Writing a novel in a month

Since New Year, I’ve fretted about not writing. My resolution to write something original each day has been a help – although it’s been derailed slightly into diary entries, blog posts and long-overdue emails.

I’d heard about the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a while ago, through a friend. The principle is that each November, any number of would-be novelists club together for mutual support, and aim to each write a complete 50,000-word rough draft of a novel in just 30 days. The emphasis is on quantity over quality, skipping over difficult research and unsuccessful passages in a blind rush to reach the word goal. As a procrastinating self-doubter, I like this idea very much.

November is too far away for my possibly-shortlived enthusiasm to wait, so I’m going to go it alone. Without the NaNoWriMo community to back me up, I’ve mentioned the project to several people in order to have a useful sense of guilt if I’m falling behind. I’ll use this blog as a way of publishing my wordcount failures – or even successes – too.

The most helpful piece of advice so far has been to allow myself only one week’s planning time, and to choose an entirely new story idea rather than a pet project. In one fell swoop, this has freed me up enormously. I’ve several story ideas knocking around, all of which I feel too precious to mistreat in a month’s frenzied typing. I came up with a new story idea on Tuesday, and by Thursday night I’d written plot notes and created a mind map using the Freemind open source software (the first time I’ve successfully used this type of planning tool – it’s been perfect). On Saturday I scouted some potential writing spots (Costa and the Oxford central library) and created another map, this time showing plot events in a rough order.

My novel-writing month starts tonight. In theory, I need to write 1667 words per day. I’m already feeling my nerve faltering, with anxiety about an overly complex plot and a potential inability to give each character a distinctive voice. But then I remind myself that the aim is to break down the normal criticality and just produce something complete. Perhaps it’d be helpful to think of it as ‘typing’ rather than ‘writing’…

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