by Dan Forrester
It’s a funny time of year NaNoWriMo, just before the indulgence of December and the abstinence of January. There are stresses and distractions to come, there will be credit card bills and resolutions, but for that one month you can focus and invest yourself fully in your writing. The family will understand, your friends will forgive. For this is November: leave me alone, I’m writing.
2019 was my second time taking part in NaNoWriMo. I had heard of it before testing the water in 2018, but only in whispers around the darker corners of libraries and social media where people don’t dare tread alone. I knew vaguely what it was, but what’s the point of putting pressure on yourself to reach a ridiculous target? I already had my first novel underway, and it was going great guns. It had only taken me over two years to write half of it; at that rate I was hoping to finish most of it before the universe eventually collapsed in on itself.
But when I learned a new NaNo group was meeting at the library, I thought I would call in and see what the fuss was about. What the heck, I needed to go to Sainsburys, anyway. That meeting changed my writing life.
An admission at this point: I didn’t ‘win’ NaNo in 2018; I didn’t hit that golden 50,000 words. But I finished my novel (let’s not get too carried away, I finished the first draft). After two years, it took me less than six weeks to type ‘The End’.
And it wasn’t pressure that kept me writing that November. It wasn’t competition with other writers. It was an addiction. Every evening I would visit the NaNo website and update my word count. 1000, 750, 1200; however many words I’d written that day I could see the total creep up and it was compulsive. It was a thrill. I was no longer wading through treacle; I was riding the crest of a wave (clichés in blogs are allowed, right?).
After a few months editing my first novel, a comedy fantasy and future bestseller called Havock, it was finished, and I was itching to start my next, just in time for November 2019 and my next NaNo.
You know what? I didn’t win NaNo in 2019 either. But it doesn’t matter, NaNo gave me the momentum to get a considerable way in and the rest is up to me. Those credit card bills are now paid, the resolutions are already broken, and my goal for finishing CRABS, my second novel, scrolls across my laptop whenever I stop typing for long enough. It will be written, edited and out in the Agent-sphere before November 2020 comes around.
A novel a year; I never dreamed it before NaNoWriMo.
And the best of it? I made new friends along the way. They are writers, though; they’re a bit odd.