Home > My Writing, Yellowcake Springs > The Method to my Madness, Or Why I Don’t Do NaNoWriMo

The Method to my Madness, Or Why I Don’t Do NaNoWriMo

I don’t do National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s a great concept – to write 50,000 words in the month of November each year and call it a novel – but I don’t do it. This is because my workaday life prevents me from writing in the mornings, which is my preferred time to write. I’ve seen writers’ blogs with tallies of how many words they have written in such and such a time. I’ve even seen a couple that represents this visually in the form of a ‘health bar’ (if you play computer games you’ll know what I mean). I don’t do this at all. Not only do I not do NaNoWriMo, I don’t even attempt to stick to a daily regimin of words written. What kind of a writer does that?

Well, it’s not a race. If you wrote a thousand words a day every day for a year, you’d have 365, 000 words by year’s end. That’s much more than the length of the average novel these days. You’d crack a million in three years. But would those million words be any good, and how would you shape them into something you could try to sell? I suppose it depends on how you operate as a writer. I suspect that we are all different, and that the aforementioned method works for some people. Most writers try to stick to a daily routine, a small percentage of whom actually manage to adhere to said routine, and others write in short, sustained bursts. Hence NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately, November isn’t a good month for me. None of the months bar January are. My NaNoWriMo takes place each year during the school summer holidays. This year the period in question begins on Friday 19th Dec and ends on Wednesday 29th Jan. 42 short days. And in those six weeks I aim, not to write an entire novel, but half of one.

Circumstances have dictacted that I, like 99.99% of all the writers in the world, need a day job to pay the bills. Those two words, ‘day job,’ seem to suggest that the writing, if there is any, takes place in the night, no? For myself, that day job is teaching. Due to the way that my brain seems to operate, I can’t countenance the idea of writing in the afternoons, or early in the morning before school, or exclusively on the weekends. ‘No,’ my mind says. ‘I won’t do it.’

Or, in the words of one of the writers I admire most (William S. Burroughs): ‘Writing you do when you don’t feel like writing ain’t worth shit.’

So I have shaped my creative life around the tyranny of WORK. This is how a year generally goes for me. Bear in mind that a) I only started this routine in 2006/07 and b) why would you care what I think anyway, seeing as I haven’t had a novel accepted for publication yet? To illustrate this, I began planning for my novel The Kingdom of Four Rivers toward the end of 2006. I wrote around 50,000 words, approximately the first half of the novel, in the holidays of 06/07. Then the project lay dormant for eleven months during the 2007 school year. In the summer of 07/08, I completed the first draft (another 50,000 words). But then I had a goal – to enter the TAG Hungerford Award, which closed at the end of June. This caused me to spend around three months DURING the 2008 school year tinkering with my manuscript, trimming it down from a flabby 100, 000 to a trim 86, 000 words. Using this method, I wager I can produce a novel every two years without a) writing during the school term b) writing on the weekends) and c) beating myself up about it.

Even better, most of the year is spend doing other things. I have observed that I go through distinct phases in the creative process, many of which appear to have nothing to do with writing at all. Sometime during the year, I will manage to read dozens of books, mainly in the form of novels. This year I read well over 50, most of which were read between the months of February and June. I call this a ‘reading binge.’ Then there are the dormant times, of which there are many. During these periods, I try not to think or writing or even of reading at all. Generally, creative oblivion is reached through PC games, my other passion. We also have the planning phase, in which I begin, over a period of weeks, to plan the new project. I am in this phase at the moment. And finally, there is the writing itself. Four distinct phases or states: reading, dormancy, planning and writing.
To announce my own intentions then, I am currently planning to write what I hope will be my second published novel, currently titled Yellowcake Springs. This is another science fiction novel, but at least it will be set in Australia this time. (This is a mixed blessing.) I aim to write at least 42, 000 words and hopefully around 50, 000 over the course of 42 days in December and January. If all goes to plan, I will finish the first draft in the summer of 09/10 and have the project completed in time to enter the 2010 Vogel and/or other awards.

So there it is: the scheme behind my mad ways.

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