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NaNoWriMo and the The Fourth Notch

I haven’t posted for a while, mostly because I haven’t had five minutes to spare, to be honest.

November is National Novel Writing Month and for the first time ever, I decided to take up the challenge. And why not? When the Mask Falls was posted away for editing at the end of October, and is not due back until mid-December so I figured I had the time!

If you have never heard of it, it works like this: during the month of November you are challenged to write a fifty thousand word novel, and that is about the long and short of it. Fifty thousand words over thirty days averages out at 1667 per day which is about two hours work, depending on how fast you write. Sixteen hundred words feels perfectly achievable on some days of the month, but I have a day job and several other projects that are also running, including being a blogger for Zatu games and for Wifi Refugees, and lets not forget about all the extra work that I had forgotten about, and still needs to be done, in relation to the upcoming launch of When the Mask Falls, so trying to fit that amount of work into every single day of the month has been a little challenging at times. Saying all that, as of today I have managed to get ahead of schedule, hence a moment to write my own blog, so fingers crossed I will finish well in time.

The best part of this process is that I have been forced to experiment with a whole new way of writing. I tend to write and edit as I go, that means that it can take hours to get even a few words on the page, my usual method involves a lot of writing, deleting, researching, more writing and more deleting and quite a lot of dissatisfaction. The plus to that is that when you finish you have something much closer to a final draft, there will still be edits and re-writes but not nearly as many and you will feel that the quality of the work is fairly good. The downside is that this way of working can take a lot of time, some days you might get a couple of thousand words down and they will be good, but other days you can spend hours deliberating over just one paragraph and only add a few hundred to your word count. This is a very frustrating way to write and as you can see is not a particularly fast way to 50k words.

To achieve NaNoWriMo’s target you have to just write, you have to turn off the critical side of your brain, stop worrying about grammar, or doing too much research, or even punctuation, at times, you have to just keep going, no matter if it is good or bad, just get the words down. It sounds like a terrible approach to writing but it has been great for me, just giving myself permission to turn the critical brain off has been extremely liberatingĀ  and I will try to adopt this approach to all my writing in the future. Knowing I can edit it and change it later, if I want to, allows me the freedomĀ  to stop worrying about niggling details, and allows my characters the freedom to start telling their own story. This allows the story to become pacier, and I just sit back and become the story teller, tapping away frantically to keep up with my characters as, in the case of The Fourth Notch, they fight for their own lives.

The Fourth Notch is the working title of the novel I am currently working on for NaNoWriMo, the title came to me at about the halfway mark although it relates to a moment in the first chapter, so it could have come earlier, if I had put any thought into it. I will admit that I had started coming up with some ideas and thoughts, and one of the main characters was clearly in my head a week or so before the start of November, and the first chapter was written too. This may well have given me a good head start but you certainly can’t just start writing a novel at this pace without a little advance planning, and it’s for this reason that many have failed to finish. Even people with plenty of ideas don’t make it to the end, so at this stage I am feeling quietly confident and pretty chuffed with myself.

Of course, I haven’t finished yet, but I have plenty of material to get me through to well beyond the 50k word target and I am really pleased with what I remember writing, of course, after I have finished my very rough first draft I will have to go back over it and start editing it and turning it into an enjoyable novel.

We’ll see at the end, whether the process is any faster overall, or if I ended up with a better piece of work for it, but I will definitely keep you posted on that, maybe this time next year you will be buying The Fourth Notch for all your friends as Christmas gifts, or maybe I will still be editing it!