Undertaking the global National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as it is known) challenge was never going to be an easy feat. Although I did want to complete the novel and thus win the challenge, I ended up doing much more than that. Instead of completing a novel, I have learnt some new things about the writer within me and about my creative processes by attempting to participate in the NaNoWriMo.
I first heard about the National Novel Writing Month five years ago during my first term at the University of Kent in the UK. Some of my fellow writers at the university’s Creative Writing Society used to talk about it all the time during our bi-weekly meetings. At first, I was daunted by the idea of churning out 50,000 words within 30 days. Eventually, I became interested and yearned to participate but then the self-doubt seeped in. I did have a vague idea for a novel-length tale but it needed to be fleshed out before I could write out a draft. In the second and third years of my studies, I would cite the increased workload during November, which included essays and other assignments. I did not decide to participate until last year, but a hectic job and the lack of a structured plan for the novel prevented me from participating.
Not everybody can manage to cope with the pressures of churning out 50,000 words in a month
This year, I decided that I would participate in the NaNoWriMo and will complete my novel, no matter whatever happened. I was so excited, all pumped up as November came. I made a brief plan, too. But, due to some reasons, I started two days late and stayed behind schedule. The daily target in the challenge is 1,667 words; I could only manage to write around 1,000 words a day. Then, a week later, I stopped writing. All my energy and passion petered out. Once more, my writers’ block got the better of me. I did not start again until November 20th. But, by now, it was impossible for me to catch up. A thousand words a day is the most I can manage, occasionally about 2,00o, which is seldom.
I am unsure as to why I could not complete the challenge. Was it that my plot had lost all of its steam while it evolved in my mind for four years? I don’t know; I really hope not.
Was it the fact that the plan I had made was too vague and lacked details? Yes, probably. Was it writers’ block, which has prevented me from actively writing for so long? Yes, I definitely think it was.
So what do I do now?
I took the most logical step I could take in such a situation. I bowed out of the challenge, permanently; or, at least until I become a more practiced writer.
A friend of mine, my writing buddy, with whom I shared many of the ideas I had for the novel, had said to me just before November that NaNoWriMo can be a difficult challenge for some people. I think that in retrospect my friend was right.
I have also learnt that it is better to start with writing short pieces of fiction and prose
A writer, such as me, who is just starting to write, should focus on increasing their productivity first before they enter any major writing challenge. Not everybody can manage to cope with the pressures of churning out 50,000 words in a month, especially a writer who struggles to form a writing routine for herself, and write every day.
I have understood that it is perfectly fine for me to write a story that has been developing in my mind for four years. I should not worry that the story I have wanted to tell for so long has now grown stale. There is no need to scrap the idea and think up a new plotline. It has the potential to become a good novel.
Perhaps, I just need to take things slowly and focus on researching narrative techniques that may be more suited to writing a character study within the framework of a novel. I will now start reading up on several topics and those aspects of storytelling that are applicable to the kind of novel I want to write. This will assist me in writing a good, well-paced first draft. Perhaps, the tale just needs more time to evolve.
I have also learnt that it is better to start with writing short pieces of fiction and prose. So, instead of plodding onwards with the novel, I am now focusing on writing a short story I have had in mind for about two months or so. And I am proud to say that taking this step has made me more confident about my writing skills, made me happier.
For the first time since I started to write regularly, I am truly enjoying the writing process.