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Friday, November 24, 2006

The insanity has ended

Last night at ten o'clock, I finished my NaNo novel with seven days still in hand. I have started several novel length projects before but this has been the first for which I have written a complete first draft. And, believe me, after NaNo that's all you have - a first draft.

The whole experience has been both challenging and exhilarating The challenges started on November 1st when I had a cycling accident and wrecked my shoulder (prognosis: sling for 2 weeks, no driving for 3, recovery in 6). After trying to type with one finger on my left hand, I thought my NaNo was over. But, with a bit of cheer-leading from my fellow NaNo participants, I hung on in and, at some point, a dogged determination to finish come what may, set in. Writing a 50,000 word story (I won't call it a novel yet) in such a short space of time, is the writer's equivalent of running a marathon. Perhaps NaNo is harder than a marathon; certainly fewer percentage of people seem to cross the finish line.

From a writing perspective, I personally discovered how to tap in to my 'inner writer'. The inner writer is the little guy in your subconscious who sits there in the background quietly weaving intricate plot ideas and then feeding them out to you a bit at a time. When this guy is in the driving seat it is hard for the fingers to keep up with the flow of ideas that he generates. My best day (the last day) my 'inner writer' generated well over 5,000 words and I was still in bed by ten o'clock.

If the inner writer' is the friendly guy, then the 'inner editor' is his nemesis. He constantly tells you that what you have just written is no good (agree with him and tell him you'll fix it later) and is always trying to get you to read what you have just written (tell him you are writing, not reading right now). The inner editor is the reason I have never got past chapter three in any story I have previously attempted. Now that I have got to the end of this story I can, of course, let him back in to do what he does best.

Some things surprised me during NaNo.

  • The first was how the inner writer took over the story. I had the basic idea and a handful of characters, but the little guy just kept having them say unexpected things and taking them in directions I hadn't intended. I had ideas for scenes drawn up before I started writing, but half of them never got written and many new ones just popped up out of the blue.
  • The creative paralysis that set in around 33,000 words. That inner writer took a holiday or, more likely, I forced him out of the picture. The problem was that I started worrying about how I was going to bring all the threads of the story together for the end. The more I worried, the harder it all seemed. I decided to just write my main character towards the end and leave all the loose ends for a later edit. But still I only inched my way from 33k to 43k words. 10k words of drudgery.
  • The third surprise was that around 43k words, the inner writer came back and took over. I just wrote as fast as I could and in a final frenzy of writing all the story lines merged in an unforeseen and synergistic climax. That final day was a frantic 5k+ words fitted in around my day job bring the story screeching to a halt at 50,124 words.

Was it hard work? - You better believe it! Did I enjoy it? for the best part and ultimately, yes. Would I do it again? Try and stop me, I can see a sequel on the horizon already.

Here are the stats:

  • Started writing = 1 November 2006
  • Finished writing = 23 November 2006
  • Days with no writing = 3
  • Average words per writing day = 2,506
  • Best writing day = 5,196
  • Worst writing day = 850
Posted by fordy at 9:19 PM
Categories: About writing, NaNoWriMo