Ready for NaNoWriMo?

Ready for NaNoWriMo?

I am. Oh, I so am. Which means I’m so totally not, but I’m hyped for it anyway, because I love NaNoWriMo and will do it any year it can possibly be slotted into the work schedule.

I’ve no idea how I’ll manage it this year. I’m working full time, have two kids under 5 and a whole host of writing projects on the go. But there’s a novel I’ve been trying to knock off the first draft of for some months now and this is a good excuse to focus. I’ve 30k words already written, so if I can get 50k more in a month – and that’s a mighty big near impossible if – I figure I’ll pretty much have completed the thing. Bad first draft thing, anyway. Which is what NaNo is all about, really. Bad first drafts.

And I’ve said before just how much I love writing bad first drafts.

In terms of writing, 2017 for me has been about polishing up the final draft of the major WIP, gaining some professional editorial feedback, and starting to  shop it out to the world. I also wanted to get a few more short stories out there, which I’ve managed to do, with a couple of acceptances in the publishing queue for 2018. But those short stories were already drafted, and the full length manuscript is almost five years in the making, so it’s been a while since I was really focussed on writing new, new, new words onto the page.

Since I sat staring at that blank page waiting for me to fill it up, I mean.

So I’m hanging out for NaNo this year. There’s something entirely freeing about throwing words onto a page and not needing to worry about how good they are or it they’ll make sense to anybody other than myself. Stephen King, in his oft-quoted memoir/book of writing advice, On Writing, talks of the first draft being a ‘closed door’ draft. It’s just for him. The redrafting process is about opening the door, turning that bad first draft into something readable by other people, but initially, no-one else is allowed in the metaphoric room. Screenwriters I know call it the vomit draft. The best writing advice I ever received from a creative writing teacher was to allow myself to write badly.

Even this year’s Nobel winner, Kazuko Ishiguro, went the bad first draft route with his most celebrated work, Remains of the Day. Four weeks of focused, obsessive, putting words onto the page. “…and at the end of it I had more or less the entire novel down: though of course a lot more time would be required to write it all up properly, the vital imaginative breakthroughs had all come…”

So there you go. Maybe it wasn’t officially NaNoWriMo, but it was effectively the same process. And Ishiguro scored a Nobel for his efforts.

This will be the third time I’ve attempted it. The first, I got to about 45k and was well on track, when a publisher asked me to submit something and I had to switch gears right at the end of the month. The second time, I got the 50k and then some, yay, and now I’m just going back to that manuscript and pulling it together into something interesting. I’m thinking I might even redraft and refine that one further.

Third time lucky. I have less time this year and I can in no way imagine managing to write a full 50k, but I’ll give it a damn good go. And after a year of editing and revising and redrafting and submitting, I’m looking forward to going back to a bad first draft for a few weeks, writing just to please me.

So if you’re doing it to, come buddy up – here’s me: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/kahmelb

And after NaNo, I’ll be refreshed and ready to get back into the actual hard work once of redrafts and edits and rewriting for an audience of other people.