Thursday, November 12, 2015

A novel in a month

By Carolyn Henderson

This month, many writers will be stuck into NaNoWriMo and aiming to write a 50,000-word novel. Their deadline? A minute before midnight on 30th November.
NaNoWriMo is billed as being for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel. Look at any magazine, website or forum for writers and would-be writers and you’ll see that’s a universal dream.
So what’s the difference between a writer and a wannabe? Basically, if you get the words on the page and finish your project, you’re a writer. You won’t necessarily be a good writer and what you write won’t necessarily be ready for publication – but that’s another story.
NaNoWriMo is the answer for anyone who says “I can’t find the time to write” or “I’m great with beginnings but can’t do middles/endings.” By signing up for it, you set yourself a challenge and hopefully, you won’t let yourself down.
Writing isn’t a mysterious mix of inspiration and natural talent, though if you’ve got those, it’ll certainly help. It’s hard work; it can get your adrenaline running when it goes well and reduce you to tears when nothing seems to work and your words seem flat and jaded.
It’s also a skill, and like all skills, it can – and should be - be practised and improved.  Experiment with the way you write, because there’s no one way fits all guide. Some writer plan and plot every little detail before they start, some start with a vague idea and develop it as they go along; some think about characters before plot and others do the opposite.
I haven’t registered for NaNoWriMo, because I’ve got a work in progress running alongside my day job as a freelance journalist and magazine editor. But I have challenged myself to write 50,000 words of the said WIP by that minute before midnight, and it’s doing me good.
As a freelance editor, I spend a lot of time re-structuring articles from experts who don’t necessarily find writing easy. I also do the flat plan jigsaw – working out what has to go where in each issue. I have to polish sections of the magazine as they’re ready, so that the writing and design timetables can work together.
That makes me a picky fiction writer, tempted to perfect Chapter 1 before I’ve got far enough in to the story to know whether it works or will need re-writing. Writing the NaNoWriMo way is pushing me to get most of a first draft finished – 50,000 words isn’t enough for this project – then go back to it.
Have you signed up for NaNoWriMo? If so, I hope you’re enjoying it – even if there are times when it scares you!

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