You may already know this, but I love to waste time playing life-sapping Facebook games when I could be producing great works of literature or at the very least, words on a page.
So on November 1st I decided to give the games up for a month and try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) instead and that afternoon my Nanobook was conceived.
Over that weekend I signed up to the NaNoWriMo website and discovered that you were supposed to start a new novel and aim for 50,000 words by the end of that month. If three hundred thousand other writers were willing to give it a try, so would I. I soon found many of my writing comrades used the concept to begin a novel if not complete it; so would I.
And so I got to work. It was harder than I thought it would be, despite the many ideas for novels I’d had in the years since I last tried to write one, and I pretty much hated every word I wrote.
The kids got sick of course and passed it on to me but that was okay because one night in that half-awake not-quite-delirious state, a man turned up asking me if I would put his adult son in the story. I had no choice but to obey.
By the end of the week, when I should have had about 16,666 words under my belt, I had less than 3,000.
Still, that was 3,000 more than if I had kept playing those soul-destroying Facebook games.
Facebook itself was still useful to me and the best thing I did was join a NaNo Facebook group. There we could share little achievements or frustrations and post a bit of inspiration or advice. Through these interchanges I learnt about the existence of Scrivener software for writers and other software called Freedom and Anti-social which were designed to not let people be distracted by the internet. (Perhaps someone could design software that kicks teenage sons off the computer – now that would be useful!)
Then there was Week Two which is said to be the most difficult one and they did not lie. Back to work after too many days off, I found myself sitting there staring at the screen more than I’m accustomed to.
Come on girl, what happens next! To encourage myself I would be forcing myself to get to the next 1,000 words. This technique did bear some fruit and by the end of that week I had produced 6,500 words – never mind that the successful Wrimos were on 28,000.
I also made some exciting discoveries about my characters’ pasts. The woman I thought to be a pain in the backside turned out to have a heart of gold. Then I found out that she had lost her parents as a teenager, and through this developed a lot of compassion for my main character.
By now I was seeing the books and films I was watching quite differently, and it was very helpful. I could almost see the writer wrestle away on their first draft too. The work behind these final products was now revealed to me and I saw each plot twist as a eureka moment. I was also happy to find that the conversations in these books and films seemed not much better than the ones in my Nanobook.
Week Three came and my writing stats were flat-lining again. Come on Tarla, what happens next? At least I was liking the work I was doing at last. And this week I discovered that ‘hating it all’ was a fairly normal stage in every novel’s development.
By now some of my fellow Wrimos were getting up to the 30,000 – 40,000 word count. One woman even passed 50,000 and was still going with her story. I wasn’t too concerned as I was guessing she would have to do a lot of editing down the track! Staring at the stats of my writing buddies on the NaNo website was not particularly helpful until I looked back at what some of them had done previous years and found they did not always win either.
Not enough was happening in my first NaNo Facebook group so I joined another, flushed out some fellow underachievers and then passed 9,000 words. And I bless the fellow underachiever who reminded me that NaNo was supposed to be about FUN not the number of words.
And then it was Week Four. People in my Facebook NaNo groups were crossing the 50K finish line every day. I passed 10K and posted my little triumph too. I know it was supposed to be 50K and zero excuses, but I figured that what I lacked in words I could make up with the excuses!
This week was also exam week for my son in Year 11, and we both went into avoidance mode. I was thinking about some long abandoned project that I had not thought about for over a decade, and even dug some stuff out. My son tidied his room without being asked for the first time ever.
A new Facebook group popped up ready to catch us from the post-Nano comedown, Life After Nanowrimo. I also discovered what kind of Wrimo I was, a social one, which is funny given how antisocial I am in real life. With only a couple of days left and no hope of getting even to 15,000 words, I slacked off and was reflecting on what I’d learnt about myself. The main thing I rediscovered was that I am a writing Luddite.
95% of what I write, this post included, begins its life as handwriting on lined paper. Many days during NaNo I was writing 200 words while waiting to pick up kids, after writing zero words all day at home staring at a screen.
On the final day all I did was write comments in Facebook groups. If only there was a prize for all that I’d written in those!
As for my Nanobook, I would like to write 10K a month for the next four or five months and actually finish the draft.
If I don’t it’ll be because I’m busy going up through the levels of Facebook games that shall remain nameless!