I’ve been a bit sniffy about NaNoWriMo in the past. The name is bad. It easily beats Movember in the annoying and contrived stakes and is enough to put anyone off.
The idea that someone has to write 50,000 words of a novel in November seemed to me to be encouraging all the worst writing practices.
When it comes to writing practices, that’s something I’ve been very precious about. Mine involved only writing in a special notebook with a specific fountain pen which was dedicated to my main character. Once the words were handwritten, I would read them into a recorder, create a voice file and send this off for transcription. I was fond of telling anyone who stood still long enough within earshot that this procedure was essential. I had to do it this way, it was the only way in which the creative process could take place.
I wrote five novels in this manner. I also attended several Freefall Writing retreats where I would have to work twice as hard as everyone else because I had to transcribe my own handwritten work so that I could print it out and hand it in.
But I believed this was the only way I could write. I was also quite proud of my method and wondered how anyone could produce work of any merit without following my lead.
Then my transcription service lady retired. I was left with nobody I trusted to get my words into readable form. I tried Dragon. All I can say about this amazing program that allows you to type with your voice is that it works. Up to a point. And that point is when it deciphers my voice into something plausible but not quite right. Near enough to look OK to the first glance but actually meaningless drivel. Or at least drivel with less meaning than it was meant to have. It may have been me, but the time it took for corrections of a Dragon derived script was longer than typing it two fingered myself in the first place. I invested a huge amount of time customising it to my voice and the vocabulary I use. I may try it again one day. On the other hand, I may not because I no longer need it.
My writing teacher, Barbara Turner-Vessalago www.freefallwriting.com has always been dismissive of my insistence on handwriting everything. She has always viewed it as an affectation. She even devoted a paragraph in her book which, without naming names, invited me to take a good look at myself and my writing practice.
My sixth novel, and the third to be published, was written on a computer. It’s called Limited Liability and I know it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. And it was done without all the emotional props I’d gathered around me.
When November came around this year, I’d ditched enough of my pretentiousness to enter. (I also grew a moustache for Movember but that’s for another blog post, or maybe not)
It has been brilliant. The encouragement from fellow WriMos (arrgh!) has been inspiring and there have also been local events so that we can meet up and write together. I couldn’t be more impressed with the Lancashire and Cumbria Region or with the NaNoWriMo website.
I’ve done fifty thousand words of the next Jenny Parker novel, Critical Analysis, and I’m very happy with the whole experience. I don’t see why I should stop just because November comes to an end. I’d like to write fifty thousand words every month!
NaNoWriMo is important. It makes would-be writers become real writers. The only way to learn to write is to write, in my experience. The more I write, the better I get.
Those of you who have been asking for a fourth Jenny Parker book can be grateful as well.