National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) is a movement where, for 30 days in November, any writer can attempt to write a 50,000 word novel. It is the writer’s equivalent of a run and a community of fellow runners to cheer you on. Last year, I dared to participate for the first time. It was a great motivational tool to write a rough draft of my novel, The Dormant Queen.
I was in a pretty good position to participate in NaNoWriMo too. For one thing, I had the time to write every day, which is something a lot of writers struggle with. I had been working 10 hours a week in a primary school in my area, so I wrote every day before and after work, as well as on weekends. There was rarely a day went by that I wasn’t working on the novel. I added my word count onto my account on their website diligently, and even had time for a quick (albeit terribly written) blog post letting all 10 of my followers know how I was doing.
The Dormant Queen follows the journey of a young girl, Faye, who seeks to rescue her brother Douglas after they both fall through a portal to another world. She ventures through this world and meets a menagerie of bizarre characters, both good and bad. I just about managed to summarise it now without any spoilers, but trying to convince my family, friends and colleagues was no mean feat. There’s a lot to this book that I don’t want to reveal yet, so stay tuned!
I managed to finish my novel in over 35,000 words, which technically meant I had failed. Despite this, I was overjoyed. I had managed to finish a novel for the first time in my life! Every other time I tried, I ran out of steam and moved on to other, less time consuming ideas.
This gave me an idea: use NaNoWriMo as a jumping point to write first draft manuscripts in a relatively short amount of time. Previously, I could just about finish a short story. I find it hard to keep up momentum to finish an idea, as I have a bad habit of hopping from one project to another. But if I could focus on my novel for 30 days and write it nonstop? I could produce a rough manuscript every year.
I have a lot of ideas for novels that have been left unfinished and poorly written. One of these ideas was Fledgeling, previously titled Claire With The Fangs. This was an idea about a young lesbian, who was turned into a vampire by her girlfriend.
In the original draft, this girlfriend was an antagonistic figure, and was tied up in a conspiracy with another vampire and RE teacher to lure and kill students at her school. As you can tell, it was my 13-year-old self who came up with this ludicrous and Doctor Who-esque idea. Time went on, and the idea evolved. I still wanted to keep it central to her struggles and development but who else she was up against started to change. I expanded each plotline, so now there is some potential to publish it as a book series.
The irritating thing is I haven’t got it started. November is basically over and I only have an opening chapter. My degree is essentially a full-time job, especially at this time of year. I have an exam to prepare for, where I’m required to write three critical essays in two hours. I have two essays of around 2,000 words due. Although these don’t seem too bad on their own, I only have a few weeks to do these in. There is no way I’ll be able to find time to write Fledgeling, at least not this month.
I’m not going to beat myself up over it, though. I’m usually pretty hard on myself when I don’t succeed, but I’m using this as a chance to be compassionate to myself. Yeah, I failed NaNoWriMo this month, but I can write a novel any month. I could write it over the Christmas holidays, once my assignments are complete. I could make any month my novel writing month! It’s not like I’m contractually obliged to write the damn thing.
If you’re in the same boat as me, feeling a little bit disappointed you couldn’t do it this year, fear not. There is always next time.
What are your experiences of NaNoWriMo? Have you ever managed to meet 50,000 words? Tell me all about it on my social media, and share your experiences and ideas on my social media below.
Jen Hughes is a regular guest contributor to Diary of A Writer’s Blog and a student at Glasgow Univeristy. She is a young writer from Ayrshire, Scotland who has been writing since she was seven. Her work has been published on a variety of online journals and magazines such as the McStorytellers, Minus Paper, Oletangy Review and Pulp Metal Magazine to name a few.
If you like what you see so far, you can find more of Jen’s work in the links peppered throughout the article or on her website dearoctopuswriting.wordpress.com. You can also follow her on Twitter (@dearoctopus4) or Tumblr https://dearoctopuswriting.tumblr.com/ or give her a like on Facebook (Dearoctopuswriting).