Funny one this year, NaNoWriMo, the 50000 word marathon for the month of November. I did it firstly last year and in the intervening time got myself a complete novel, Housewife with a Half-life an escapist comic novel with a sci-fi slant and a very endearing main character. It was a difficult process and churning the words out using every means possible, including the online software program Write or Die with which I discovered it’s possible to write 500 words in 15 mins but you won’t know what you’ve written. There were a few marathon weekend catchup sessions too,
This year I was ready to write a literary novel, one that I have been thinking about and gathering notes for for about three years. So the themes were well established but I suppose I still hadn’t got round to plot and fleshing out the characters.During NaNoWriMo I got to know the characters and hear what they had to tell me.
Is it possible to write a literary novel using the no-holes-barred, gun’s blazing NaNoWriMo method? Yes and no. I set out to write some vignettes, flash pieces within my novel. I thought this method would suit me because of my love affair with flash fiction in the past few months due to my involvement with the #fridayflash internet meme. I did achieve this several times and posted some of the results but overall I broke all the rules and wrote random incomplete pieces as they emerged from the subconscious, darting this way and that as the mood took me. I did have an overall structure in my mind but during NaNoWriMo I have to admit that I worked within in only very loosely.
This year, despite finishing early (on the night of the 27th, due to two sessions on different weekends of 7000 words in a day) this post NaNoWriMo period hasn’t the same exuberance as last year’s where I hosted a NaNoWriMo Celebration Blog Party. (Of course tomorrow is the official closing date!) Yesterday (the 28th) was spent up until 1am finishing a short story for another deadline. Although exhausted from these two (Marathon and Sprint?) and needing to catch up on neglected aspects of life, I know that I will be writing in some shape or form every day. There is this literary novel to crack, write a synopsis for, there are edits to put through on the last book, there are flash pieces to write for another project and always, always short stories. So although there are many words written, some of which may be pretty, there is no sense of finishing about NaNoWriMo, it is just one step on a continuing path.
What I missed during NaNo and what has to be crucial in a literary novel is the fine tuning that I later re-discovered while working on my short story. It is the careful selection of phrase and word to resonate with the piece as a whole. It is the pleasure that comes from polish. After giving myself over to abandoned word churning I began to feel a little dull and tawdry.
I know that the 50,000 words are there now and that I can go back and polish now to my hearts desire, restructure, revise and try to bring out the jewel I hoped for to begin with. I’m the kind of person for whom a deadline brings out the heroic but I’m not sure that I will be doing NaNoWriMo next year. I might be too busy polishing old things.