Firstly, thanks to Sheila for giving me the chance to chat with the folks that visit her blog. Nice to meet you all. I’m based in the UK, so please excuse any spellings and expressions that you might not be familiar with.
Now, I enjoy writing. Although some days it’s hard. Some days, I wish I’d taken up lion-taming, surely that would have been easier.
In 2014 I decided (at midday on 1 November – madness) to have my first go at NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month for anyone who hasn’t come across it. And it was madness. And glorious. And stressful. And the most fun I’d had writing for ages. 50,000 words in 30 days. In the company of thousands of other writers all over the world. All challenging themselves to do the same thing – write the first draft of a novel in a month, between 1-30 November. And I learned a couple of things from that first go:
- Considering I’d never written anything longer than a 2000 word short story, I could write longer fiction. Moral – yes you can, you just have to believe you can.
- If I’d actually done some planning rather than just rocking up on 1 November with a vague idea, I could have saved myself months of editing.
So, I had a second go, in 2015. That time, I had at least a rough idea of where I was going. Three non-return doorways and an ending, to shape my story. And that made both the writing during November, and the editing in December, much easier. So, if it was that much easier with some planning, surely 2016 would be a doddle if I planned completely, wouldn’t it?
I tried that. September and October 2016 were almost completely taken up with planning NaNoWriMo to the nth degree. And that didn’t really work for me. Planning so much took away a lot of the pleasure of discovering the story. I knew what was going to happen, so I didn’t want to put the rest of my life on hold for a month while I wrote it. I still wrote 50,000 words, so technically I won, but it felt a bit of a hollow victory. I wasn’t afire with the story the way I’d been the previous two years.
So, what now? Take a breath, regroup and learn for next time. And not beat myself up for making (for me) a mistake. If I hadn’t done it this way, I wouldn’t have learned what I prefer. And that’s the overall moral of this tale – in any form of self-expression do what works for you, not what everyone says you ought to do. Yes, listen to advice, but in the end, it’s your choice.
I’m not even going to look at those 50,000 words until January. Hopefully, by then, I’ll have enough distance from the story that it’ll feel fresh and new again. I’ve recognized what sort of writer I am. I’ll never be a planner, not wholly. And I’m not really a pantser either. I’m in the middle somewhere. A plantser? I’ll stick to just planning three doorways and an ending, and come November 2017 I’ll be enthralled to discover the story that’s shyly peeking out, coax it onto the page and then revise the hell out of it later.
Wish me luck.