I went away for the weekend to a lovely morris festival in Cambridgeshire (more on that later), and came back to two days of emails and blog entries to read, an internet that had exploded with Sherlock spoilers and then the actual show, and the worrying revelation that my mother had tidied my bedroom. It’s taken me a day to get through these things, especially as I had to give over a lot of yesterday to fighting with my imminent deadline. As a result, it was only this morning, when I sat down with a cup of tea and a cat, that I checked out the Zero to Hero challenges I’d missed.
Purely by coincidence, it turned out that I’d done the challenges over the previous few days. I messed around with my widgets before I went away and got them just how I want them for the moment, and then when I was trawling through blog entries I went through my search tags, followed new people and made a lot of comments (and, I hope, friends I’ve only just met), and I added lots of people I follow in other places to one easy to follow list. It was a productive day, really.
And then yesterday’s challenge was to expand on one of those comments. Most of the posts I read were tagged with writing or NaNoWriMo, and my options are essentially editing or NaNoWriMo. You may be able to guess at this stage which I’m going to talk about.
I am genuinely a NaNo veteran. 10 attempts, 3 wins, 1 exchange to another region, 3 years as an ML assistant, 1 as an official ML. For the first few years I would have been too young to do it by the rules today, and should have been on the Young Writers Program. That’s how long I’ve been doing it. Every single one of my wins has been a Torchwood fanfiction, but my failed attempts have ranged from space opera to gritty thriller to paranormal romance.
NaNo, like fanfiction, is a playground for trying. There is no way that you can start writing 1667 words a day and have them all be good. Maybe if you do it for many many years and keep the momentum during the year, then you can get to the stage where most of the words are good. I am not at that stage. November is when I let myself write fast and hang the consequences. If I’m behind on my wordcount I go mad and describe the wallpaper, and when I’m stuck for plot the story gets invaded by multicoloured space pirate hamsters.
It doesn’t matter, because it’s not finished and it isn’t meant to be. It’s the joy of writing for pure fun, and the challenge of getting across the finishing line. It’s forcing myself to sit down and write, and chase ridiculous targets. This year I managed 16000 words in the last 3 days, and was finished and twiddling my thumbs by 10pm on the 30th. I don’t even remember what I was writing about by then, and it doesn’t matter, because the ideas are there and can be divorced from their rushed, ridiculous words.
NaNo, for me, is about writing to discard. It’s not a 1667 word target, it’s 1667 words of utter rot for me to roll around in and enjoy. If I put too much pressure on myself to be good, I forget that I write because I love it. Yes, the second draft has to be better, but the first draft only took me a month and now I know what I’m doing, so I can focus down on what I’m really trying to do with the story. Some of them have been coming back year after year in different disguises until I get them right. Some of the characters have worn many hats and not as many names. Some of them aren’t even my characters. It doesn’t matter, though, because I get to practice, to play, and to enjoy myself.