One day in late October, while doing the daily web page rounds, I read on Moira’s web page that she was going to write a novel the next month. I was intrigued and clicked on the link and discovered the wonderful world of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it gets shortened to.
The basic idea behind it is that participants write a 50,000 word novel entirely in the month of November. This works out to an average of about 1666 words a day. The motto of NaNoWriMo (“No plot? No problem!”) means that instead of labouring over contructing meaningful sentences of literary genius, just sitting down and banging out whatever works come in to your head is ok.
In theory, participating in NaNoWriMo is a way of making yourself write that novel you’ve always felt you could write. The thing is, I’ve never felt compelled to write a novel. But NaNoWriMo sounded like a bloody silly and rather fun thing to do, so I signed up and became part of NaNoWriMo 2001.
Shortly after midnight on 1 November I started writing. I had a basic premise in mind – I was going to write about a chick who worked at a movie theatre – but I had no idea what I was going to write. I thought back to the last time I’d written fiction. It was ten years ago, when I was at school (unless you want to count Doreen McKay’s romantic fiction). I sat in front of my computer and wrote a bunch of complete arse. It was great.
Most days I wrote about 2000 words. One day I only wrote about 1000 because I had concussion, another day I managed about 60 words because I couldn’t be bothered. I had no idea what I was going to write about. There was no beginning, middle or end. I’d just sit down and start writing and would usually manage to come up with enough plot that I didn’t have to resort to dumb filler tricks.
Sometimes (i.e. most of the time) I got lazy and started writing in pre-existing characters. The McKay Family, Dr Kraw, Bob and Karen, Keith Flinton all made appearances, as well as Ronny Xiang’s Golden Lucky Horse Oriental Emporium.
About a week into it things got a lot easier when my lovely new iBook arrived. Instead of being trapped sitting in front of the crappy old slow computer, I had a nice, fast, portable laptop. It meant that when I went to the beach for a weekend I could still write.
There was a discussion board set up for people doing NaNoWriMo. I avoided it because it seemed to be mainly used by really mental people. The kind of people who would post about how their inner voice had instructed them to make their main character an alien. Other people would angst about suffering from writer’s block. Like it’s hard to write shit.
As the month went on I noticed that I was able to write a lot faster. Where in the beginning 2000 words would have taken me about five hours, I was now able to do it in only two. And I didn’t keep delaying so much that I’d be up ’til three o’clock in the morning.
I also noticed that my perception of film and TV stories changed. It was like when I learned to play the guitar – suddenly rock music was demystified. I could recognise really easy-to-play chord progressions and no longer was in awe of someone playing a guitar. It was the same with films and TV programs. Storylines and plots were no longer decided by some divine guidance, instead I knew that there was someone, somewhere sitting in front of a blank piece of paper thinking how on earth they were going to end it, then coming up with some half-arsed idea and somehow making it fit.
Along the way I was interviewed as part of the daily profiles of people doing NaNoWriMo. It was a funny interview, giving a rather interesting profile of me as a seductress. It’s probably my fault. Being in a creative, making-stuff-up mood, I kind of made up a bunch of stuff when I was answering the interviewer’s questions.
Eventually I hit 50,000 words on 25 November. I was so glad, so very glad to have finished it. My attempt at being dark, gritty and alcoholic in tone didn’t work and I found myself writing a reasonably upbeat and life-affirming ending. I’d discuss what I wrote in more detail, only I can’t really remember what I wrote.
So now I have a 50,000+ word novel sitting on my hard drive. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m planning on printing it out, reading it and if I’m not too disgusted with it, I may stick it up online.
I guess now I can say that I’m a novelist (“Soy un novelista!”), albiet a shit one. Like many things I do, it was some thing that I did so that I could say that I did it. So here we go. I wrote a 50,000 word novel in a month. Choice, eh?