NaNoWriMo - help or hindrance -- Ava Manello

Having published two books since the summer, I had decided to take a couple of months off from writing with the intention of stepping up the marketing of my back catalogue as well as promoting the author services I offer.

Then I realised that NaNoWriMo was upon us. I've never taken part before, although it appears I created an account with them several years ago. The first dilemma was what to write. Should I go with a Christmas novella based on my most recent release or should I use one of the pre-made book covers in my growing collection? The novella wouldn't have hit the word count so I decided to start a book about a serial killer that I'd been thinking about for over a year. The first few days the words flowed smoothly and I found myself slightly ahead of target. Then life got in the way in the shape of a weekend away at a book signing and the associated travel. Add to this the fact that my beta readers have already sussed out the twist that wasn't supposed to appear until the end of the book, and now I'm falling behind.

I'm normally the first to admit that I work better with a deadline, it's amazing how much I can accomplish in those last few days as the deadline looms ever closer. It's the getting started I have an issue with. I'm pretty sure if they made procrastination an Olympic sport I'd be up there on the podium receiving a medal.

So here we are, closer to the end of the month than the beginning and despite the positive start I made, I'm now not sure I'll hit the target. Whilst NaNoWriMo was a good idea to help focus my attention I think that targets and deadlines should be flexible. There's nothing worse than forcing the words out, or hours spent staring at a blank word document hoping that inspiration will hit.

I've found that the last couple of books haven't followed my normal process. I usually have the broad outline of the plot in my head and break it down into a chapter plan with just one or two sentences indicating what the point of each chapter is. These last two books have veered away from the plan, let's be honest, they've veered away from the plot as well, but I think they're both better for it.

My characters have changed sides or surprised me with the direction they took, in some ways, it's as though they're directing the story these days instead of me. I've often seen authors write about the characters talking to them, and whilst I wouldn't say mine have gone quite that far, they've certainly ended up quite different on paper from that original loose idea in my head.

Whilst I know I'll try and play catch up, as long as the ideas are there, I also know that I'm not going to beat myself up if the first draft isn't complete for the end of the month. I probably should have allowed myself a month off from writing at least, and next, we're heading into the festive period with more calls on my time and imagination.

So I'm going to write when the words are there, and do something else when they're not. I'm not going to beat myself up about it, I'm going to allow myself a well earned break. Wrtiting a book is a hugely draining process, I put my heart and soul into those pages, and in order to make sure that sacrifice was worth while I need to make sure it's not forced.

There's no hard and fast rule about how long it takes to write a book, mine have taken between four weeks and two years depending on what has been happening in my real life. Some people take a lifetime, others can release a book every four weeks. Your book is unique to you, so only you can decide how long that process should be.

To everyone else taking a shot at NaNoWriMo I wish you well and hope you end up with a book you are proud of.


Griselda Heppel said…
Never mind NaNoWritMo, I'm still reeling from the thought of your publishing two books since July! Hats off to you for that. Definitely think you can cut yourself some slack in November. I know the NaNoWriMo thing can work for a lot of people but I find the whole idea daunting.

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