Monday, 26 October 2009
Today, winter officially begins. Evenings darken. It’s hibernation time, time to turn inwards. This week also marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month: when tens of thousands of would-be writers dedicate thirty days to the sustained act of writing a novel – or at least, 50,000 words of one. Whoever chose November for this mini-marathon of writing was inspired. What better time to go for it than in this dark and otherwise uninspiring month?
Maybe NaNo should be renamed NiNoWriMo (Nike Novel Writing Month) since the overarching theme is Just Do It. This is the bungee-jump method of writing. The pinch-your-nose and leap method. The kamikaze method. No safety net. No pause for thought. No gentle mulling and meandering. This is the apply-the-seat-of-your-pants-to-the-seat-of-a-chair and never-mind-the-quality-feel-the-width method.
NaNoWriMo has been criticised as a waste of time, a method of producing only the requisite number of words, rather than anything worth keeping or using. I’ve never yet done it, but I have a sneaky feeling that its detractors may be wrong.
Practice may not always make perfect, but it certainly encourages flow. Like Morning Pages, NaNo may just be a great method for undermining the Inner Critic, for storming the fortress of I Can’t. NaNo is the Shitty First Draft. No-one expects anything other than shitty. Yet without that first draft, there’s nothing to work on.
As someone who is all too prone to procrastination, and who is incredibly anal in her writing (editing as I go and never feeling ready to progress until the last bit is ‘perfect’) maybe it’s time to get my running shoes on.
I’ve decided to give it a go. Not the official version, but my own private one, shared with a fellow writing friend. She has forty-thousand words to edit. I have forty-thousand words to write. We intend to Just Do It, and to support one another by weekly meetings and nightly phone calls. I know we will be in good company. Sebastian Faulks may not have done NaNo, but I suspect he understands the process and the point of it:
‘You give yourself six weeks. You write 2,000 words a day and that will give you the required length. Don’t stop. Don’t agonise. Don’t try to correct your prose as you go along. Don’t worry too much about the details. You can always revise them later…’
Good luck, all you official NaNos, and especially those Strictly writers and followers who are about to embark on this year’s adventure. This is one race that everyone can win.