If you’ve been following my blog for a little while now you will be aware that, in the midst of my excitement about NaNo 2012, I am trying to complete the novel that I began for NaNo 2011. While I managed to ‘win’ last year – even submitting a day early to get my 50,ooo word certificate – this didn’t mean that I was finished with the characters I created. In fact, far from it. The last ten months I have been doggedly attempting to complete this novel and now I’m so close I just know I have to do it.
I suppose this is thing about NaNoWriMo: while it is an international support group, of sorts, for writers throughout the month of November; egging us on to start the next big project, pushing us to our writing limits to achieve the initial creative burst of that novel idea…it’s still only the beginning. Even if you managed to wrap your story up in 50,000 words there is still a long journey ahead if you really want to turn those words into something that might end up in the hands of some eager reader out there in the world.
Now, I don’t pretend to know why everyone participates in NaNoWriMo every year – but it seems to me that most entrants want to create something tangible for them to work on – an actual novel to eventually submit for publication one day. At least, that is why I want to do it. I entered last year never believing that I might reach that improbable target, but I had an idea of a story I wanted to tell and NaNo was a good opportunity for me to get that story down on paper so that I could explore and investigate the narrative without having to worry about ‘perfection’. (which has always been my downfall in the past).
But…and it’s a pretty big but…after the initial joy of ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo I was intimidated by the next steps. For a start, it’s taken me this long to even come close to completing the novel’s story. In the last ten months I’ve only managed to up my total word-count by about 25,000 words: which, when compared to last November, is half of the amount I wrote in 30 days!
I’ve also come across a few plotting problems and character issues that I hadn’t even had chance to think about in November when furiously writing to increase my word count. This caused numerous stumbling blocks and sulking and general ‘putting aside’ of the novel until I forced myself back to it because I didn’t want to become another cliché with an unfinished manuscript lolling on my hard-drive.
As I’m coming up to those final few scenes in this novel I’m aware of how much work there is still to be done. This is a first draft. My very first, first draft. I expect it to be fairly questionable for a complete novel text. I anticipate plot holes and story lines forgotten, characters that are two-dimensional or stereotypical that have no consistency of appearance or behaviour along with some semi-serious grammatical issues and odd spelling mistakes. All in all, I’m preparing myself to read back an almost unreadable text.
I suppose what I’m trying to pinpoint here is that all the hard work and exhilaration of NaNoWriMo is just, for me, the very first tiny step in a HUGE journey of writerly-discovery. Last year I completed the challenge with a hop, skip and a jump thinking that the hard part was done – after all, what could be a bigger challenge that writing 50,000 words in 30 days?
*insert suitably epic realisation scene here*
I loved my NaNoWriMo experience, so much so I am determined to do it again this year: even though I now know what it means for those 50,000 words I plan to write in 30 days. It means dedication and perseverance and damned hard work to make those words into something that you dream about. I haven’t even begun the editing process for my NaNo 2011 novel, after all it’s taken me almost a year just to even finish what I started. But isn’t this what writing is about? It’s hard slog and labour over something you adore doing because you want to share the story you feel you have to tell.
And NaNo is the beginning of that journey for me. The legacy it leaves me to work on is taking me one step closer to being that which I want to be – a published author. And it’s a legacy I don’t want to see go to waste.