An update on NANOWRIMO: Quantity vs quality


It’s usually the other way around, isn’t it? It’s meant to be quality and not quantity but on this occasion the tables have turned. Or the laptop has turned…off. Oh good grief, I’m not making an ounce of sense.

So before I carry on writing nonsense (something I’ve gotten to be very good at this month) I thought it was about time that I offered an update on all things National Novel-writing month. It’s time to be honest about how it’s really going.

Unlike last year, it’s started off fairly well, I think not being at work has helped an awful lot. I’ve been able to meet my word count every day, which is great, there’s something immensely satifsfying about seeing your word count mounting up each day. And after today’s efforts I have a total of 42, 460 words to my name. (If only that was money, eh?)

So I am writing. The words are formulating themselves onto the page. I’m just not entirely convinced that whilst I’m maintaining quantity, the same can be said for the quality.

Now, this could be me, being typically and predictably hard on myself. I always am my own worst enemy. But I also like to think that I’m honest with myself too, that I’m realistic.

As an avid reader, I know what a good clump of words sounds like, looks like, feels like. And I know all too well what a shit bunch of words look like too. Mainly because it’s what I spend my time writing for that hour or so a day.

I’m not in love with my story, or my characters either, for that matter. Someone once asked me – once they’d heard I was wiring a book – ‘Are you in love with your characters?’

I remember thinking that it was a really odd question at first. Bizarre in fact. Because the truth is, that no, no I am not in love with them. Quite the opposite. I hate them sometimes. I hate how they do not do what I want them to do, no matter how much I try to force them. I hate that they change their minds almost as much as I do, that they’re just as fickle as I am.

I guess they’re real in a way. My writing about them gives them lives, fills them with it. But they do not comply and it’s actually amazing to see how much this book has evolved in the last three years. My initial idea now unrecognisable.

I need to write, like I need to breathe. And I don’t mean that in a ridiculously, wishy-washy Romantic way. I actually mean it.

Writing helps me process everything. I need to do it to make sense of the world, to make sense of my life sometimes. I love getting lost in words, swimming through them; wadding through them helps me to function. The idea of giving up this dream of mine is almost as terrifying as actually trying to make it happen.

The thing is when November finishes, there is this huge chance that I will stop writing this book. That I will save it and hide it away somewhere on my external hard drive, never to look at it again, just like I did with last years.

Oli told me the other day that I pretty much have to do something with it. He wants me too, I haven’t put all these words in to just give up and stop writing when, really, this whole book writing thing is still very much in the being-born stage. It’s nowhere near fully formed yet, let alone fully grown. Half of the art of writing is in rewriting and editing. That’s the hard part. That’s what I need to work on this December, rather than forgeting that these 50, 000 words ever happened, ever came to be.

So in a nutshell (which is probably what this post should have been, a neat concise list rather than a splurge of frustration) here’s an update on my NANOWRIMO process:

  • Writing is a lonely process. You’re essentially talking to yourself, arguing with yourself, romancing yourself, living inside your own head when you’re sitting at your desk trying to get the words out. It’s the best thing and the worst thing all at once. A double-edged sword. A blessing and a curse.
  • Sometimes you will feel like you are writing from your rectum and not your heart. Because crap, and only crap is coming out.
  • I’m exceptionally paranoid about dying suddenly and someone stumbling across (i.e. my family or Oli) this book on my laptop and being shocked at how awful this wannabe writers book attempts really were.
  • Writing in the correct tense at all times is virtually impossible. My brain gets so confused.
  • How do you even use a comma again?
  • Sometimes I’m writing so fast that I actually stop breathing for a little bit. I l love those moments, when I have a sudden idea and I cannot get it out quick enough and I read it back and it’s bloody brilliant, believable, it flows well and most importantly, it’s funny. Books that make readers laugh, are true works of art. I want to do that.
  • I am a very repetitive writer, my book is littered with suddenly, promptly and in that moment over and over againIf anyone would like to buy me a thesaurus for Christmas that would be ideal.
  • I find myself adding in extra, unnecessary words just to meet my word count for the day, that little bit quicker. Quantity not quality. See, I told you.

I could ramble on all evening, but I’ll spare you. Six more days. Six more days of frantically writing before I can print it out and edit this mountain.

One day, this darn thing, will be finished.

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