fifty thousand words

Look at the date on my first post. Now look at the date on this one. There’s a reason my twitter bio (self)describes me as ‘writer, reader, avid procrastinator‘, and it’s not flippancy.

I started this blog with the loftiest and most poetic of intentions, and I still have them to a certain extent. I want to write and I want to write often and I want to make myself a better writer. I want to be able to cast my mind back (see: Google myself) years from now and see all the bits and pieces that went into that process: the books I read and the films I saw, the stories and submitted and the rejection letters I received, the exercises and challenges and discussions and meandering, pointless thoughts I had on the subject. I’d be lying if I say I don’t want to look back and see a few successes too: publications, paycheques, final manuscripts.

None of this will happen until I can – honestly – edit my twitter bio. I could do it now, delete the self-fulfilling prophecy, but it will still be how I think of myself. Procrastinator. Pretentious snot with an abandoned, one-post blog. There’s nothing worse than writers who don’t write.

That’s why I think this blog needs a kick in its digital pants and that’s why I’m here, in the dying days of October, blogging about something very dear to my heart: NaNoWriMo.

I don’t know what the wider writing community thinks about this annual writing challenge – I’ve never bothered to ask – but I love it. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month – is an annual challenge set for writers to churn out a 50,000 word first draft. It started way back in 1999, initially just a US thing – initially just a San Francisco thing, actually – and grew from there. As far I know the only requirements are that your work is fictional, original, and not the same word repeated over and over again. They have a website, an adorably-named organisation (the Office of Letters and Light!) and a suitably prosaic tagline: Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.

November 2010 was the first and only time I’ve ever managed to write something substantial.* November 2010 was the first time I bonded with someone over the fact that we both wanted to be writers. December 2010 was the first time I was able to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve written a novel. No big.’

It was crap, of course, that first NaNo novel of mine, but I still fucking wrote it, so nyah. That’s kind of the point of (Inter)National Novel Writing Month: writing. Writing one thing for however long it takes for that initial burst of inspiration to pass (usually about as long as it takes for me tea to go cold) and then keeping on going. And ending up with a piece of shit manuscript you’re not afraid to tear to pieces in order to find that something decent buried within.

I have dozens of “idea” notebooks, full of singularly pretentious potential first lines and hazily outlined plots in which everyone is named Anna or Ben because those are my go-to character names. NaNoWriMo is an opportunity to shake some life into those rattling story-fragments, and the experience of participating is a chance to blow some of the dust off my neglected little corner of the internet. I intend to give myself something to write about here by writing. The lovely folk at the Office of Letters and Light call it ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo if you finish: that’s all it takes. 50,000 words, bitches. I’ll see you in December, Instagramming a picture of myself in my winner’s tee.

 

In the meantime, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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*And by substantial mean Longer Than The Largest Word Limit I’ve Ever Been Set For A University Assignment.**

** And by Longer Than The Largest Word Limit I’ve Ever Been Set For A University Assignment, I mean longer than 3000 words.***

*** Footnotes are fun! I feel like David Foster Wallace.

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