Friday, 14 November 2014

Taking it Slowly Anne Cassidy

In this month of November with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) going on this post might seem like a dissenting voice. It isn’t meant to be that. I think this project – impetuous and mad as it is – is a great way for a new writer to hurl themselves into the business of writing a long piece. Too often I met writers who said they had a ‘great idea for a novel’. Have you written any of it? I’d ask. Not yet, they’d say. And that Not yet is a problem.

So NaNoWriMo is the perfect way to leap into the deep end and force that ‘great idea’ into a 50,000 word novel.

But it wouldn’t work for me.

I take six months to write a novel. 

You might think that during that ‘six months’  I get up and sit at my desk every day, all day long , until I have the finished piece. No, I write in short bursts with long gaps in between. I might write a few pages and then go out or do something else. I leave the work to ‘ferment’.

The gaps in time between my working (typing) hours are important because it distances me from what I’ve written and allows my mind to tinker away with the story/characters/settings. When I return to the work I am no longer so emotionally attached to it. It doesn’t have the blood, sweat and tears I put into writing it. So I can read it over with a dispassionate eye and alter it, re-order it, get rid of it. 

The same goes for the plot. I don’t plan (much) in advance. I have an idea and a direction and I hope for the best. This works well because it allows the story to take its own shape and form. So on week thirteen (for example) of writing I may completely change the plot direction. Because I’ve written the piece over a long time, thought and thought about it, tinkered with it, thrown out some earlier stuff then I don’t mind that it’s changing from the book I first thought of.

Time is the very thing I need to make a plot work. No, NaNoWriMo would not work for me.
But I wish lots of luck for all those involved in it this year.


JO said...

I'm with you in the 'cheering everyone else on' corner. If it works, then fine - but it's not for me. Apart from the gestation time that writing takes, I don't want to feel I have to sit down to churn out words. My writing time is precious; it would be terrible if it ever felt like a chore.

Anonymous said...

I think it's all very personal. I'm more like you, but I do plan quite carefully before I begin... Good luck to the Nanorimo folk.
Adele Geras...Google doesn't recognise me any more so commenting as ANON!

Sue Bursztynski said...

I think it's meant to force you to focus and get the thing done. As you say, a lot of people never get around to writing at all otherwise. Then there are those who do have a god idea and plan it out in advance and just use the Nano month as an excuse to get it done. And good on 'em!

But I know of at least one person who does it every year, so has a pile of Nano novels lying around and has never done anything further with them. She is, I think, too terrified that people won't like them. Wasted time.

I don't think it's for me either. I need more time - and November is when I have a lot of end-of-year reports to write for my students. Day jobs can get in the way, alas. ;-)

Katherine Roberts said...

I wrote a novel in 24 hours once - it was for the "One Day Novel Cup", which they used to hold in London. You took a laptop along to the Groucho Club, where refreshments were laid on, and wrote as fast as possible! (There were actually two 12-hour shifts over two days, but you weren't supposed to work on the book overnight... didn't stop me dreaming about it, though.)

Richard said...

I'm NaNoWriMo'ing this year for the first time. I've got loads of atrocious novel beginnings and I've recently had some short stories rejected. That's made me think that it's not a form I particularly like or am good at, but I know I can get them to almost publishable standard. If short stories aren't my thing, I need to finish a novel-length work. I started on the 1st with an idea. Yes it's bad; there's no conflict and I have no idea how it will finish up, but on the 1st of December I will have a finished first draft to practise editing. I've never had one of those before and I have a feeling it's redeemable. Wasted time? No. Not even if it eventually gets binned. It's 50k closer to a million words and over a hundred hours closer to ten thousand.