What NaNoWriMo gave me.

As if you haven’t had enough of me going on about writing and about how I’ve finished already I’m now going to try and delve into exactly what the experience has done for me, what I have learned along the way and how I’m going to take that forward in my writing and my life.

It’s possible to write something worthwhile in three weeks.
Despite what Capote may have believed about Kerouac’s style of writing, it does seem to get the job done. Who’s to say that it has to take years to get a story together? The fact is that the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo is something that I hadn’t written a word of before November 1st, as it well should be but I spent a lot of time thinking about it before then. I first had the idea over a year ago and I’ve been flipping it over in my mind since then. At times it felt as if the words weren’t something I was thinking of, it had been turned over and churned up so many times in my head that it almost became automatic. Reading it back there are some really strong points to it, and some really good scenes and with a little bit of a redraft I would be happy to send it out into the world. It’s a strong story.

I can write other than as myself
I have a habit of writing from the point of view of ‘attractive, twenty-something male with narcissistic tendencies’. With Visions Of Violet I decided to try something completely different and completely out of my comfort zone and write as a woman. I’ve always been very aware of the way men write female characters. For me in particular they always seem to just feed into the male characters, almost to act as ‘a bit of skirt’ in the story. Yes, I write like a sexist 70’s boss. First reports indicate that I have managed it, that I have created a realistic female character.

I can set myself targets and achieve them
I’ve never been one for deadlines, I often leave things to the last minute under the assumption that I work better under pressure but I was very careful with NaNoWriMo. I spent as much time as I could writing. I took my laptop to work each day. I wrote on the train to London. I wrote on the train back. I wrote through lunch. I spent weekends locked away working, and it has paid off. I’m free to move onto the next project.

The first one wasn’t a fluke
It took me nine months to write my first novel Situation One. It took me a further three months to redraft it. Although Visions is half the length, I still wrote it in three weeks and plan on doing a quick redraft now before leaving it to settle before picking it up again in a month’s time.
I was worried that because Situation One was pretty exclusively based on things that had happened to me that I wouldn’t be able to finish something that ended entirely in fiction. The truth is that I have pulled from things I know for this book, as I hope most writers do. I once asked Graham Linehan (via Twitter) if he had any advice for new writers and he said “show, don’t tell” and I try to stick to that with my writing. It’s an excellent piece of advice.

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