.
There are precious few people in my life that see my writing in any more than the “It’s nice that you have a hobby” frame, so the second one was just as appealing as the first.
My goals going in? I kept them modest and have kept them that way. My aim is to have completed my short story by the end of this month. Anything else beyond that to be considered a bonus.
(Though i do admit to some moments of fantasising about having a completed novel by the end of November).
I have always used word count to some degree as an “I’ve done something and am making progress” indicator, but it’s always been for me about the quality of what those words are doing than just pure numbers. So the fact that my word count so far this month is only a little over 2,000 doesn’t bother me. My story has progressed, and I have discovered some deeper emotional subtexts in the original piece that i began and so I’m happy with what i have written so far.
I have been thinking about my stories more and working on them more regularly. My expanded goal is to continue any momentum i build up this month and take it with me.
The second part of my goal has been quite successful. I engaged with the NaNoWriMo hashtag on twitter (before now i was a fairly inconsistent twitter user) and amazingly have made some connections and had conversations with a bunch of other writers from around the globe. An experience that i have found quite satisfying. Although, receiving follows from people who have actually had books published does sometimes make a part of me feel like a fraud for having ‘writer’ in my twitter bio.
I also recently discovered that taking myself out of my normal space can be a productive move. I went to attend a local write in at a library and found that nobody else appeared to have showed up. I went in search of a coffee and decided that i had been going to write today so i set up shop in the cafe and went at it. An hour and a half later i had banged out a touch over 1000 good words and discovered something new about the story i was writing. I think that i will do that more often now. I do feel that part of the success of it was that being an introvert i hate sitting in public on my own without looking like i have something to do. Writing gave me something to do.
Conclusion. So far so good. I’m fairly sure that i won’t meet the 50,000 word point that i need to “win” on the NaNoWriMo website. But so far it has been a positive experience for me that has seen me focus more seriously on what it is that i wish to do and if i ever want to get to the point of ‘Writer’ being my actual occupation then, that is the first step.