NaNoWriMo has been under way for a week now, and to be on track with an average 1,667 words per day, ideally by last night the word count should have been a minimum of 11,669 words. My personal target, which was based on completion by the 28th rather than 30th of November (I have exciting gig plans at the end of the month), meant that I should ideally have been sitting pretty on 12,500 words by now. I’m currently on 0 words, with 4 failed attempts ranging between 100 and 700 words each. This has not gone according to plan.
My main problem is that I don’t actually write. I love the thought of being able to write and I daydream an awful lot of ideas, but I never actually sit down and commit them to paper. I decided to do NaNoWriMo more to see if I actually am capable of writing anything by forcing myself with word counts and deadlines to just get on with it. This is definitely easier said than done. My second major problem is that I hadn’t really given it any thought at all until the 1st of November, when I sat down in front of the dreaded blank page to try and begin and suddenly realised that there had been no epiphany the night before and I still had no real idea, just little scraps of thoughts with no real structure or grounding. I thought that maybe I could just start typing with a vague thought of an idea in the back of my mind and see what happened, but because I haven’t tried writing my ideas down, I don’t really know how long I can stretch them out for and how many words they can fill (hence the four failed attempts so far). 50,000 words is such a big target that I simply don’t know how big an idea I’d need to be able to last for so long. I’m just not experienced enough to even know where to begin. And beginning is the hardest part, because you find yourself just faced with a big blank page and have to start throwing words down, but you don’t know if they’re good enough, even though the point of NaNoWriMo is quantity over quality and inner editors are banned. I was too worried about whatever I wrote being bad that it kept putting me off starting, or made me keep restarting, and with every day that’s gone by I’ve fallen further and further behind. Of course, it didn’t help when I looked at a thread on the NaNoWriMo forum asking how long it generally takes people to write 1,667 words, to discover that there are people there who are apparently capable of writing all 50,000 words in one day(!), and have been known to in years gone by. The whole idea just became totally overwhelming, and as of yesterday morning, I was ready to give up.
That was yesterday morning. I’ve since watched documentaries/interviews with Ian Rankin and John le Carré about the ways they write, and although at times it looks completely torturous, I was quite envious of their ability and enjoyment of the process, and was downright jealous of their sense of achievement having properly, properly finished books after cycles of drafting and redrafting and editing and correcting. Because of this, I’ve decided not to give up. It’s extremely unlikely that I’d be able to write 50,000 words in time now, and I’m not even going to try to, so in that sense I will fail NaNoWriMo. But even if I managed to write 20,000 words, I’d see it as a major achievement, and something that I could gradually build upon and improve. At the moment, I still don’t have much of an idea about what I want to write, but with a lower target I can take things a bit slower and see if I can really develop the bones before throwing myself into the deep end. I’m sure loads of authors use the flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants method, right?