Monday, 15 February 2016

February is Not National Novel Writing Month

A few weeks ago I was determined - for reasons I'm sure we'll come back to one of these days - to try and write the first draft of a novel in the space of about a month.  Like, the whole thing, start to finish, in one month or thereabouts.  Wouldn't that be something?  Maybe not necessarily a good something, but it would certainly be one to cross off the bucket list, assuming that your bucket list consisted primarily of masochistic writing challenges.  Which is to say that I realised it wasn't such a great idea, for me or for the book, and one month ended up spreading into just under two.  That still being, I feel the need to point out, pretty damn quick for writing the entire first draft of a novel!  I mean, at times like this I need to remind myself that the first draft of Giant Thief took me something like three years...

If we're talking in National Novel Writing Month terms, however, I should be more than up to the challenge.  This last couple of weeks I've been writing between 2000 and 3000 words a day, and that's set to err towards the higher end for the rest of the month, now that the final proofs of The Sign in the Moonlight and Other Stories are out of the way.  My capacity for getting the words down has been steadily rising ever since I began writing full time, with no noticeable drop-off in quality, and I'm also getting more comfortable with writing flat out for longer periods, at least partly because I'm getting better at organising my days.  My pre-planning has also improved by leaps and bounds, to the point where I'm able to just get on and write without too much risk of growing severely stuck or having to go back and make significant changes.  On which front, I'm also much more confident in my ability to remember what I got wrong in the first draft and fix it in the second.  In short, its definitely been a confluence of factors that's brought my daily word count up to this level - which, as a friend recently pointed out, is still small potatoes for a lot of writers, but for me is quite an achievement.

I suppose that I'm mentioning this, here and now, because a small part of me has been wondering ever since I first heard of NaNoWriMo whether I'd ever be capable of writing a novel in a month - or rather of writing 50'000 words in a month, since as I've inadvertently illustrated, the two are far from being necessarily the same thing.  By the end of February, unless something goes terribly wrong, it looks as though I'll have proved to myself that the answer is yes - with the sizable proviso that it took me years of honing my technique, not to mention packing in my day job, to get to this point.

I'm not sure what the moral is here, except to say that I'm a little bit more convinced than I already was that if you're serious about becoming a professional writer then NaNoWriMo isn't the most productive of exercises.  Because, yes, I could have just written this fast eight or whatever years ago, when I was just starting out, and maybe I could have even managed 50'000 words in a month without my face exploding, but would I have learned even a tenth of what I've learned doing it the long way?  I think not.  Which isn't to say that NaNoWriMo can't be a meaningful or a fun exercise - plenty of people have assured me that it is, and why would they lie? - just that I'm not persuaded it's a shortcut past years of graft, because I'm not convinced that any such shortcut exists.  Then again, perhaps I'm the only one who ever imagined it was supposed to be, and I'm entirely missing the point.

On a side note, in the actual National Novel Writing Month, November, I'll be writing - assuming my schedule hasn't changed in the meantime, of course - a measly forty thousand words or so, meaning that, in the first year I might have seriously considered giving it a go, I still won't.  But who knows?  Maybe in 2017!

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