Friday, 31 October 2008

To NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo?

Yesterday I entered the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition, which closes today (typical of me to go virtually to the wire with this). If you're interested, you can still enter online - go to - and even if you don't intend to enter it's still very interesting to look at the past winners of the competition which are posted on the site. Have to say some of them left me cold but one which I thought was absolutely outstanding was the 2002 winner by Julia Copus, called Breaking the Rule. See what you think: it blew me away.

I've been toying with the notion of entering NaNoWriMo, which starts on November 1st. If you haven't heard of it before, this is how it works. You write a 50,000 word novel in a month. That's all there is to it. Then you post it to the NaNoWriMo site and they email you a certificate. Last year, apparently, 100,000 people entered and 15,000 of them actually completed the task. Why do it? Well, to kick start your writing, of course. The point is, it doesn't have to be deathless prose. It's about quantity not quality: it's designed to set you free as you feverishly try to churn out that number of words in the set time. This stops your neurotic editing tendencies, and doesn't give you time to contemplate your navel. You just write, write, write - and who knows, something significant may be liberated from your imagination in the process. Plus the satisfaction of saying 'Hey, I wrote a novel.'

I've just been looking at the website - - and thinking, shall I sign up? Those of you who are regular readers may well have picked up that I've been going through a difficult patch with my own creativity and have had serious doubts about going on - so I wonder if NaNoWriMo's playfulness might help. Part of my problem is that I'm too self-conscious and too self-critical, and I can never decide which of the many ideas in my brain deserves my full focus, so I spread myself about too much. Does that sound familiar to you? A month of dedication to one project might be just the ticket.

However, on balance, I don't think I'm going to go for it this year. I feel that it will add one more pressure to my over-pressurised life and if I fail it'll be one more stick with which to beat myself. If any of you are embarking on it, though, do let me know (or if you've done it in a previous year) - I'd love to hear about your experiences.


KAREN said...

That sounds very familiar to me - no sooner do I get stuck into one idea than I get another one I'm convinced would work much better, but what I do now is make a note of it and try and carry on with the one I started £$&* months ago!

I did sign up for NaNo last year and although I didn't complete the 50,000 words I did find it kick-started my novel and re-ignited my enthusiasm.

I hope you do decide to go on - I wanted to ask if you had anything in the pipeline after reading The Chase, which I thought was fantastic :o)

Lorna F said...

Hi Karen - great to hear from you again and interesting to hear about your experience of NaNoWriMo.

Thank you SO much for reading The Chase and liking it - it means such a lot to me. Anything in the pipeline? Well, yes and no. Yes, because I wrote a children's book, first in a potential series - and the writing of it was possibly the happiest writing experience I've had. However, it's been 'out' with publishers for over a year and the lengthy process has been pretty demoralising. It may be picked up, it may not - and until I know for sure I can't decide which direction to head in. A writer with self-doubt? Now there's an unusual thing! All the more important and reassuring, then, to be reminded that there is a readership out there, if only publishers would stop getting in the way!

Lane said...

Every year I think about NaNo and that's as far as I get - thinking. I can't focus on more than one big project at a time so at the moment it would just be a distraction. I'm sure it would be great if you timed starting a novel each year on Nov 1st and got the first draft done and dusted in a month.

And yes, spreading myself too thin with lashings of self doubt sounds only too familiar.

Hope you find some direction soon.

Lorna F said...

Hi, Lane, good to hear from you. Via Karen's blog I've come to yours and the Novel Racers blog and have enjoyed both, although the sheer levels of industry shown by the Novel Racers is impressive to the point of being daunting! Glad to have struck a chord with you, though maybe I shouldn't be. The Self-Doubt Society, anybody? There are writers who can manage to work on several projects simultaneously but I always want to steep myself totally in whatever project is floating my boat at the time - then I get distracted by teenagers with coursework to do, levels of dust in the house capable of turning into sedimentary rock, bills to be paid, the occasional meal to cook (you've got to feed the teenage blighters) - and the new ideas that pop into my brain when I'm doing the ironing or sitting on the bus, ideas which fill me with passion, until the next one comes along. Fickle, moi? Thanks for your good wishes - if anything positive comes from my agent or any of those dilatory publishers I know I will instantly get my mojo back - and I'll be shouting it to the world! By the way, how cute are your dogs on your blog? Karen's gorgeous Molly Dog has serious rivals!