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Sunday, 3 November 2013

NaNoWriMo- my initial impressions

I am typing this with one finger, very slowly. The reason? NaNoWriMo has broken me.

From a flying start on Friday night (if you don't count the dashed-out prologue to break the ice on Friday morning) to a solid effort on Saturday, punctuated with 500-word sprints in between cups of tea and housework and schoolwork, to a still-enthusiastic if slightly ridiculous Sunday morning effort, I'm shattered.

My vision is slightly blurry and I keep bumping into things, my neck hurts and my bottom is completely sofa-shaped. The boys are feeling neglected already (although they have had more frequent short walkies than usual) and I have a ringing in my head from too much caffeine. I'm a mess.

But I'm loving it.

This feels like flying. Even as I'm struggling to switch off my inner editor, the rush of my fingers over the keyboard feels liberating. Don't stop. Don't look back. Fix that later. Polish it in December.

I've never written like this before. Normally, I'm a Pantser, following my characters on their journey and nudging them towards an ending that I may or may not have decided in advance with little idea of how they'll get there. Normally, I want my first draft to be perfect and so I constantly reread what I have written, tweaking, tidying, clarifying until I'm ready to move on. It works for me. This is so different. At most, I'm reading what I wrote in the last session and fixing typos. I think planning so thoroughly in advance has removed the need to fiddle with the plot. I don't need to go back and foreshadow anything because I already knew it was going to happen before I even typed the words.

And- my goodness- have there been a lot of words! In three days I've written the amount that normally would have taken me a month. And, fair play, tidying this up will take a bit more effort because I'm not doing it as I go, but I can worry about that next month, when these fizzing-hot words have had time to cool (and my fingers and brain have recovered).

I'm a fairly self-motivated person: I set my own goals and challenges and don't usually need someone on my case to push me into making progress (although the fact that everyone can see my word count on the bar top-right is definitely a motivating factor). Once I've made up my mind to do something, I do it. Simple. But this is huge. And awesome.

When I first had the idea for this story, I wrote it in about 10,000 words. Then I realised it was bigger. When I realised just how much bigger it had the potential to be, I got scared. I ran away for a while. I wrote other things. It tickled away at the back of my mind in between every other story I wrote from October to May. Every time I tried to get my head round it, I freaked out. It was just too big and too important. I didn't know where to start with breaking it down and fleshing out the basic plot with all the other elements that needed to be there, and so I didn't. For months. For once, I needed a push.

Then I decided to do NaNoWriMo.  I took a deep breath. I spent a week analysing what made my initial idea compelling and added bits in where they felt right. I had new ideas, and I added them in too. My dining room table looked like this:

Then this:

Then this:

Looking at all those post-its felt exciting and fresh. Rather than rehashing and stressing over every paragraph, I'd write it again, from scratch, better than ever and with a clearer goal. I couldn't wait to start. I even got up extra early on Friday morning to write, so I would have something to continue when I got home from work. And, when I started typing, it felt right this time.

What had felt like an elephant-sized task was now simple. One chapter a day. Just write up the notes scribbled on the post it. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I do like to measure success, and every chapter, every extra hundred words feels tangibly like a step closer to my goal. Whether I hit 50,000 words by November 30th (though I'm pretty sure I will) The Hungry-Man will be finished and published by the end of the year. The novel I've been faffing about with for a year will be complete and available to read.

So, my initial impressions of NaNoWriMo? Best thing I ever signed up for.

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