In November 2010 I completed National Novel Writing Month, a challenge where you have to write 50,000 words of a novel before midnight on November 30th. From this adventure, an idea was born.
The received wisdom is that once the first draft of a novel is written, you’re supposed to leave it alone for at least three months before returning to edit – preferably longer. Coming back to it with fresh eyes means you’re more likely to be ruthless about cutting stuff that doesn’t work. But what do you do in the meantime? For me, the answer was write more. Essentially, NaNoWriMo created a monster.
In 2011, I set out to write the first draft of a novel every month of the year. I gave each month a genre, and off I went. It was hard going, and I only reached the hallowed 50, 000 words twice throughout the year. But I don’t regard that as total failure, more as a lesson in what is physically possible.
Whenever I was tempted to beat myself up about it, I went back to the fact I was working four days a week as an office temp throughout the year, as well as producing monthly columns for The Broughton Spurtle and Ten Tracks, and other articles for Mslexia Magazine, IdeasTap, The Guardian and STV as I went along. I may not have produced 50k fiction every month, but I think I probably did reach 50k across all my writing. I blogged about this in June to serve as a constant reminder.
But what was the final word count? Drumroll, please….
In 2011 I wrote
310, 248 words of fiction.
This averages out at:
- 25, 854 per month
- 5, 966 words per week
- 849.9 words per day
- About 35 words an hour assuming I never slept, or 70 words per hour if you assume I only wrote during the daytime.
It also falls a whopping 289,752 words short of the original target of 600,000 – but you can’t have everything. And I did decide way back on January 5th there was no point in racing to 50k every month for the sake of it. Some stories – diaries and books for young children, frinstance – can be told in a much smaller number, so why force it.
Anyway, that’s the end result – here are some things that happened along the way.
4 favourite things that happened over the course of 12 Books
- Bamboccioni books published my short story in a collection with an ISBN number (which means I can now enter short story competitions heretofore forbidden)
- Festival season – 2011 saw me conduct some of what I thought were the most interesting interviews I’ve ever done. A couple of these, with Rod Jones and Amanda Palmer, weren’t strictly related to 12 books in 12 months… But it was also the year of my very first Edinburgh International Book Festival, which led me to interview children’s author Andy Stanton – still one of the most searched posts on the site.
- One of the events a the book festival included a debate on The End of Books, which led to The Great Kindle Challenge – in which I borrowed a kindle for a fortnight and tried to hate it.
- People’s responses to my offer to write them a story
4 less good things
- After making a Facebook page to help promote the project, I got my first – and only after using it for over two years – nasty tweet. I blogged about it, unfollowed the perpetrator and got on with my life.
- Self-promotion in general – I have yet to find a comfortable line between spamming people and making them aware of posts that might be of interest to them. Also I have become an obsessive stat checker, and on more than one occasion writing blog posts with key words of things happening on Twitter etc in a cynical attempt to boost site traffic.
- Summer meltdown. June – August saw the lowest word counts of the year (except December, but that was a graphic novel which I drew myself so I don’t count it as a word count failure)
- Feeling like I couldn’t sit and read a book by someone else because OMG THERE ARE SO MANY WORDS LEFT TO WRITE THIS MONTH. It’s not that I didn’t read at all, of course I did – but I missed reading without guilt.
4 things I am going to do next
- 28 Drawings Later – a challenge to draw something every day in February. My sketches will all be related to a Norwegian fairy story called East of the Sun, West of the Moon which my sister will be producing a version of at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
- The Pictonaut Challenge – every month I will continue to write a 1000 word story based on a picture chosen by The Rogue Verbumancer
- Editorial – I am going to start the task of looking back over everything I wrote last year, and deciding whether any of it can be edited into something publishable.
- Book Thirteen – I am going to start work on the book about writing 12 books in 12 months. It will be an hilarious romp through what happens when you decide to do something silly in a limited time period, offering insight, advice and laughs.
One thing I want to do now:
Is thank you for sticking with me this long.
Over the past year I received a ridiculous level of support and encouragement from people on Twitter and on the blog. Glempy, bobertd, Splend, Alexoutside, DorkyMum, auntyemily, theSpurtle, milomclaughlin, EdinReporter, Ayetunes, TheLastHatGirl, ruthiewhy, moggiesinforest, subtlemelodrama, blurofwoodsmoke, Seneska, JacToTheFuture, ibc4, aeonofdiscord, KidCanaveral, hughespeg, anonpoetry, Ari, Elaine, Ali, Katy, jerowney, dragonahcas, LynseyMay, kirstylogan and Doc – thank you for all the suggestions, comments and RTs.
I have also had a whole lot of ‘real life’ support, from some of the names above (you know who you are) as well as from Andrew, Bee, Ceri, Chris, Mum, Dad, Jo, Verena, Troop, Maree, Rose, Michael, AB, James, Kayleigh, Laura, Emma, Kylie, Caroline, Jenny, Emily, Carly, Amy, Sue and everyone I work with in my not-very-temporary temp job. Thank you all for checking the blog, for asking me how it was going, for tuning in to listen to me on Leith FM even though you knew it all already; and for not hating me for being unsociable or failing to reply to texts. You are all heroes.
January 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm
This is utterly spectacular. Thank you so much for this post, it’s really made me feel better about my work thus far. I hope you’re going to continue this blog so we can follow along on your next adventure.
Good luck with all your projects on the horizon!
As Mickey said to Rocky, You did good, kid.
January 31, 2012 at 8:51 pm
Thank you! Thinking I will be continuing the blog for at least this year, although perhaps not with quite the same level of output…
January 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm
I feel like you deserve some sort of cheering/ovation here. You duly have it.
I had totally not considered the fact that Bamboccioni Books had opened up a whole world of hitherto forbidden competitions for us. Nice!
January 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm
Thank you! Yes, there are a few that are only open to people with an ISBN number to their name… the BBC Short Story Competition (deadline end of February!) used to be one, although I’m not sure whether that is still the case.
January 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm
I can’t believe the time’s flown by so quickly. At the end of the day, a year really don’t amount to a whole hill of beans does it?
Even if nothing else comes out of 12 books you did something amazing last year, don’t ever forget that.
January 31, 2012 at 8:54 pm
It did go pretty quickly! I suppose that’s the way it goes when you en-busy yourself in that sort of way… I won’t forget, I will be boring people’s grandkids with it for years to come! Maybe even my own :p
February 10, 2012 at 9:37 am
2011 NaNoWriMo created exactly the same monster in me. I’m on my second month of the project. It’s good to know you’ve survived with a brain still intact! I’m figuring out first-hand just how grueling this is going to be for the long haul. Fun, kinda. But my brain is pudding.
I’m really impressed with all you accomplished in 2011! I don’t have nearly so much going on, and I’m tired as all getout.
Best wishes on all adventures yet to come! I look forward to following what you do next.
February 11, 2012 at 11:01 am
Good for you! It’s fun but you’re right, it does do strange things to your brain… Best of luck with your books!