In 2011, I took part in NaNoWriMo for the second time. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is, as the website says, "30 days and nights of literary abandon". The aim is to write a novel - at least 50,000 words - during November. Stats are counted, work uploaded, and if you manage it, you get some nice looking graphics to put on your blog (see above...) or wherever.
You also, maybe, get people congratulating you. 50,000 words is a lot. It sounds pretty impressive when you tell someone you've won NaNo and what it means you had to do. I'm always impressed when my writing friends tell me they've managed it. In 2010, I was more than impressed. I was envious. I tried, got to 32,000 words, and ran out of time. So the accolades from fellow writers was the thing that meant the most to me.
NaNoWriMo equates to 1667 words every single day. For a professional, full time writer, this is nothing. Probably. But for people like me, people who have a full time 'day job', who have children to look after, who have other commitments, who can't just hole up and write, write, write for a month (oh! the wonder!), 1667 words in a day means battling with heavy eyelids and writing when all you want to do is sleep. It means setting the alarm clock an hour (at least) earlier than usual. It means creeping upstairs when everyone is settled doing something or other, when they don't need you for ten minutes, to get another hundred words or so down.
It means a lot. And this doesn't even count all the preparation that needs to be done beforehand. Character profiles, plot ideas, scheduling... So October is NaNo prep month, full of sleepless nights and wondering what you've signed up for. Even if you've done it before.
But, apart from people being happy for you, a colourful picture for the blog, a certificate, and bags under your eyes, what do you get?
That's down to you. You might get a half written novel of somewhere around 50,000 words that, when read back, is no good to anyone. You might get something half decent. You might get something you think you can work on. It's unlikely (although not unheard of) that you'll end up with a perfect novel that's ready to be sent off to an agent and make you millions.
Last year I had half a book. I didn't know it was half a book at that point, I just knew that it was something I wanted to keep working on. I liked the characters (even the nasty ones), and I could see the story going somewhere. I could even see sequels and prequels. And this being my first attempt at something that wasn't horror, I was rather pleased with my attempt.
One year later, I've got a complete (110,000 words) novel, edited, and sent off to an agent. So we'll see. You never know. Fingers crossed.
The problem is, I'm not sure I can do it again. By the time 1st December 2011 rolled around, I was so relieved that NaNo was over that I promised myself I'd never put myself through it again. And now that I've done it once, I've proved that I can do it. If I don't sign up this year, I won't have to worry about it. I won't have to think about it. All I'll need to do is congratulate the friends who win.
I won't look a fool for failing after I've won.
But, what if I can do it? You see, I've got half a book written. A strange little thing, a murder mystery, something completely different to everything and anything I've done before. I like the characters (even the nasty ones), and I can see the story going somewhere. Another 50,000 would finish it. And even if I don't get to 50,000, with a full time job, no free November weekends, and a two year old who likes to help Mama 'type', I'll be closer than I was.
We'll see, shall we?