Back at the start of the month, I wrote about how I was starting Nanowrimo, the write a novel in a month project. I had spent October getting organised, #preptober, had a strong premise, a great midpoint to work towards and thought I was all set.
The first couple of weeks were good. I was on track. I wasn’t writing brilliant prose or going to win any awards with my sentence construction, but then the novel took a turn and I decided a few days ago to stop.
And here’s why
Nanowrimo is more than just getting words down
Or is it?
I suppose it depends on what you do Nanowrimo for.
For me, it was to get stuck into the sloppy first draft of my book. To charge ahead and see what came up. In fact, when I started, I was hoping to get past the 50k mark. My books usually end up being between 80 – 100k, so I was aiming for a bit more than 50K.
I wanted to know by the end of November what my book was really about, who the characters really were and, as always when I get to a certain point in my books, my characters took a turn I wasn’t expecting.
My main character needed more motivation for a scene, it’s a book about ghosts and legends and in this particular scene she is wandering around an ancient property.
I know a little about the ghost stories but needed more, so did a quick bit of research. It was then a whole can of worms, lovely interesting worms, were thrown into the book.
A ghost story I looked up talked of slavery, and how, in Cumbria and the area I’ve based my book in, some of the properties were built by slave traders. It talked of a slaver who was haunted and fitted in perfectly with my narrative.
I hadn’t anticipated writing about this subject at all. What I read in that short burst of research was alarming. I knew nothing of what had taken place and knew immediately that if I was going to write about such a subject, then proper research would need to be done.
Writing for the sake of it
I posed the question to my community on Instagram and got a mix of answers. Some people thought that ploughing ahead was the answer, do minimal research – just enough to get the basics down – and then continue with the novel.
Doing this meant that the shape of the story would get done, the very basic structure and I thought about doing it, but I realised that if I did that, I would be writing blind.
My character would be reacting blind, her internal struggle with her own fears and viewpoint wouldn’t be properly documented becuse I didn’t have the right information.
Which meant that her motivation would be wrong, her reaction to certain events would be wrong, which would lead her to behave differently and ultimately, that would have detrimental consequences on my draft.
Shape of the book
If I had carried on, I would’ve got the shape of the book down, but I feel it would be the wrong shape. I suddenly realised I was in danger of betraying my character and that’s what drives my novels, and I felt I might lose her.
So I stopped.
I’m at 37k and have the beginnings of a fabulous book. It’s grown and developed and is something I wouldn’t have imagined. I’m now going to put it to one side, because the edits have come in for my other book from my publisher and working on them will give me the space I need so when I go back to this book, I’ll have the advantage of reading as if for the first time.
I may not be a winner at Nanowrimo but I would most definitely do it again. I have gained so much from pushing myself to write such large amounts every day and have the start of a book that I’m really excited about.
Have you done it and if so, would you do it again?