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Friday, 9 October 2015

Working the numbers...

The countdown is under way, NaNoWriMo have rebooted the website ready for a fresh assault on creativity and a 30 day jaunt through imaginative abandon. Professional and amateur writers alike are sharpening pencils, stockpiling notebooks, caffeine loaded (and some none caffeine) drinks are being brought in, batteries charged and ideas shuffled into some sort of order on bits of paper across the globe.

Cheekyseagull has a clock ticking down to the start, and when the fateful midnight hour chimes it will start counting up, the passing seconds chasing the word count through the cold dark days and nights of November towards 30/50000+, hopefully to reach 50000 before the end of 30.

Therein lies the tale, all rules abandon ye who enter here; might be the rallying cry of NaNoWriMo's across the world. The thought of abandoning the "official" rules of novel writing sends some into a state of near apoplexy, bemoaning the end of the world as they know it. For others it is the rallying cry of freedom, a month without limits to plunge headlong into time, space and a million worlds. Perhaps not a million, but however many hundreds of thousands who sign up.

50,000 words in Thirty days, it sounds a lot and admittedly for some the target may not be attainable this year. With no other distractions; peace and quiet, the perfect workspace, the day job, laundry, school run, a social life then 50,000 words would be a piece of cake, the proverbial walk in the park, perhaps?

The word count and the time limit generate a lot of discussion, and some of it running a negative emphasis and very revealing. The latent prejudice against quantity over quality.  A theme touched on a number of posts recently, one penned by Lorraine Devon Wilke at Huffington Post urged the self published writer not - yes, that's right NOT - to publish four novels a year, unless they were beautifully crafted works of great literature and justified the statement by referencing Donna Tartt's The Goldfish, 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner that took eleven years to deliver.

An interesting word that one; deliver, she didn't say it took eleven years to write, but to deliver, so the eleven years between novels may not have been down to meticulous crafting, but sticking the book on a shelf and doing nothing with it for a couple or years, having another look at it and then putting it aside again, for a while - maybe another couple of years, on the other hand it may have been meticulously crafted. Who knows?

The stigma against self-publishing is fading, largely I believe because the sheer volume of material, good quality material is revealing the truth and the old fashioned self publishing route via the Vanity press has been superseded by the evidence of what independent authors can do when they have the tools at their disposal.

This months Writing Magazine in the UK has a feature on NaNoWriMo and reveals a shortlist of writers who started there; The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. The Beautiful Land, Alan Averill; Wool, Hugh Howey. There will be the inevitable splurge of unpolished manuscripts thudding on to Editor's and Publisher's desk come the first of December, and I'm certain that is not restricted to post NaNoWriMo December

There are still myths to be shattered, or politely broken? No, let's shatter them - the first draft is rubbish; I agree that a first draft may need some work, but rubbish. No, not acceptable, it suggests  the author cares so little about their writing that any old garbage will do on the first draft. We care, so we give it the best from the start.

Margaux Benison blogs about how she wrote a novel in thirty days, not 50000 words, but 78000. Aiming at 3000 words a day, not playing catch up if the target was missed, but starting a fresh 3k every morning. She does admit that at the time she was unemployed and had the time to commit, but whatever the time constraints your life may have the basic story she tells is valid. 

The process revealed six elements at play; The story; the passion; the commitment; the break; the focus and the end.  "How I wrote a novel in thirty days" is worth taking the time to read. How you approach each of the elements is up to you. Thirty days, or thirty months, however long it takes work the way that feels right for you, and as for the rules. To quote Doris Lessing, "There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be."

If there are  no laws for the thing being written, how can there be for the process of writing?

Find your way, and make your own rules as you work through your story. 

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