National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.
- NaNoWriMo Website
I figure that through just this blog, I've probably written something in the order of two million words; whilst that sounds like a lot, in practice it is only because that it has been built up over more than a decade and a half.
With this in mind, when someone on a forum posted the idea of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month, I thought that it would be well within my powers to do so. Only 2500 words a day for 25 days, which leaves ample time to go do other normal things - how hard can it be? Of course upon immediately asking that particular question, we move into the territory of Mr Jeremy Clarkson and invariably the answer is likely to be... That's not gone well!
Even the idea of writing a novel sounds difficult. Somewhere down the line, you have to have a reasonably thought out narrative and an end point established; even if you were to write a book like Dickens' "The Pickwick Papers" which is really a series of vignettes, it still requires you to think up something and write it.
Sometimes the vicious spectre of writers' block wanders into the room and you find yourself completely stuck. You could stare at the computer screen or the paper but that isn't terribly productive, or just give up and leave the room altogether, which also isn't terribly productive - personally I find that a cup of tea is a good solution; actually a cup of tea is a good solution to practically every problem.
In order to beat writers' block, you could just power through like a renovator with a chainsaw; writing gibberish nonsense until your eyes bleed but that doesn't tend to produce anything of note unless you are James Joyce; in which case you churn out a 105,000 novel (Finnegans Wake) which nobody really understands (and to this day, people are even arguing over what actually happens) and which a lot of scholars regard as a work of genius.
Ultimately I found writing a novel an entirely unrewarding experience. I suppose that I could speak about the ideas of plot and setting and even character development which help to lead you through the process and I will even admit to kind of enjoying the fact that you can make characters dance like marionette puppets on the end of strings, but my biggest problem was the fact that as a narrative, I already knew how it was going to end and I'd already read and re-read many sections as I was going along.
I'm reasonably sure that every creative person goes through some degree of creator's remorse, that horrible feeling that no-one else will like it but I wasn't expecting that by the time I'd finished that I wouldn't like it. Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes and even Agatha Christie began to detest Hercule Poirot in due time but I didn't expect this to happen quite so soon.
An idea comes along and you quickly try to nail it down in words before it disappears back into the ether but by the time you've done so, even if it seemed dangerous and exciting, it now looks as dull as dishwater and as tasty as rocket (rocket shouldn't be considered as food).
In the end I learnt first hand, the truth of Christopher Hitchens' comment that "Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay" and I of course realise buying a copy of a book that I've written would be pure vanity; that's why I don't intend to.
But the link is on Amazon:
If nothing else I can at least say that I am a published author; not that that's an achievement anymore, as any jumped up two-bit fool can spew forth 50,000 words and call themselves a a published author - the term Vanity Press even exists to describe such works.
Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.