Everyone’s talking about NaNoWriMo and I found myself wondering: should I join in? Writing a novel has been my dream for decades, and more than once I even got started – once I even got as far as writing 18,000 words!
Those 18,000 words have been gathering virtual dust on my computer since… let me think… December 2007. Because in January 2008 I started a course that took so much out of me that there was no way I could carry on working on TLWH [working title]. And then I sunk into deep depression, and… yeah, life has somehow been full of other things. Some good, some not. One of the good things that have taken up time and energy was the arrival of a new form of creativity into my life: in 2010 I bought a digital camera, and to my great surprise I discovered that hey, photography is actually seriously fun and that, wow, I’m capable of producing some reasonable shots. And then I discovered digital art. And… this has meant a new channel for my creativity, a channel that provides much quicker satisfaction than creative writing – so am I still a writer?
Well, yes. That gift hasn’t disappeared, though I’m using it much more for blogging/social networking than for poetry or fiction – but once in a while a poem turns up and demands to be written; and once in a while I feel the need to write a story, so I do. The novel, however, continues to gather virtual dust on my computer.
Now and again I feel a desire to get back into it, to revive TLWH, carry on from where I’d left off, and actually finish writing it. Because, you know, I think those 18,000 words are pretty good really. It seems such a waste, to let them gather dust forever.
And recently I read this really inspiring article in the paper, where Caitlin Moran talked about how she wrote her first novel when she was still a teenager and got it published, and I felt like I remember feeling back when John Boy Walton got his novel published (yes, I do realise he is a fictional character, but I was young and impressionable) – all weepy and “me too, please”…
So should I dig TLWH out of the cobwebs and get back to work on it? A writer friend was encouraging me to get onto the NaNoWriMo bandwagon and do it. I checked on their website and it says quite clearly you’re supposed to start from scratch, but my friend quite rightly pointed out that they can’t enforce that… but, the more I ponder this, the more I realise I do not currently have the spoons for getting back into TLWH – it would require a lot of work, getting restarted on something that I haven’t worked on for six years. I’m totally not saying “never” but I think I have to be realistic and say: not now.
And what I’m thinking now is: I think I need to approach NaNoWriMo as just practice – not trying to write the novel (which TLWH very much was going to be), not aiming for anything in particular other than just 50,000 words of half-decent prose, something that can possibly be turned into a novel with lots of editing afterwards, something that, if it comes out half-decent, could become my first novel (as in: once I’ve written one, I can write more). And if not, it can be part of the learning curve, a stage on the way to writing a better novel. And in any case, it will be good practice for when the time comes for me to get back to work on TLWH.
Part of my problem with novel writing is that I am not generally good at the long haul. I’m a sprinter, not a marathon runner. Short stories feel much more doable to me (not that they always did – there was a time when I thought I wasn’t good at writing stories at all, but I went on a creative writing course and discovered that, yes, I can!) – I’m cool with something I can start and finish in a short space of time, but not so good at keeping going. So the idea of having a crazy writing month, intense and sprint-like, kind of appeals.
I just need to treat it as practice, not to let the results matter too much. Just write. Write something. It doesn’t matter much what it’s about. Like I did in those exercises on the creative writing course, I’d start from whatever the teacher had given us as a prompt and I wouldn’t have a clue where it was going to take me, and it was great! I’m not the sort of writer who tends to plot and outline and have a whole load of stuff ready in advance – I let my stories write themselves. So I think I’m going to try writing a novel this way, and see what happens.
Woohoo! Two weeks to go! I’m all excited now – I think I’ve just talked myself into it :)