I knew nothing about NaNoWriMo until a link came to me via Twitter. I clicked through and found out more about the whole idea of writing a novel in a month – just 50,000 words. I registered to see who might be taking part from the area and found that there would be a get together on 4 November at one of the local libraries. (I have to say every time I read NaNoWriMo I heard Mork from Ork’s greeting Nanoo Nanoo – but that’s just an indication of how much popular culture seeps and stays in my brain and I have now probably divulged my age as well. )
I had already made the decision (supported by Tiggy Johnson’s decision to ‘tweak’ the concept to suit her own needs) that I would use it as a catalyst to get back to the novel I am writing (one of three I’ve started), and for which I already had set a deadline of late January to have a reasonable draft done. (Whatever that means, but it’s not what I would call a first draft as I tend to go back and edit as I go; a hangover from my journalistic days.) I’m not sure if that deadline is achievable, but I’m an optimist, and if I don’t set a deadline I’ll never get the thing finished. I also have a sense that the time is right to tell this particular story, so as my mother said long before it became the mantra of a certain global giant – Just do it!
Thus November began, but there were other things to do including looking for some work to see me through over the summer months; regularly update my new baby blog; undertakings to fulfil etc. etc. etc. and I knew I might not get started until after the get together. I wasn’t after any of the prizes, so for me this wasn’t about competition, but a way to get back to the work and meet some other members of the local writing community.
I went along to the get together yesterday afternoon and it was nice to put faces to the names on the forum; it was a diverse group in terms of age, though in gender, one lone male was in the ranks.
We introduced ourselves and gave a short spiel on our projects.
‘I’m working on three,’ the young woman across from me said. Oh the energy of youth I thought to myself, although I often have two or three projects on the go. ‘One of them is Steampunk.’ She mentioned the two other projects while I was saving Steampunk into my memory for future retrieval to google when I got home, so I didn’t quite hear what they were.
Another young woman wrote poetry but was having a go at the bigger work, while another was resurrecting a long buried work. The young man was working on a FanFic (no need to google that one). He’d also brought along a bowl of snakes and other sweet things to keep us all going during the allotted two hours. A latecomer who confessed to only having written about 800 words was forgiven this because she had baked jam drops and brought them along to sustain us.
Although I had decided it would be the most recent writing I would expand, I opened another work started some two years ago, just before my father died. Its first page is one which I’ve always felt ‘wrote itself’ and I clearly recall the day it began. It was just after the 2009 Write around the Murray festival, and perhaps inspired by all of the writers and talk about books and reading, the idea for a work involving a woman who is feeling the full pressure of the world around her was forming: an ageing and sick parent; a teenage daughter she’d always been close to but who was now alien to her (in demeanour and looks) and a new partner. There was a prologue involving a phone call in the middle of the night and the question of whether the call was real or part of a dream. The prologue ends with the main character going back to bed and the phone ringing again; however this time there is no doubt the call is real. The content of that phone call is pivotal to what happens in the work.
The first page proved to be prophetic , because just a few days later I received a call early in the morning that, while holidaying in England, my dad had taken ill. He died two weeks later. (This may or may not be the outcome in the novel.)
I closed this file and opened the work I had committed myself to getting back to. I’d recently reworked the POV from first to third person because I was finding the voice of one of the main characters too limiting. I was also adding notes throughout the work – need more description here; what about the relationship between Gemma and her older neighbour; more about the town; more about….. wow. If I can just fill in all of the gaps I could meet that January deadline! The prospect was exciting.
So, to the sound of the tapping of laptop keys I found myself going back to the beginning and doing another edit job on what I had already written. I know this isn’t the idea – it’s about getting a certain number of words down each day (this post is already 786 words long – can they be part of the word count?) and it was then I realised that NaNoWriMo probably isn’t for me.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy a challenge, (I’m a true Scorpion for goodness sake) and with my background of journalism and PR I’ve had a lifetime’s experience of writing on cue and to deadlines (I blame the lack of the latter for not finishing some of my fiction) and anything from 60 words for the side of a birdseed packet, long before tweeting was invented, to 40 page tourism booklets. Yesterday I learned that my novel writing is not something I can do in a group setting or as part of a challenge.
But I enjoyed meeting those in the group and do wish those who continue well. May they reach the goals whether they be to write those 50,000 words or just to attempt to write something in a different genre.
So newly found writing friends, ’til we meet again, Nanoo Nanoo.