Zero to Fifty Thousand

by Steve

A man typing at a very small desk

I’m afraid this is yet another one of those posts where I bleat on and on about writing without actually doing any of it. Well, of course, I am writing, but I’m writing about writing, which I could pass off as some sort of meta exercise, or as a meditation on the creative process, but it is nearer to an act of public self-absorption, or at least an avoidance of writing about something more worthwhile than the act of writing itself.


But…this time I’m actually tentatively looking up from my umbilicus. I actually have some genuine writing in mind, rather than an infinite circle of nonsense here in my comfy part of the www.

I think it was last year that I first became fully aware of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, for short. The event is pretty much self-explanatory, apart from the ‘National’ bit, as they welcome people from across the world. Essentially, over the course of every November people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel. They are free to write pretty much as they please, providing it is all brand new stuff and isn’t just a continuation or a re-write of what the would-be-novelist has worked on before.

Anyway, who doesn’t think they have a novel in them, lurking somewhere? And who hasn’t put off the writing of said novel? The idea of knuckling down and having some form of novel well before Christmas is pretty appealing.

Sure, there is a good chance of failure, of giving up or just not reaching the 50,000 mark. And if the wannabe-writer takes part in NaNoWriMo publicly, which is kind of in the spirit of the exercise, then they could be facing a distinctly public failure. As someone who tries to keep their writing under wraps, certainly fiction-wise, this is a little bit of a worry. I don’t even make much (or any) fuss about blogging out there in the real world as I don’t want to become one of those writing/blogging bores you get at social occasions who think their dinky little site is Really Interesting. I know this place isn’t, so I don’t go on about it, and I like it that way.

Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, failure. Even if you reach the 50,000 milestone, there is a good chance that those 50,000 words are going to be a pretty gruesome read. The onus is very much on quantity over quality, getting something done rather than just thinking about it. But what if you complete 50,000 words and realise you really didn’t have that novel in you? That no amount of editing will be able to save it? It is enough to make you fall back into the comforting arms of procrastination.

So, knowing the potential pitfalls for my ego, I’m still mulling over whether to take part or not. There are other considerations to take in too.

Can I really find the time? Am I willing to find the time? Is it fair to other aspects of my life to tap away at an anti-masterpiece?

And what on Earth should I write about? I have a few ideas, and these are ideas I’ve never actually realised on the page, so I wouldn’t be breaking any NaNoWriMo rules. I’m not sure if one of those options, that I’ve spent a little time thinking about, might be more sensible than just sitting down and writing something fresh, or whether I should take the opportunity to let loose whatever is in the darkest recesses of my imagination. And if I can’t decide what to write before I’ve even began, what hope have I of writing 50,000 words in 30 days?

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I suppose if I do decide to take the proverbial plunge then at least you’ll all be spared these ramblings for a month.

So, have any of you out there undertaken the NaNoWriMo challenge in the past? Any budding novelists out there got any tips? Anyone going to take part in NaNoWriMo this year? Thoughts, comments, etc…

Image from the Library of Virginia via Flickr

If you fancy a reading challenge that is a little less daunting, read this post at The Ground Literature. Oh, and apologies for putting you through this ramble when the chances are I’ll decide against getting involved in any real novel writing fun in favour of spending my time posting YouTube videos and lurking on Twitter and generally wasting my time. I annoy myself sometimes.