Nanowrimo. The very competition that got me into writing my first full length novel.
And it was full of rubbish.
Not Nanowrimo. My novel, I mean.
Back in 2006, when Nanowrimo was a few years young, I finally decided to do it because I had a break from exams. I finished it, but all 50 000 words were rubbish. It did give me the motivation to try again for two more years, but then schoolwork was more pressing and suddenly looking for a job was more pressing. By the time I tried Nanowrimo again, I was working and exhausted consumed me so much that I didn’t even meet the deadline of 1,667 words per day. My so-called novel vanished into obscurity, and I was left in the month of December to decide if I wanted to continue.
That isn’t to say that Nanowrimo isn’t recommended. There are things I’ve learned and pitfalls I’ve avoided and fallen into when participating in this competition. Let’s take a look
- You realise how important deadlines are.
Didn’t meet 1,667 words a day? That’s it. You have to write more the next day, and it snowballs. So if you didn’t write 1,667 words on the first day, you’re in a world full of pain the next day with 3,000 plus words. This meant that I had to be conscious of the deadline and do everything that I could to make sure I made the deadline. This worked very well in Job Land, where I also had to be disciplined enough to make deadlines. For most part. I think.
- You learn to stay focused on one project at a time. And finish.
Creative people have lots of ideas. Often, they have too many and everything goes into this notebook. I was like that. I didn’t stay focused and I didn’t finish. But because I wanted bragging rights (yea, real mature, I know) and the Nanowrimo programme thing they had installed on their website to tell me that I had actually done it! I had actually written a novel. Woohoo!
However, there’s a lot of what I didn’t like.
- Most of my novels were rubbish.
I mean, sure. First novels are supposed to be rubbish. That’s why they sit in your hard drive or cupboard or whatever, collecting dust. Sure, I made mistakes and learned from them, but looking through what I’d written and seeing that they were unusable was kind of disheartening. There wasn’t any quality, especially so when I’d put in so much effort.
- No time to create my own schedule
I had to write every day. This is almost impossible while working, and I lost count of the number of times I fell asleep in front of my laptop. Now, I create my own writing schedule based on off days and weekends, and while I try to commit, I don’t put too much stress on myself because having breathing space to write actually helps complete a Draft.
- It made me realise that writing is a privilege
Lots of writers go, “Oh, if you’re committed, you will make the time to write.” This is true if you have a stable income or don’t need to work very much or pay rent, or have an incredibly supportive family who will sponsor you. But a lot of the time, real life gets in the way, and these are legit reasons to stop writing because you have other commitments.
However, I don’t regret doing Nanowrimo — it gave me a taste of what writing a novel is like, and it was a test to see if I could make it.