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Literature & Technology: NaNoWriMo, The Halfway Mark

I’ve come to the realisation that taking part in NaNoWriMo as a uni student is not the best idea. November is the month where final assignments are due and the end-of-semester frenzy kicks into gear. It is also the month where summer days start filling the week with wonderful regularity and, to top it all off, this year I have a teaching prac which has fallen in November. When I’m at school all day and then I come home and have lessons to plan and kids’ names to learn, NaNoWriMo becomes the least important thing on my agenda.

Then again, who is NaNoWriMo good for? Certainly not people who work full time, or people who simply have a life. And anyone who wishes to become a writer knows that, at the beginning at least, writing usually has to fit in around a day job. If you don’t find the time in between work and life in general to sit down and write, well, you’ll never be a writer. So I’m looking at this as a good challenge – one which, so far, I’m hanging on to by the skin of my teeth.

As I write this, it is day ten, and I’ve written 15,000 odd words. That makes me about a day behind schedule, but I’m hoping to catch up over the weekend. I’ve aimed to write 2,000 words every day, instead of the required 1,667 words, so that when I have a day when I can only squeeze in 500 words (or the one day so far where I didn’t have the chance to write a single word), I have some room to breathe. Even if I only manage a few hundred words in between everything else, it is better than nothing. As long as I keep writing something every day, I have the chance to make 50,000 words by the thirtieth.

As for the actual novel I am painstakingly writing, is it a masterpiece? Certainly not. This month’s efforts, as one fellow NaNoWriMo-er said, do not even constitute draft one. What we’re all working on right now is draft zero. (This particular writer is also aiming for 100,000 words, instead of 50,000). I love this idea, because that is exactly what it is. That is not to say our words are wasted words, but we are writing ourselves into our characters and plot, we are discovering what will work and what won’t and figuring out plotlines. I call this my skeleton draft, which I will later rewrite into my first draft and however many drafts I need after that. I’d be mortified to show anyone the words I’m throwing onto the page at the moment, because I’m quite sure some parts don’t make much sense to anyone but me.

Another problem I’m having at the moment is with my characters. I don’t like very many of them. They’re not very nice people. I’m waiting for one of them to put their hand up and power through with some redeeming qualities. And while I knew how my novel was to begin and end, right now I’m filling in the middle which I’m pretty much making up as I go. I sit down at my laptop and start writing, and usually end up somewhere I never expected.

But I’m writing, which is what NaNoWriMo is all about. It’s to get people writing, it’s to have a bit of fun and it’s to experience what it is actually like to be a writer, fitting writing in around life’s other commitments (apart from the lucky few who have the opportunity to write for a living). I refuse to let life get in the way of my writing this year, even if it means writing wildly into the night, or becoming a hermit for a few weeks. I have already warned my friends that I may be entering a stretch of anti-social behaviour, but please don’t hold it against me. I’m going strong and I’m determined to get there this year, and I’ll be back as soon as I’ve written my 50,000th word.

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