Thursday, 10 November 2016

Eating My Words





I'll be honest, I've always scoffed a little about NaNoWriMo, or NaNo.  It isn't the concept, I think that's wonderful, but, well: November. November is my problem with it. November is the month this marathon of daily writing of a mere 1,660 words towards the first 50,000 word draft of your next novel, takes place. November. You mean the November which is the eleventh month of the year, the one before the twelfth, when the clocks have gone back and the fire is crackling, Apprentice is hotting up and the hot pot has left a satisfying lump in your stomach, making it pretty impossible to trudge back up the stairs to the pc on your desk where you've been all day?
Not to work, obviously, for this is November, but to online shop.
I've joked - half joked - forgive me, that the month of November for NaNo was ordained by a bloke or rather, the person who doesn't play Father Christmas and all his little helpers rolled into one and doesn’t organise the turkey and the trimmings, the one who does know where to find the decorations and is prepared to seek out the missing box of favourites, insisting on repairing the children's hand-made primary school baubles from the previous decade so they'll live to fight another year because, well, it's tradition isn't it? Nor is this the one who buys the cards. The cards! Write every day in November, you say? My NaNo might be better spent writing a few cards every night. That way, for the first time in my history, I might finish the whole damn lot before the eve of Christmas Eve.  
But that isn't going to happen this year because this year, when I was diligently researching NaNo for a class, something clicked.
I have spent a glorious few months immersed in everything – almost everything – writing. I've been meeting readers, signing books, doing talks and answering questions. I've been clicking my hourly updated Amazon rating more than once an hour, preparing my classes, teaching my classes, editing and mentoring.
And each time I'm asked about my fiction writing routine, I talk of the routine I used to have.
Because this year, well, I haven't really had a writing routine. I've written blog posts and book reviews and articles. I've even written the odd scene of my new novel: The Tree House, but only that. I certainly haven't had anything remotely resembling a regular commitment. And it hurts. It pains me that I'm living and breathing this novel in my head and yet my word count is so low, even if I can easily justify why. It makes me cringe when I hear myself spout to my classes: Prioritise your writing! You won't remember the bathrooms you've cleaned in a year's time, but you will remember the stories. Now we're being absolutely honest, I'll admit that the bathrooms aren't at their most sparkly either, but you get my point. And it make me sad because like running and singing and having a good laugh, nothing quite releases my endorphins like writing a thousand words.
NaNo's global word count, 9 days in
So, as the scoffing subsided, as I looked more deeply into why NaNo is so successful for so many people and as I heard myself say to somebody else, What's the worst that can happen? You don’t write 50,000 words but you write 30,000 or 20,000, it's still a whole heap more than you might have written - I found myself directing the question at me.
What's the worst that could happen? 
You know, 5,000 words would be an achievement for me at the moment.
So I did it. I registered. I have a password. I can log my word count and watch the global NaNo total word count increase, as well as the millions of words clocking up in Yorkshire alone. It is, even from this reformed cynic, quite impressive and hugely compulsive.
I won't It's unlikely I'll reach 50,000 words, not now that sleep has prioritised its time-consuming self in my life, darn it, just when I needed a few of those early hours in my pocket. I didn’t even write any words on the 1st November, nor the four days thereafter. Not until Saturday night did I tap a single key of fiction. We were home from the fireworks. Hubbie was filling pieces of rotten greenhouse with wood hardener and I was catching up on emails (Saturday night? I'm wild, I know). The daughters were somewhere more exciting and I thought: This is NaNo. This is what it's all about. This is why we need NaNo in November. If we can write 50,000 words in this month, how easy will it be to continue the habit in December, complete with its extra little holiday? And how about January with its lack of distractions when people are staying in to tighten their belts or abstain from alcohol? If we have half, or even a quarter, of a first draft of a novel written before the first door of the Advent calendar is opened, just where will that novel be by Easter?
I didn't walk up the stairs, I ran. Two at a time.
They weren't all new words. Some I'd scribbled in a notebook months ago and they needed typing and prettying up. But all in all, by midnight, I had 6,740 words on screen which hadn't been there before.
6,740! NaNo, I take it all back. November is a glorious month to put writing your own material back up your priority list. Because the only way to write a novel is to squeeze it in, however hard that can sometimes be. I know that, I just forgot for a while.
So, please forgive me the lack of sparkling taps or Christmas cards any time before New Year's Eve. Let's have a toast in December instead to the maddest of ideas, sometimes turning out to be the best.


Stray's Book Shop, Newark
Meanwhile, back to Glass Houses and Tea & Chemo and I will be signing both in Stray's fabulous Book Shop and Coffee Bar in Newark this Saturday, 12 November, from 10.30am. Please come and say hello if you're remotely close. I hear there's live jazz to follow and can vouch for marvellous cakes and scrummy scones. More information here.

Bakewell Book Shop, Matlock
I'm also taking part in an Author's Evening from 7pm on Monday 14th November at the Bakewell Book Shop which, you may recall, I fell in love with a couple of months ago. I'll be joining fellow writers, Charles Heathcote, Rod Shiers and Gareth Ashton for short talks and general book chat and signing. I hear there are hot drinks, wine and cakes, of course. Tickets are £3.50, more information here.  

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