50,000 words and thirty days later after my fourth year of National Novel Writing Month I can finally relax - and reflect on what I’ve learned this time round.
In case it has somehow escaped your attention, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun approach to creative writing. 310,095 participants started the challenge on November 1, 2014, beginning working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. The organisers say ‘valuing enthusiasm, determination and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.’ (See http://nanowrimo.org/about )
Stephen King once said ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.’
The first bit is easy, as I always have several books on the go at once – it’s the ‘write a lot’ bit that can cause the problem, particularly during an unusually mild autumn in the run up to Christmas. I’d also made it harder for myself by choosing historical fiction as my genre – and deciding it would be OK to launch my new novel The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham at the same time!
I started researching in September, sorting out timelines, making notes and gathering references for nearly two months. I also created a fairly detailed outline and made key decisions, such as point of view, voice, where and when it would start - before I wrote a word. What I didn't do was worry about the characters or dialogue, as I like to keep my creative options open during NaNoWriMo.
I’m not a 'night owl' when it comes to writing, as I'm what they call a ‘lark,’ which means I wake early, my head full of ideas for plot and characters, so I made a rule to write as much as I could first thing, then had the rest of the day to reach the rest of my target. I learned on previous NaNoWriMo challenges NOT to try to finish on the 30th, as it's important to have space to catch up if you need it. I therefore trued to exceed my target by just a hundred words each day until I was a full day ahead.
Dealing with Social Media during November
In previous years I admit to being distracted by social media and trying to keep up with blog posts, so this time I made good use of the Buffer app (see https://bufferapp.com/app) which posts your tweets for you which you carry on writing. I am also grateful to friends who kindly guested here on my blog throughout November, enabling me to focus on my writing.
One of the best things about NaNoWriMo is the international community of like-minded writers. I have to thank author Monica La Porta (@momilp) for making me realise it is possible to finish way ahead of time – and inspirational writer Sarah Dahl (@sarahdahl13) for an impressive early finish on Friday the 28th which motivated me to really try hard and do the same.
Now, as they say, the hard work starts.... Happy writing!