Has there ever been a Great British Bake Off contestant who was more whiny and negative than Ruby in series four? No, no there has not, and I feel I can say this with some authority as I’ve watched an awful lot of the Bake Off during November, across a variety of series. I’ve also watched countless episodes of QI and played (and lost) many, many games of hanjie. My skills in procrastinating have reached a level I didn’t think possible this month, and yet at the same time I’ve still made quite a good stab at ‘getting shit done’.
We’re nearly at the end of week three now (eek!), and I’ve tried a variety of different methods with NaNoWriMo so far. To begin with, and for the majority of the month as it stands, I’ve opted to write completely out of order. I’m quite a visual person and so I chose to write any scene which I could picture clearly in my mind, regardless of whether I knew how the story would progress to that scene or not. This was really useful and helped me to get to know my characters well predominantly, and then my plot sort of formed around them and things began to fall into place regarding what needed to happen and when for my story to head in a particular direction. A few days ago I surrounded myself with post it notes, jotted down what happened in every scene I’d written so far, and then arranged them all into an order that would work and planned how to fill in the gaps. At the end of it all, I had a linear progression of nearly sixty post it notes detailing the bones of my story. I converted this into a very simple two column table in a word document (no fancy writing programs for me!), and then broke it down into chapters. Since then I’ve gone back to the beginning and I’m starting to flesh out my scenes and fill in the (many) gaps. This worked for me up to a point, although I’ve skipped over the troublesome middle muddle for a while because it’s the hardest part and will take the longest for me to figure out. I’d rather let the words mount on the easier, freer flowing sections of the story first, and then sit down and really puzzle those couple of chapters through.
I’m not writing every day; I’ve had days where I’ve only written a few hundred words, days where I’ve written over six thousand words, and days where I haven’t written anything at all. I’m a bit sporadic, but I’ll have bursts where I’m really productive and then the next day I’ll be knackered and won’t want to look at it for a while. At the moment I’m sitting on just over thirty thousand words, which I’m so pleased with (the quantity, not the quality!) This means I’ve still got around twenty thousand words left to write, and ten days to write it in. I probably will have to write every day for this last stint, because I know the sections I’ve got left to write will be a bit of a long winded slog by the middley muddley nature of them. It’s definitely achievable though, and if possible I’d even like to reach the fifty thousand words with a few days to spare, but I think that’s going to be overly optimistic. I’m determined to finish though. I know I’ve said all along that it doesn’t matter if you reach the fifty thousand word goal or not, and it still doesn’t, but now that it’s sort of in my sights I want to grab it with both hands.
That’s the one thing that’s amazed me most about this month. I’ve never thought that I couldn’t do it, which is quite remarkable (for me) in itself. Fifty thousand words has always seemed daunting, and at the beginning at least it was definitely intimidating, but it’s never felt unattainable. The more I’ve written as I went along, the more I’ve realised what I can do, and it’s given me more and more confidence in terms of numbers. I reached over four and a half thousand words in one day and was SO CHUFFED, and then the other day I made it to over six and a half thousand and was pretty gobsmacked at myself. It doesn’t mean any of them are good words, and it doesn’t mean the first draft of the ‘novel’ (HA!) will be finished at fifty thousand words. But if I do make it to fifty thousand (and it’s not set in stone, I’m going to try my absolute damnedest but anything could happen really), then that proves to me that there’s no reason why I can’t write twenty thousand words in a month anyway. November’s been pretty crazy in terms of writing, but there’s absolutely no reason why I can’t apply a more manageable and toned down version of it to every other month.
I’m not really sure how much sense any of this makes. I’m feeling a bit frazzled at the moment, and I’ve reached that point of the day (and the month) where it’s kind of tricky to organise my thoughts on paper. Still, I hope you get the general gist of this. It’s been a pretty huge learning curve, and I’m feeling pretty damn pleased with myself right now. There’s a long way to go, but I’ve written thirty thousand words. Thirty thousand words! Trust me, for a short story writer (who has a habit of not finishing anything), this is quite an achievement for me. And now I need to try and write some more. Well, maybe after another episode of QI.