So we are ten days into Nanowrimo. I’m glad to report that it has been proceeding reasonably well, and Dead Zoo Shuffle is 15,000 words in at Chapter 5- amazingly enough, exactly where I am supposed to be. The first five days were relatively easy, given that I was on holiday and had the rather lovely landscape of Cornwall to look at (which is always fabulous, even in November- possibly especially in November, with all the mists and autumn trees and fierce waves. If anything I was vaguely disappointed I wasn’t writing an epic fantasy of the sort that starts out in grassy hills and ends in perilous mountains…). I did my writing on the train, at the dinner table and in small country pubs, and had no trouble reaching the daily word count.
Writing while also having to go to work is a little bit trickier, but luckily I have formulated a routine over the last few months where I sneak into libraries and coffee shops and get it all done before I even have to think about the day job. This has set me in good stead for Nanowrimo, although that’s not to say it isn’t a struggle; the pace and the pressure are somewhat more extreme, after all, and I can’t give myself the night off just because I’m feeling sleepy.
The book itself is both hugely fun to write and incredibly challenging. I’ve written in the First Person before for short stories but keeping it going for an entire novel throws up all sorts of difficulties, not to mention the complications of writing about a human character on an alien world- and at its heart this is more a crime novel than a science-fiction story. But I’m loving Dirk Marshall and Zootsi, even Fredo and his dubious personal hygiene, and the dialogue in this story feels more natural than I’ve managed before.
So in celebration of my wobbly progress, I offer up some things I have learnt over the last few years of Nanowrimo that seem to have helped me:
Tell everyone you know that you’re doing it. I found this awkward and embarrassing the first year, as trying to explain why you’re writing an entire book in a month isn’t easy (“Yes, 50,000 words… Yes, I have to write them all myself… No, you don’t get a prize or any money at the end of it… well, it’s more about having, you know, written an entire book…”) but if everyone is expecting you to be flourishing 50,000 words worth of manuscript at the end of the month you’re less like to give up when you’re feeling a bit tired.
Rewards! Yes, the book at the end is the true reward, ahem, but that’s not to say that you can’t treat yourself with cool stuff as well. Don’t save it all for reaching the end either; 20,000 words is especially sweet when you can finally eat that special bar of chocolate or buy that CD. This year I have a Duncan the Grey Warden action figure on order for my future glory (What? Toys are rewards. Toys are allowed).
Speaking of toys, see if you can find a writing space! They probably aren’t essential, and to be honest I have used mine exactly 3 times so far this month, but having a little nook that is dedicated to writing and your book can help you feel like you’re taking it seriously. My desk is surrounded by pictures of things that interest me, and covered in toys, or, uh, writing mascots. This year I am assisted by Charlie the My Little Pony (a Nano veteran), Tyrion the Small Plastic Dragon and a couple of gaming dice for the cat to push onto the floor to wake me up (hopefully, they will soon be joined by Fully Articulated Duncan).
And there you go, those are my three main tips for Nanowrimo success, or at least, Nanowrimo fun. And if you are doing it this year, tell me what you’re writing about- my favourite form of procrastination is reading other people’s synopsises…