Thursday, 1 December 2011

NaNoWriMo - I'm going to NanoLand

Normally I'm posting an interview or a review, or some snippets of writing, but today I thought I'd bang on about NanoWrimo, that crazy notion of writing 50,000 words in the month of November.

On Monday I finished. At the end it was not so much a sprint to the finish, but rather a tired whimper, but I did it! Yay!

I don’t know what I was expecting when I decided to do it. It sounded a laugh and a challenge, probably a bit like agreeing to go on a double-date to help out a mate and then realising the reality is a wee bit different. I moved house in October, so I didn’t get a chance to plan what I was writing, think about the characters or work out a plot in my head. So on the 1st of November, I sat down to write 50,000 words about a girl, two guys and a dog who shared a house. And that was it. That was the extent of my idea. Ooops. Big ooops.

The first week was the easiest. I was full of enthusiasm like you are when setting out on a new trip to somewhere new. I ventured into a land full of new characters, new events, not knowing what was going to happen in the next five minutes – literally. Somehow something resembling a plot streamed off the page and the characters began to emerge and hop about, although my favourite one from the start was obviously going to be the dog. He’s the funniest, the most intelligent and the one with the best lines. Voof.

Cue week two. It wasn’t too bad. I got a bit stuck. Starting something without a plot – that is, totally plotless and clueless – is maybe not the best idea. I discovered guilt – I’d pop into Book Junkies on FB for a chat (it’s a bit like Cheers without the beer and I’m not sure who is Ted Danson) and someone would be talking about how they’d reached a million words that day (Ok, so I’m exaggerating slightly) and I’d think damn it, and head off to NanoLand. In week two I struggled to think of something, but I was still enthusiastic. I even wrote my first sex scene, remembering a discussion in Book Junkies where someone was asking if books really needed such juicy scenes, which were sometimes juiceless, and writers were talking about their own. Of course, I couldn’t take it seriously, and the scene degenerated into comedy involving handcuffs, cowboy hats and swinging bits. But never mind, I’d taken my first steps into the realm of the oooh-la-la scene. Although it would probably scoop a Bad Sex Award or perhaps even put someone off it for life.

On to week three. Ok this was the hard one. Did I struggle? I was wading in quicksand. I was knackered. No plot, the characters had drooped along with the relevant manhood in the sex scene, and I was lost. I had a free Saturday and managed no-no words for Nano. I ended up blogging for Stephen Hise (check his cool site, Indies Unlimited) about how my plot bunnies had done a runner. They’d echoed some famous dude and ridden a motorbike to freedom. But, hurrah, I gained inspiration... on a Sunday evening... not great when you’ve got to get up for work!

The final week was alright in the end. I think it’s that thing that when you can see the home straight you brighten up... a bit like a Friday morning... you know it’s almost the weekend and you can lie in that bed as long as you like. Weirdly though, my book ended happily at about 43,000 words so then I had to add some new scenes in all over the place. A bit strange as it’s not how you would naturally write something. So in the end, the scenes weren’t written in order. But I’d got there. I’d headed for the final furlong, jumped the hedge and made it. And when I clicked on my NanoWrimo word verification I got my little standing ovation... from the Nano People. Yay!! 

Armed with my downloaded certificate, I was too brain-dead to do much except tell my long-suffering Nano boyfriend and fellow Book Junkies (I knew out of everybody I know that they would be the most interested) and celebrate with bangers and mash, and a big cup of tea. I was too brain-fried for alcohol. 

I think the hardest bit about Nano was finding the time. You can’t find it, you have to make it. So after a day at work in front of my Mac, reading all day and commuting home on the Tube, I’d write with my eyes out on little stalks. On the weekend, I’d sacrifice going out and doing something interesting for sitting on my butt in front of my laptop. I also fought the plot bunnies through two birthday hangovers (I’m sorry but I think it’s really unfair to get one after only three pints – that makes me a super lightweight!). 

I’d been reading this year in various book groups how other writers make time – they squeeze every hour out of the day to find time to write their stories or poems. Some write before work, others long into the night when their kids had gone to bed. And there I’d been, blaming lack of time for my lack of writing over the years and heading down to the pub instead. I realised my real problems were laziness and lack of purpose. Nano was good for me because it created a framework and a goal, and it forced me to get off my bum and type something. It also gets those half-asleep hamsters in your brain racing round the wheel when you’re lucky. Other times, they’ve scurried off looking for sunflower seeds, but now and then they’re up for it. 

So I’m glad I tried Nano. For a month at least I kicked my worst habits –laziness and self-doubt! Whether the book is worth reading, I have no idea. I’ll have to wait and see. But I can say that Nano was a lot of fun. 

A big congrats to everyone else who had a go at Nano and cheers to my Book Junkie friends for egging each other on.


  1. I tried this challenge and I got distracted and moved. It is nice to know others have the time to do it and I congrat you for that.

  2. Congrats - NaNo is a great way to wake up your brain. If your book reads anything like your blog, there should be enough humour and quirky bits to salvage it and shape it into an interesting novella. Good luck with the rewrites and edits!

    BTW - March is NaNoEdMo (editing month . . .)

  3. Thanks! Jackie I know what you mean! I moved just before and then I work full-time so it's hard. Cheers Jennifer! I hope so. The funny thing about Nano is it's a bit like letting go... you're not controlling what you write, sort of, just letting it go crazy. It was sort of freeing tho at the end I really didn't think I'd finish :)


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