Image of a coat of armsI’ve been tempted to try my hand at NaNoWriMo – or National Novel writing Month for some time. November is the month when a frenzied bunch of writers get their heads down and attempt to produce 50,000 words of a first draft for a novel during the month. The event started in 1999 in San Francisco with 21 participants and now has more than 300,000 participants worldwide.

What’s prevented me from having a go before now was that I’d already started a work-in-progress – but I realised this year that it’s quite within the rules to add to a work you’ve started (in my case  15,000 words already in the bag) as long as you only count the words written during the month of November towards your NaNoWriMo total.

I have a pretty good track record at churning out books anyway, with my last two each taking around a year to get to publication. I don’t believe in doing them much faster than that as I do a lot of research and editing and these things can be rushed. So why am I doing it? I want to see the impact of frenzied writing on getting that first draft out. I want to see if it comes out fresher and if there are any benefits from not slavishly correcting as I go. I want to see if putting myself under pressure pays dividends in forcing me to be more instinctive.

NaNoWriMo asks you to classify yourself as a Planner or a Pantser – the latter being writer-speak for writing by the seat of one’s pants. Being both left and right-brained I’m afraid I’m equally “ambi” when it comes to planning. I have a concept and an attempt at an outline – but in nowhere near the level of detail that true planners achieve – and I’m quite prepared to let the pants take over once the ride has started and the characters start running off the way they want to go.

The most scary thing about this is that I intended to write a book set in 1900 and have found as I’m writing that I’m veering into the early nineteenth century – around the 1830s. Normally I would stop, research, cull, plan and rethink and then write. This time I’m hurtling along thinking “I’ll sort all that out later”. I may end up giving myself a much tougher editing challenge than would be the case usually – so the frenzied speed of my thirty days writing may result in a book that takes me even longer to ready for publication. We shall see. Watch this space!

My word count after 2 days – 5126 – ahead of the target of 3,333 words.

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