One thousand six hundred and 67 words each day, for 30 days. I started the month thinking it would be quite easy. After all, I spend all day at work writing stories, so I didn’t think I’d have much difficulty.
But once I really started getting down to writing each day I discovered that fiction is a lot different from journalism. You have to rely on your imagination rather than having information fed to you, and it all has to be on the same subject.
I’d written short stories before, but never anything as long as 50,000 words. The most difficult part was trying to think of a plot which would stretch to that length, with plenty of meat in it to keep me interested enough to write.
The target for each day is 1,667 words – nearly three times the length of this feature – but if you miss a day you have to write more, and if you miss several days it can be quite difficult to get back on track.
To start with I really didn’t know who I was writing for – whether it was people my age, teenagers or younger children, and of course the language you use and your storyline changes with your audience. But once I’d decided on my characters - six young faeries called Columbine, Lavender, Poppy, Ginevra, Lily and Persephone - it was fairly obvious that it would be a children’s story, and probably for girls.
It was interesting once the story really got off the ground because there were times when I’d sit down and start writing, and the characters would just start doing things without any prompting from me. Ginevra and Lavender had a row of their own accord, and Lily decided to jump into a lake with rather nasty consequences, which then meant I had to rewrite later scenes.
On those days I never seemed to be short of what to write about, and the story almost seemed to tell itself.
But then there were other days when it was a real struggle, and it was really helpful to know that there were thousands of other people across the world, from Australia to the United States, facing the same problems that I was.
I could log into the National Novel Writing Month website, which included the official word counter and the discussion forums, and get inspiration from fellow NaNo-ers or take part in “word wars”, where you try to write as many words as you can in a set time.
NaNoWriMo started as an internet challenge in 1999 with only a handful of people taking part. Since then it’s grown enormously and last year more than 100,000 people signed up, with more than 15,000 reaching the magic 50,000 word goal.
The idea is that at the end of the month you’ve produced the first draft of a 175-page novel, but now you now have the challenge of editing and making it readable.
Most people do it as a challenge to themselves, some people do it because they have a story all planned out and just need the motivation to tell it, some already published writers take part for fun or as a boost, and several schools take part as a writing project.
Some participants have even managed to sell their NaNoWriMo novels to publishers, and the forums on the website now the month is over are full of advice on getting published, and people wanting their novels critiqued.
For me the next challenge is to finish the story. I still have a few scenes to write, including the final battle scene, and then I’ll start editing it.
After that who knows? But I’d love to try to get it published, and then maybe next year’s NaNoWriMo can be a sequel.