Monday, 8 March 2010

Will my novel ever be finished?

Last year, along with 166,700 optimists across the world, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. In case you haven't heard of it, this is a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. There is no prize as such. Just the satisfaction of seeing your word count rack up day by day.

I did NaNoWriMo on the spur of the moment. So, while some participants already had plans and character studies sketched out, I was making the whole thing up as I went along. It was a very liberating way to write, and I really enjoyed the experience. Funny, encouraging emails kept popping into my inbox from the organisers. My writing buddies and I shared news of our progress, cheering each other along in the race to the magic 50k.

Actually, I reached 36,000 words during November. Below the target, but still more than I'd ever managed to write before in such a short space of time. I felt pleased and exhilarated.

Three months on, despite good intentions, I am disappointed to admit that I've only added another 10,000 words. It's not that I've fallen out of love with my NaNoWriMo novel. I can't even blame lack of time, since I've cut down a lot on my work hours. My main problem is that I just seem addicted to writing short stories. They are so much... well, shorter. And they are also manageable in a way my novel is not. I can't seem to do without the thrill of finishing and submitting a story every couple of weeks. It makes me wonder if there are people who are naturally short story writers and others who are naturally novelists. Sprinters versus marathon runners. Or maybe I just have a very limited attention span.

Meanwhile, my novel keeps returning to the drawer, giving me a resentful glare of neglect whenever I go in there for something else. I do wish I could complete the first draft - but wishing won't do it.

One thing that puts me off resuming work on it is that I have introduced too many characters in Chapter One. Part of me is itching to rewrite that opening, but I know it's better to motor on to the end and sort out such problems in the second draft. I haven't a clue what's going to happen in the last section of the novel, but the only way for me to find that out is just to write and see where it goes.

Anyway, I've written several new stories since Christmas and I feel I am coming to the end of a short story phase. Therefore I hereby make a declaration of intent. April will be novel month. There, I've told you all now, so I have to stick to it.

If you've done NaNoWriMo, I'd love to hear how you got on.

7 comments:

Rosalie Warren said...

Hi Joanne

Well done for writing 36000 words in a month. That's quite an achievement!

I'm just the opposite of you - I much prefer writing novels to short stories. I've written a few short stories but I feel frustrated that there is no time to develop the characters properly.

I should probably try to write more short stories, though, as writing to a strict word limit is great discipline and really teaches you to make every word count. And as you say, it's exciting to have something new to send off every few weeks.

Anyway, good luck with your April resolution - we'll be checking up on you :) Hope that novel soon starts to flow...

diane said...

Joanne, if you step back you'll see how amazingly productive you are! 46,000 words of a novel and several short stories in about four months? I may have to go and lie down...

Joanna said...

I think you've done really well to write that much and I'm sure you will finish it. The great thing is that you've still been writing all the time. When you look again at the novel, you will probably find it easier than you imagine at the moment. If I leave a short story for a while, it nags at me and I always think I'm going to be in for a hard time when I return to it. But, most of the time, I'm surprised to find it less daunting than I was expecting once I've launched myself back in. I would love to write a novel one day, but I'm sure I would still take breaks from it to write short stories as well. Very best of luck with it!

Joanne Fox said...

Thank you all.

I know what you mean about the frustrations of short word counts Rosalie, but that is also part of the challenge, I guess.

Diane, yes I am quite productive but I suppose I feel that I didn't get serious about writing until these last few years and there is just so much I want to do!

Joanna, I think you're right that it probably won't be so hard to get back into the novel once I start. It's a case of me committing the time to it instead of flitting around from one project to another all the while. I'm sure you'll write a novel one day, when you feel the time is right to start.

Colette McCormick said...

That's a fantastic achievement. The whole nano thing scares me to death. I can't imagine writing that amount of words in such a short space of time.

Joanne Fox said...

Colette - I couldn't imagine it either before I actually did it! But it's not as hard as it sounds once you get going. And it's a good feeling knowing so many others around the world are doing it too.

L'Aussie said...

Hey Joanne, you've done an amazing thing. Nothing is wasted. I wrote over the 50,000 by the cut off date, but haven't touched it yet. I know I have lots of research to do for some parts but overall the nano experience taught me to hit the computer every day. That was exciting. Even if my nano story never goes anywhere I know I learnt so much about the craft of writing - especially that you learn best by doing...be interested to hear how you get on with yours. I love short story writing too...