Admit it – you’ve got a novel, or the beginnings of one, or the sketch of one, lurking somewhere dark and dim, like the corner of your wardrobe or maybe in the bottom of a lake. I know I have, it’s an unfortunate by-product of having written since I could hold a pencil. My magnum opus, created when I was four, is transcribed below in all its glory.

“once there was a littel (sic) boy who wanteb (sic) to go under the sea. One Day (sic) he did. the end.”

Somehow I was passed over for the Nobel Literature prize, but this didn’t discourage me and I carried on churning out rubbish for the next fifteen years. (Hopefully the more recent pieces have gotten less rubbish, but I don’t really trust my own judgement, seeing as I once thought the work above was a masterpiece. Although I don’t get b and d mixed up anymore, which is an improvement at least.)

Even though I hope to write non-fiction for a living, there’s a part of me that won’t let fiction go. And so I was pretty surprised that this year was the first I’ve heard of NaNoWriMo.

For all the other nano-virgins, this is a basic run down – Na(tional)No(vel)Wri(ting)Mo(nth) has been going since 1999. In this time, it has grown to having 21 members to 200,000, more than 30,000 of whom finished the challenge.

The challenge idea is relatively simple – produce a 50,000 word novel from 1st of November to the 30th. That’s it. Upload it onto the site, and you get a nifty little certificate proclaiming your skillz to the world. And you have a 50k novel under your belt to pull out at pretentious parties.

The challenge itself probably isn’t so easy. According to my phone’s calculator, 50k in 30 days means 1666.6666etc words per day. Which sounded manageable, until I realised that I’d been typing this article for about 25 minutes and only gotten about 300 words. After consulting my phone’s superior mathematical knowledge, I figured out that it would take me about… two and a half hours. Of solid writing. A day.

I feel a lot less optimistic after that hideous bout of maths. Even worse was a visit to the NaNoWriMo website. Despite it proclaiming it’s philosophy as a ”fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing”, it still looks hard. Possibly even less encouraging is the statement I hit in the middle of the page – “Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap.”

Um, thanks?

But as I go deeper into the unchartered depths of this particular corner of the internet, I get more and more involved. Yes, I do tend to procrastinate! Yes, I have always wanted to write a novel but been too afraid to make a time/effort commitment to start! This website knows me so well! I almost tear up during one inspirational paragraph – “By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.” I want to paint it on my wall so I can see it every morning when I wake up. I want it etched on my tombstone.

Once I got over being weird, I decided that I could probably do with signing up to “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” I haven’t written an extensive piece of fiction for months, and I miss it. I enjoy writing for university and for websites, but writing a horrific manuscript that only I will ever see is sort of appealing. There’s a certain amount of self-censorship involved in writing for other people, and that’s probably a good thing. But I’d quite like to stomp around on my keyboard and not have to worry if I was engaging my readers, or being funny, or interesting, or informative. And to be honest, it’s not like the extra writing practise is going to hurt. If I didn’t practise writing when I was younger, then I’d still be writing two sentence stories with no middle or end. My younger self would have loved NaNoWriMo and I would have loved reading back over the drivel I’d written at 9 and seeing how my style changed and evolved every year.

So if you see me making frantic notes or muttering to myself about plot developments, ignore me. I’ll be back to normal by December.

Has anyone else done NaNoWriMo before? Any tips for a first timer? Or even just novel writing tips, I’m in no position to be fussy about the advice I recieve.

(Picture from The New Yorker.)

(Link to NaNoWriMo site if you’re interested in taking part or just having a look around –

5 Responses

  1. How bloody interesting, I’m going to try this. Thanks

  2. I would love to do this; I’ve always wanted to write a novel. But I don’t think I have the dedication to do it. But, I’ll consider it!

  3. Going to give it a shot. My advice to myself and others is probably once a week go down co-op, spend a tenner on a bottle of glens, hole up in your room and see what you manage to churn out. Can’t possible go wrong.

  4. Jaysus, 1600 words a day everyday… interesting idea! I might try a mini novel.. a beginners version.. 5000 words maybe.

  5. Maybe without self-censorship it wouldn’t be as hard. Even therapeutic.

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