Today, November 1st, marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated - although National has now become International, but InNoWriMo obviously doesn't sound as good).
The aim is to write a 50,000 word novel (or novella, really) in 30 days. To be fair to the organisers, it's supposed to be a bit of fun, a way of sparking the creativity, a challenge. Nobody, realistically, expects a complete masterpiece at midnight on 1st December.
There are some, however, who frown upon NaNoWriMo, perhaps even consider it "beneath them". I'm sure some participants really do believe that bashing out 50k words is all they need to do to be published, and I'm equally sure literary agents the world over dread the potential influx of not-really-ready work to land in their InBoxes during December. But, for the most part, I think the detractors are missing the point.
I tried NaNo a few years ago. I think I managed about 15k words in ten days, so was roughly on target. Except for one thing: it was dreadful. Truly, truly dreadful. It actually had the effect of making me wondering if I was ever going to actually write a book at all; maybe that "everyone has a novel in them" adage really didn't apply to me. Having reached that conclusion, I gave up and have never felt the need to write again.
But, and this is important, that only applies to me. It's not that I can't write at that speed - I know I can. THE LONG SECOND was written in exactly 2 months and, at 115k words, meant that on at least one of those months, I wrote well over 50k words. And (in my opinion), it's actually a decent story.
And that's what was missing from my NaNo attempt: a decent story.
I now have three "decent stories" under my belt, and two of them took much, much longer to write. The fourth is proving equally protracted, but that's my focus for this November, to move this story along. Not at 1500 words per day, maybe not even at 1500 words per week, but at whatever pace feels right, at whatever pace the story reveals itself to me (and it's coming, it really it, after a bit of a "eureka!" moment last week).
So: if you're taking part in NaNoWriMo, I wish you good luck, and hope you enjoy it. Just remember that when you've finished writing, you haven't finished the book. If, like me, you're not taking part, then please don't look down on those who are - and I'd like to assure my many friends that (should my message be misunderstood, especially on Twitter, with its character limits) I'm definitely not looking down on them, and any use of the #NoNaNo tag (or similar) is not a protest against those who are taking part, but more a gathering place for those of us who might, actually, be feeling a little left out!