Monday 26 November 2012

November -n- That

This month I have had three large restrictions to my usually free and easy lifestyle.

The first, is that I have been giving myself a bit of a diet in an effort to slim myself down a little and also because I have been finding very easy to have ready in the fridge.

I have also been impeded in my facial beauty due to the growth of this rather unpleasant 'tache...

Finally, I have been taken part in NaNoWriMo, an attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month.

First thing's first, I 'won' and completed my words and have the certificate to prove it.

Although 50,000 words is not the whole of Odes to the Big City, it's looking like it's going to be something as a doorstop (as I suppose a book inspired by Tom Jones ought to be). However, it is a big chunk bitten out of it and more than I tend to write in a year.

My lack of productivity has always been my greatest weakness as a writer. My first completed novel took three years, my second, 'Death of a Dreamonger' took four but at NaNo speed I could knock out a first draft in four months.

Nano gave me the excuse to dedicate a month to work on my book but also the desire to see the little bargraph go up motivated me to work hard and keep at it. This in itself gave my writing a wonderful life of it's own and I have never enjoyed writing anything quite so much (with the possible exception of the Suicide Bridge scene in 'Dreamonger'). Also, my need for detailed information to ground the rest of the action powered a frenzy of excited and exciting research.

I also learnt to keep a post it nod pad by my computer as I wrote so I could write words that might not fit into the eighteenth century and look them up later, my sense for whether a word is contemporary or not had become quite acute. I also learnt about coaching routes, how to book one and where they go. Not only this, I have learnt all sorts about ornamental hermits, eighteenth century lockpicking and intricate travels through maps of old London.

I also learnt numbers of ways to improve the effectiveness of my writing time. I have learnt that short focused burst of no more than 45 minutes each work better than my traditional 'sit around, staring at a blank screen and twiddling my thumbs' method. I also learnt that writing faster did not promise a drop in quality, as the writing has a momentum that keeps itself going.

The month of writing culminated in the 'London Literary Lock-in' where 60+ people were crammed into a small bookshop to write from 7PM to AM, with a few games, cakes and cups of peppermint tea thrown in. One tweeter described it as 'a creative battery farm' and the sound of 60-odd laptops clacking away was an eery sound, a little like a kind of mechanical rain.

The real joy of the night for me though, as well as writing close to 10,000 words, was that I won the raffle and was able to get this book.

Which is the best tribute to Ian Dury in book form there probably ever could be.

However, talking to people at the event and reading my new book the next day and finally finishing my 50,000 word onto the screen has convinced me to not do NaNo again.

When we were there people talked about how writing anything and reaching the desired number was worth something in itself. When I got the link to my certificate and a recorded cheer from the NaNo organisers, I realised that I was getting this cheer, and receiving the encouragement for the purely mechanical act of typing words. Anybody can put words on a page or screen, it's the job of a writer to try and put them in a way they fit most enjoyably or pleasingly. It's the difference between a typical moon/june/croon lyric and an Ian Dury one (who has many but one of my favourites goes 'cruising down carnality canal in my canoe, can I canoodle?)

So I have a lot to thank for NaNo for kicking me up the backside and seeing how enjoyable a more fully committed writing life can be, but I will respectfully decline joining again.

All yours

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