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….