It is November Sixteenth, and NaNoWriMo is halfway through. I am not halfway through with the writing – I am on seventeen thousand words, aiming for twenty thousand by the end of today. That is quite a long way away from being done.
I said, when I decided to try the challenge, that I was likely to fail. November has so far been an incredibly busy month for me, and whilst it seems to be calming down somewhat now, it is still rather hectic. On the first two days of November, I managed the word count I wanted – one thousand seven hundred. For the next five days, I failed to write a single word. It was an inauspicious first week.
However, to my immense surprise, I’m not as far behind as I thought I would be. In fact, we are half way through, and there is still a tiny sliver of hope that I will complete it. On the ninth day of NaNoWriMo, I picked it back up again, and have managed one thousand seven hundred words every day since, though I did end up still writing at four am yesterday.
It would be nice to complete it – constancy and consistency are not in my strong suit, and I’d like them to become so. If I manage two thousand five hundred words every single day from now on, I should make it in time.
That is more than I want to do each day, and more than I have managed so far on almost everyday. But it is technically doable. It will be something of a slog, but I’ve still got ideas flowing; writer’s block isn’t the problem, it’s actually sitting down and doing it that I struggle with.
Overall, I’m finding the experience both useful and depressing. It’s useful because I am getting faster at writing, and it is (hopefully) developing my self-discipline. I’m also learning an awful lot about writing.
The first thing I learnt, and the reason that the experience is depressing, is that I am terrible at this. Novel writing is hard, much harder than short story writing, or at least I am finding it so. It is like swimming through treacle. Everything drags out longer, and needs more set up, more buildup, and more closing up. I hate writing like this – it’s slow and horrible.
That is just my experience, and it is quite probably not generalisable to the writing of novels as a whole. A far more reasonable explanation is that I am finding it so hard because I am terrible at it. And I am terrible at it – truly terrible. The characterisation is inconsistent, the word choice flat, the dialogue clunky. The only reason that my work isn’t the worst thing I have ever read is because I have some incredibly terrible books on my Kindle – self-published nightmares by people who clearly don’t believe in editors or the whole idea of a coherent narrative. But my book is close – too close for comfort.
There is a quote that I half remember and then can never find, about how people who write tend to have been readers for a while – they have a well developed sense of decent writing, and become deeply discouraged when their own work fails to trigger that sense, simply because they are a talented and experienced reader, but a novice writer. I’m hoping it’s true, hoping that I am just inexperienced, and that my writing will get better with time.
Right now though, my novel is appalling – absolute and total dreck. I believe I can lay claim, without sounding too full of myself, to being a competent writer. I can put words in a row in a way that people can understand. I can write short stories that are okay. Apparently, however, I can’t write novels.
I will persevere – reaching the word count is a goal I’d like to achieve. But I really hope that I start to see some improvement in my writing, because right now, reading back what I have written fills me with nothing but horror at the clunking prose.
I’m trying, and I’m producing, and I’m learning. It would be greedy to ask for more. I’m glad, in moments when I am not cursing my keyboard, that I resolved to attempt it.
I’ll post again soon, hopefully, with more observations on what I have learnt from the actual process of writing it. However, it is quarter to two in England right now, and I should either be forcing out a few more words, or trying to sleep.