Sunday, 1 November 2009

Ready, Steady Go


As some of you know, I’ve been toying with taking part in the National Novel Writing Month challenge.

The arguments for and against NaNoWriMo, have raged both here, elsewhere on the net and in real life. I won’t rehearse them, not only because I don’t want to bore you all, but because, frankly, I haven’t yet decided what I think...typical.

What I do know, however, is that I am going to do it.

There are a number of folk who have questioned my decision, in a way, not lacking bluntness and force.
Never mind the cogent theories that NaNo is no way to write a thoughtful book, completely counter intuitive to the very craft of writing...no, they just wonder why someone already making a living from writing would bloody bother.

I see where they’re coming from. I am extraordinarily lucky in that what I write, has to date at any rate, has been published.

Now, I’m not one of those who thinks you’re not a writer until you are published. I feel a writer is what a writer does and if someone is good enough to pay you for it then, fabuloso, icing and cake etc.
But once you are published, writing takes a very different place in your life than it did previously. For me, I wrote my first book for fun, never imagining anyone would ever see it. I enjoyed every second of it.
Then something wonderful happened and I got an agent. He sold it and I got a three book deal. Since then I have been in a whirlwind of writing the next book, editing the last, publicising the one before that. It’s very full on.

If this sounds like a whinge – it’s not. I wake up most days hardly able to believe this has happened to me. I make stuff up. I write it down. Some one pays me. How cool is that!

However it does mean that I have to be very professional in what I do. I have a responsibility to my editor and she has high expectations of me. Quite rightly so, given the thousands of aspiring writers who would swap places with me tomorrow.

There are also the expectations of the readership to consider. I’m not one of those writers who ‘just writes for myself’. Yes, I write books I’d like to read, but I’m not so self absorbed that I’m unable to be objective. When readers email or write to me to tell me what they loved about a book, I’m unlikely to think, well thanks very much but fuck you. I listen and learn. The views of those not in the publishing industry are often, I find, the most telling. I certainly take them on board.

So I think what I’m saying is that I am going to treat NaNo as a holiday.

The book I’m about to write isn’t for my readership, or my publishers. It’s not part of any contract, there is no-one waiting to read and edit it. No-one is planning its cover. Indeed I fully expect it to be rubbish and put it under my bed.

Perhaps, then, as a number of my friends and family have said, it is an absolute waste of my time. Time I could spend writing another ‘proper’ book.

Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps I’ll give up by next week. Who knows?

But in the meantime, I’ve signed on the dotted line and if you too are doing NaNo, come and be my buddy. My username is Damaged.

Let’s do this thing.

14 comments:

Julie P said...

Quite right Helen, "Lets do this thing," indeed! I'm a first timer NaNo-ist and my attitude is that what I write this month won't be the work of a genius or worthy of the next booker prize but that's not the point. The point is by Nov 30th 2009 I will have 50,000 words of something resembling a novel - however bad - and that's a huge achievement!

Good luck Helen.

Julie xx

Samantha Tonge said...

Good luck, Helen and Julie.

I think you deserve a literary holiday, Helen, so enjoy it, fully indulge your every whim.

Derek said...

Good for you! A 'proper book'is any book where a writer has got to the end! Even if they've fallen out of love with it by then.

Glynis said...

Good luck with your new challenge!

Paul Lamb said...

Good luck to you!

I still can't make sense of the NaNo thing, but that's just one man's opinion.


(Also, I agree with you about a writer being someone who writes, regardless of published status. Honestly, I don't call myself a writer. I'll let other people do that. I'm too busy just writing to give myself names.)

Helen Black said...

Thanks everyone.
I feel ridiculously nervous about the whole thing - not sure why.

C'mon Julie - let's just go for it.
HB x

Jessica Lawlor said...

I'm trying Nano too this year and I'm already feeling a bit defeated. Good luck to you!

Helen Black said...

Good luck too Jessica.
I think you just have to get typing and moving ever forward.
That's my plan, such as it is, anyway.
HB x

Samantha Tonge said...

Me in, now.

732 today.

Geraldine Ryan said...

I think you're reasons are great, Helen. I'm in a similar position of having the good luck to write for a living but very often, as you say, you're jumping through other people's hoops. Might be nice to jump through a few of your own for a change! A novel idea, in fact!

Stroppy Author said...

Good luck! I would have done it, if domestic trauma had not intervened, and I know just what you mean. The chance to write a book that does not have to be good by a specified deadline is such a luxury. If you write it and it's rubbish, no-one will ask for the advance back :-) Go for it!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Hope it's going really well, Helen. A 'busman/woman's holiday' but maybe that's the best kind.
Susiex

Debs Riccio said...

This is my 5th year doing NaNo. I got the winner's trophy last year which I'm so proud about. It's exciting and worrying in turns but I find the whole camaraderie surrounding it so lovely - it's great to know we're in this together - just for the fun of it all!
Oh, if anyone want to 'buddy' me then look up "chicklitter".
Good luck to everyone involved!

Mai Daader said...

I am too a Nano-ist, and it is my first time to do it.
what´s great about it is that it will be a good chance for me to resist all the depressing voices inside me which always stop me from completeting any story i begin, so if i just finished one, this will be a great achievement to me.
my name there is: Mai Ahmed Daader
please add me.

good luck