This month, I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo. It’s my first non-cheaty attempt. Last year, I started with 20,000 words of Sigyn right out of the gate and used it as motivation to write a final final draft (ah, optimism). This year, I started with nothing except an idea about a girl solving crimes with her punnily-named uncle.
I wasn’t sure I could do it. But now, nearly a month later, I’ve got the bare bones of a MG novel that I know I’ll be able to flesh out and turn into something I really love. I’ve also (because, being middle-grade, my detective story doesn’t run to the full 50,000 words) got some short story first drafts, a load of dreadful monologues by Sigyn characters that are helping me round out the backstories of my villains – and a couple of blogs, including this one.
Doing NaNoWriMo has brought me back to writing the way I used to. For most of this year, I’ve been finding it difficult to sit down and write even a couple of hundred words. Now, I’ve got into a habit where I can easily clear a thousand in a day. The more I write, the more ideas come, and the less I focus on making sure that the words are perfect straight away, the easier it is to set them down.
It hasn’t always been easy. I’m flagging a little by this point in the month, particularly as the actual first draft of the novel is done, and Sigyn edits are calling. I’m checking my word count a lot more regularly than I was at the beginning. But I have the first drafts of several stories I didn’t know were in me, and that makes me happier than I can describe.
Doing NaNo hasn’t just helped me get the words down – it’s also helped me notice a lot about my writing. I’ve always had certain images that keep turning up in whatever I write. In the past, it’s been climbing, or running, but this month, it appears to be zombies in the snow. Don’t know what that says about me, but feel free to psychoanalyse if you like.
I’ve also noticed things I need to work on. My MG novel was supposed to be funny – writing the first draft has made me realise that actually, I’m kind of scared to put jokes in my stories. I expect this has everything to do with the worry “What if people don’t laugh?” So, I know what I’ll be focusing on in my rewrite – shutting up the inner critic and finding the funny in a story that I know has potential.
Another aspect of the rewrite will be some intensive research. My heroine has a prosthetic leg, which is something I know barely anything about – so I’ll be reading, researching and listening, to make sure that I do the best job I can when writing her, and make sure that I keep mistakes to a minimum.
Finally, I’ll have to work really hard on structuring the mystery itself. Story structure is something I’ve always struggled with – the reason it’s taken me so long to write Sigyn is that I get excited about all the stuff at the beginning and the end, and completely lose my way in the middle. You can’t do that with any story and end up with something that people will want to read, but it’s particularly important to get the structure right with a mystery – otherwise, you don’t have a mystery, just a confusing mess.
I didn’t think I’d be able to do NaNo without the head-start I had last year, but I’m so glad to have proved myself wrong. December’s looming, bringing edits with it, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.