What I’ve learnt from NaNoWriMo or the importance of preparation

What I’ve learnt from NaNoWriMo or the importance of preparation

So it’s almost November again, which means that it’s NaNoWriMo time. I’ve thrown out the invitations, again, both at school and at home, for people to join me as I once again attempt to write a novel. I haven’t gone back to the novels that I’ve written in previous years – too much likely embarrassment there, I think, but I know that I must do it soon. Perhaps I’ll even be pleasantly surprised, although I doubt that – too many cliches, too many clunking sentences and too many plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.

That leads me to the first thing that I’ve learnt during NaNoWriMo. It’s not really about writing a novel and getting it published. I think there’s a lot there in common with marathon runners. Most people who undertake marathons (and I’m working on guesswork here – the thought of running a marathon makes me feel ill) do so not because they want to finish first or anything. No, they want to make it to the finish line – even if it means that they halve to battle every inch of the way. So too with NaNoWriMo – I’m not writing something that is going to win the Hugo award – I’m just writing to see if I can put together 50 000 words in a reasonably coherent way. Getting to November 30 with the word count under my belt is the real success.

I’m quite private about anything that I normally write. I don’t think I’m alone in that – but I’ve discovered that NaNoWriMo is different. Novelling might be a solitary task, but for the month of November, we can throw that out the window, and write – write in groups, write in teams, talk around the coffee machine about your writing. Your fellow writers are your support network, and it makes sense to make use of them. This year, I’m planning to host a couple of ‘write-ins’ where we see how much we can write in the space of 24 hours. Sleep is for the weak!

Finally, and this is probably the most important lesson I’ve learnt, I cannot overemphasise the importance of preparation. It is vital to put together something more concrete than ‘an idea’. I’ve tried writing from the start with just an idea and, perhaps not surprisingly, that wellspring soon ran dry, and I was 10 000 words into a story with nowhere to go. Not fun. This year, I’m going to be more prepared than I ever have been before. I’m looking forward to it.

Let the NaNoWriMo madness commence!