My Nanowrimo Experience (Happy Nanowrimo 2021!)
Well, we are now a week into November, the month of the oft-dreaded Nanowrimo! This is my fourth time participating in the event, but the first time I actually stand a vague chance of actually hitting the mythical fifty-thousand words.
And how am I doing this? By cheating! Well, sort of cheating. You’ll see.
For my first Nanowrimo all the way back in 2018, I was a naive 18-year-old who had only just decided that I wanted to pursue writing seriously. I was brimming with confidence beyond my skill level, and I spent the month writing something only vaguely novel-shaped by the seat of my pants. That was ‘The Theft Of The Pasero’, a twenty thousand word sci-fi mess about a ragtag crew who steal their boss’s spaceship in an attempt to avoid being enlisted into the war to end all wars.
In hindsight, ‘The Theft Of The Pasero’ was bad. The prose was wonky, the characters were flat, the worldbuilding was derivative, and a lot of it had been (accidentally, I hope) ripped off from the TV Show ‘Red Dwarf’ that I was more than a little bit obsessed with at the time.
My Nanowrimo journey ended on the twenty-somethingth after I realised that I just couldn’t get the blasted thing finished in time. And even if I could, it would not be good enough to be worth my time.
Though I could not be deterred forever. Only slightly jaded, my project for 2019 was the slightly better planned ‘So You’ve Become An Endling?’, the story of the last surviving human going on adventures with an alien documentary filmmaker after the destruction of the planet earth.
It had planning. It had slightly more compelling characters. It had way more worldbuilding than strictly necessary. It may not have been literary gold, but I thought it was at least definitely a polishable literary bronze. Ok, maybe not bronze. Literary aluminum, maybe? Or literary pewter, like cheap jewelry that turns your skin green.
And… It crashed and burned in only eight thousand words. Bummer.
November 2019 was an incredibly busy month for me. I was visiting universities, putting together portfolios, and starting the rather stressful process of doing a UCAS application. Writing a novel is already like pulling teeth, and the added stress made it feel like the anesthetic had been taken away.
A lot of the initial version of ‘So You’ve Become An Endling?’ was written on a staggeringly long return coach journey from Liverpool to my home city of Norwich after visiting a university that, all truth be told, I wasn’t particularly impressed with. I wrote a lot of it on a little tablet with a cracked screen, before moving on to my mobile phone of all things when the tablet’s battery ran out.
After two crash-and-burns in a row, I was hesitant to attempt Nanowrimo again. But things could not get any worse for me in the plague year of 2020, so I found myself climbing hesitantly back into the ring with the mantra of “what’s the worst that could happen?” I’d done some polishing of ‘So You’ve Become An Endling?’ during the pandemic, scrapping the initial draft and cannibalising it into ten thousand words of reasonably good writing. Nanowrimo 2020 took me up to around twenty-five thousand in all; not the fifty I’d been hoping for, but a good solid attempt.
And, after a year of work, I started Nanowrimo 2021 with a respectable thirty-nine thousand words. This month, I aim to hit the nice round number of fifty thousand words, and I actually stand a scrap of a chance of making it!
But fifty thousand will not take me to the end of the story, oh no. Endling is a behemoth of a tale, and I bet I will hit a hundred thousand words before it’s done. Considering it has taken me three years to get to where I am now, and it is still only a first draft after all this time, I would not be surprised if I have grey hair by the time it’s fully finished.
And, after all that work, I’m not even sure if ‘So You’ve Become An Endling?’ will ever see the light of day in any meaningful sense. I adore the story and the world I have created, but I am under no illusion that it is any good. It’s self-indulgent, the pacing is all over the place, and the story is rather overshadowed under the weight of all the worldbuilding I’ve done.
I may one day wrangle it into a fit enough state to share with the world, but for now, at least, I am writing it for me. And that’s ok.
Every word I write is helping me hone my skills as a writer. I have come on in leaps and bounds since I started Endling in 2019, but I still have many things left to learn.
Though it may slightly be considered cheating, since I am by no means starting something new, I hope I can make good progress this National Novel Writing Month.