Participants in NaNoWriMo have my deepest respect. Within the space of 30 short days, they try to produce 50,000 words of coherent writing in the rough shape of a novel. Many NaNoWriMo writers have full-time jobs, children, elderly parents and numerous other demands on their time, yet they heroically sit down day after day, striving to create wonderful works of fiction. And many succeed.
I can write 50,000 words in 30 days, too. In fact, I completed NaNoWriMo last year, and even got the t-shirt. The only problem was that my final result was 50,000 words of drivel. Seriously. I daren’t open the file to read it because I could tell as I was writing how terrible it was, but at the time, hitting that word count target seemed to be the only thing that mattered. Unlike many other writers, I seem incapable of producing anything of quality at speeds faster than a snail sauntering home after a full dinner.
This brings me to another confession. Nearly three months ago I embarked on a second attempt at writing a novel. A thousand words a day, I said. Enough for a novel by November, I said. Not one to learn from earlier mistakes, I found, again, that trying to hit a daily word count is a personal recipe for bleurghhh. As my writing quality descended to wince-inducing levels, I abandoned my efforts at around 10,000 words.
Poor prose wasn’t the only problem. I discovered I’m not one of those writers who can make it up as they go along. I knew what the climactic ending for my novel would be, and who the main characters were. I even had a rough idea of the setting, themes and one or two interesting action scenes. But the in-between parts were hazy, and didn’t become clearer as I wrote. I simply ran out of things to say.
But all is not lost. My ideas didn’t stretch far enough to create a novel, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. It just means that what I’m actually trying to write is a novella. So that’s the new plan. And I’ve learned that I need a strong framework, so that’s happening too. No rash goals this time, just steady regular work.
Good luck to the NaNoWriMo writers. It’s not for me, but I salute you.