In Dreams Awake

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

(Henry David Thoreau)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Joy of Success

  I won NaNoWriMo! And I'm surprised, to be honest, how much that matters to me.

  I did think it was a silly idea, at the start. Write 50,000 words in 30 days? Pfft. Just about possible, I suppose, but why bother? I decided to do it anyway because I've been a bit becalmed, unable to make a couple of story ideas quite work and slowly gnawing off my own fingers in frustration. (I'm typing this with my nose, it's really hard). I thought the deadline, however artificial, might serve to galvanise me into sustained action.

  And it did. Just goes to show, there's more than one way to do this writing thing. It really is an art, not a science. Everyone has their own approach; some plan every detail before they begin the story, some draw extensive character lists, some write in the mornings, some in silence... and others don't. It's fine. If it works for you, don't worry about anyone else. The strange thing about NaNo is that I've had to write in a much more direct, almost banzai way than I usually do, very headlong, and somehow it's worked. I've got the first draft of a novel 65,000 words long, all done in 25 days.

  OK, it will need a lot of revision and editing, there's a lot to change and check. But still, I tried a different approach and it worked, and I would not have bet a bent penny on that happening. Once more I've discovered that I don't know half what I thought I knew. It happens quite a lot, does that. If it keeps happening I might one day learn that I really don't know very much, but don't count on it anytime soon.

  In my last post I said that perhaps the best thing about NaNoWriMo is the number of fellow authors I've met, most of them in my local area of Devon. More than that, they're people I'm comfortable talking with, they're just nice folks, and it's been a genuine pleasure spending time in their company. I really hope to stay in touch with them when November is over - I said that before, too, so forgive me the repetition. It's just that I've had bags of fun. There's been a lot of work, my eyes have ached from strain and I really need a rest, but mostly it's just been a pleasure. And sometimes, when we writers struggle to pull words out of the air or our minds and string them together, that can slip our minds. We forget that it's our passion for words which got us into this writing gig in the first place.

  I have been reminded, so thank you NaNoWriMo, and thank you to everyone in the forums and chat rooms, it's been a blast.

  POSTSCRIPT - the novel is called "Troy - A Brand of Fire". Depending on a few other things - not least how the editing goes - it might be my next novel to be published, in the New Year. Thought I should probably mention that at some point.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

NaNo and the Muse

  Slightly to my surprise, NaNoWriMo is still going well. I've put out 31,000 words now, so I'm ahead of the target. More, I think the text is OK - not great, but it's a decent first draft, and I'll take that.

  A couple of days ago I deleted some narrative I wasn't happy with, and other NaNoes (other writers in the challenge) were shocked by that. They couldn't understand why I deleted text that counts towards my word total. And that got me thinking (i.e. sidetracked me) about what NaNoWriMo is actually about. What is its aim?

  50,000 words in a month? Not really. That's just the headline, the target. I could write "wibble wibble blah" thousands of times and make that amount of words, but it wouldn't be a novel.

  I think NaNo is about getting people to write. Reminding them that it's possible to prioritise writing, even when your life is full of work stress, or children to take care of, putting the laundry out, walking the dog, cooking dinner, and finally collapsing on the sofa because you're too bushed to do any more. Except... you're not. November reminds us that we can dredge up that little bit of extra energy, we can fit in half an hour of writing between hoovering downstairs and picking up the kids. It motivates us, and it helps us prove to ourselves that we can actually do this.

  So who cares if we make 50,000 words? It's nice if we do, but doesn't matter if we don't. What matters is that we found time to write. We sat at our desks and gave the muse a chance to come visit us. We thought about what we wanted to say, and how we could say it, and we put words on the page (and maybe deleted them again) and cursed and muttered and finally found a way.

  Just as importantly, we met a whole bunch of interesting people who also write - and who live in our area! People we can talk to, lean on when we need to, and offer a shoulder to when they're the ones struggling. Writing is such a solitary task that it's nearly always good to find like-minded folk to share experiences with. I've found a good few: Colin and Sue, Tonia and Jasmine, Michelle, Stephanie, Rosie, and all the people in the chat room. I'd like to stay in touch when November is done, to see if we all keep making time to write even when the NaNo challenge is over.

  I will, and I hope my new friends do too.

Monday, 4 November 2013

NaNoWriMo: The Story So Far

  NaNoWriMo has begun, and you know what? It's going pretty well.

  A reminder for those who don't know - NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The aim is to write a full novel of at least 50,000 words in November. Have a look at my last blog for details.

  This is day 4, and I've done just over 15,000 words. In four days! OK, in a way it's a bit of a cheat, because I spent October plotting everything out to the last detail, at least for the first several chapters. I even had snatches of narrative written, so all I actually had to do at first was stitch them together into a coherent sequence. I don't think I'll be able to maintain this pace throughout the month, and I'll have to do a lot of editing afterwards anyway.

  But you know, NaNo has actually got me writing with an intensity and focus I usually lack. Maybe it's the deadline, which is inexorable and very, very tough. Maybe too it's the community which gathers around the event. I'm talking to writers in a chatroom, I've been to a meeting at the library, and I'll soon join another at a coffee shop - where I may indulge in a cake. Or two. Put me near cake and all my good work in the gym tends to be wasted.

  But anyway, I'm really enjoying NaNoWriMo. There's always something new with this writing game, always another surprise. Hemingway said "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master", and he's right - though he was pretty close. And like apprentices, we're still learning the tricks of the trade. I doubted NaNo would work, it seemed too artificial and forced, but it's going well and I've met some good new people.

  Perhaps my next post will be full of why it's become so much harder, but if so that's OK. I've already got a lot out of this, and that'll do for now.