So I’ve just finished taking part in National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo, and I can proudly say that I am a 2015 winner! The challenge requires you to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November, which equates to 1,667 words a day to reach the daily target. It’s safe to say that I have NEVER written such a lengthy piece in my life – the closest thing probably being my 10, 000 word dissertation in my final year of university. NaNoWriMo was introduced to me by my friend, who has taken part in previous years before. We decided to motivate each other to hit the target, and ended up getting quite competitive! We’d often reach way over the target word count for the day after checking each other’s word counts on the NaNoWriMo site before quickly slamming out another 1000 words to beat them.
In the first few days, I was already worrying about reaching the daily word counts and the final goal of 50,000 felt unachievable and just incomprehensible to me. However, I soon found the daily ritual of writing weirdly addictive. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I would often wait around like Isaac Newton for inspiration to hit me on the head like an apple. The main thing I have learnt first-hand from taking part in NaNoWriMo is that writing should almost be treated like a 9-5 job. To quote Stephen King:
‘“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
When I first read this in On Writing I wasn’t sure that I fully agreed with King; surely all writers have to wait for some inspiration or the next grand novel idea to hit them like the apple? However, I’ve since realised that ‘waiting for inspiration’ was always just an excuse that I would give myself for not keeping up with writing. I started NaNoWriMo with just a brief novel idea, and a small amount of planning. Previously, I have always just jumped straight into the writing once I have an idea, and this usually results in an incomplete piece of fiction that I never return to. So for NaNoWriMo, I decided to take the time to plan properly, so that I wouldn’t risk the feared writer’s block! Using the forums for some ideas, I decided to use Lazette Gifford’s ‘Phase Outline’ technique which involves writing little bullet point ‘phases’ that are usually around 20 words long. In these phases, you simply outline whaNaNo-2015-Winner-Certificate-Fullt is happening in that section. When it comes to writing the phase up, you then add in all the detail and dialogue etc. so a phase that’s 20 words long, soon becomes 200-500 words and so forth. I found this to be a really effective technique for someone like me, who always gets a sudden writing block after jumping in too early and then struggles to see where the story is headed. Using this technique even led me to discover that I’d put in a red herring unknowingly, which then tied up the end of the novel perfectly!
Clearly, writing in such a quick amount of time has no doubt left me with a hefty amount of editing to do once I’m ready to face the words again, but hopefully this will all be part of the fun! It’s safe to say that NaNoWriMo has changed my ability to write for the better. Although the standard is nowhere near up to scratch yet, this challenge has flung me face-forward into writing again, and for this I am so grateful.