The week after our holiday, I thought, “What am I going to do for NaNoGenMo this year?” and then thought, “one of the reasons I do NaNoGenMo is to avoid thinking about why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo when I’ve wanted to write a novel for almost my entire life”. So I did.
I went into this without any real plan, just a daily word target and a couple of ideas I’d been thinking about for a while. The first week I spent writing a short story about addiction, recovery, schoolboy crushes, religion and maths; for the rest of the month, I was writing an irregularly-shaped mass which, with some expansion and redrafting, could become Autodidacts Anonymous, a short novel about a self-help group for cranks and internet obsessives, which I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years.
I’ve never attempted to write fiction on this scale before. Here is what it felt like.
ME [for several years, to myself]: “why, X would be a good subject for a novel!”
MY WRITING TARGET [every day, for a month, in SpongeBob SquarePants’ most annoying voice]: “HEY DO YOU STILL THINK X IS A GOOD SUBJECT FOR A NOVEL? WELL DO YA? DO YA?”
If you have an idea for a novel, and you think the answer will ever be “no”, don’t start. Other things I noticed:
- Writing at this scale has momentum, which is kind of relaxing, but also means that it has a wide turning circle if it goes somewhere you weren’t expecting. But that’s fun, too.
- Budget for 2,000 words a day, even if your calculations say 1,666. Because there will be days when you can’t write.
- Scrivener is good software.
- I didn’t sign up or do anything on the social/official side of NaNoWriMo because that seemed like a distraction.
- November is a bad month in which to write a novel, at least in Australia. Day jobs get that weird blend of panic and torpor as accounting deadlines loom, people go on leave and the schedule fills up with parties. And it’s too hot.
- The only people I know who know what NaNoWriMo is are online people so explaining it to other friends and family got repetitive.
- It’s good when someone asks you for the elevator pitch.
I’m really glad that I did this: now the question I ask myself is no longer, “can I write a novel?” It’s “can I write a good novel?”