Monday, 27 October 2014

A Novel in 30 Days

I have set myself a challenge. For the month of November, I am going to take part in "NaNoWriMo", a writing competition that challenges its participants to write a novel in 30 days.

Can I do it? Well, earlier this month, I would have said no.  I believed that that there was no way I would ever have the motivation, time management, skill and energy to do something like that. But following events that happened this week, I now think, feel, believe, know that I can do it.

This week has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult weeks of my life. Without wanting to get too much into it (because I'm only ever a millisecond from bursting into tears at the thought of it), we had to make the painful decision to have our family dog put to sleep, after 16 years of love and loyalty from him (he is the cutie in my blogger profile picture). The horribleness of that evening began with a long drive home from work without dinner, two hours in the vets, the tearful goodbyes, watching his eyes close for the last time, the long drive home and finally the silent trudge up the garden to his final resting place.

What aggravated that night even further was that I had decided to enter my first 10,000 words into a novel writing competition and the deadline was the next day. And I still had to finish my manuscript.

Yes, I know I shouldn't have left it to the last minute, but if my tutors in college couldn't get that message through to me, it's not going to happen now. I accept that I am an eternal crammer, forever procrastinating until my deadline gradually slinks closer. At which point, I dust off the laptop and let my fingers fly faster than Liberace's.

So as I got home from the vets at 10pm, my face red and puffy from crying and my stomach crying out for more than half a bag of chips, I put on the kettle and wrote until until 2am. I didn't want to. In fact, it was torture. All I wanted to do was roll up in a ball while looking through old photo albums, crying to the Marley and Me soundtrack. But I persevered. I persevered until my eyes stung, my head began to flop and my wordcount was completed.

I then grabbed four hours of restless sleep before being awoken by my alarm at 6am and wrote my synopsis (which I had foolishly left until the last minute). There was a brief moment that morning when I genuinely considered forgetting about the competition. I knew I was going to get stuck in bad traffic and I wasn't happy with my synopsis. And to top it all off, I was having a bad hair day.

It was a truly horrible moment because I can be so negative when I get into that frame of mind (particularly with little or no sleep) but something in me told me to keep going. I don't know what it was - if I did, I would bottle it and keep it for future deadlines, football games, bad days in the office etc...

In the end, I finished it. I printed it off, sealed it up and dropped it off to the competition headquarters (almost bursting into tears when the lovely man that I handed into smiled at me and said "Well done!").

I really didn't think I could do it, but I did. And I surprised myself by doing so. It was a brave thing to enter into the competition (I think it was anyway) and it would have been easy to succumb to the challenges of the week and make excuses about why I didn't do it. But life is what happens to us when we make other plans, and I'm sick of making excuses about writing.

It's almost six years to the date that I first came up with the idea of my novel (a realisation that hit me during a conversation with a colleague last week) and I'm so annoyed with myself that it's taken this long to write. I know that all novels, indeed all first novels, take years to write. But the length of time it has taken me to write my novel is primarily down to me and my eternally-procrastinating ways.

I do need a kick up the arse (forgive the language but it's apt) and I'm hoping NaNoWriMo will help spur me on. I believe it will and I think that's the key attitude. There's no point in doing the competition if I don't believe I can complete it. And although this past week has been horrible and one that I would never want to repeat in my life, I learned something from it. I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish what I want to. I learned that I can ignore the inner voice in my head, telling me stop, telling me that I am going to fail, telling me not to bother. It's not often that he loses the battle, but he did this week.

So, I've signed up for NaNoWriMo and I'm going to write 50,000 words of my novel (that's 1,667 words per day) before the 30th of November. If you don't hear/see much of me over the next month, take it as a good sign!