Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

on being ten ferrets

It’s November – the month when many members of the creative writing community take on the amazing/crazy/awe-inspiring/ridiculous challenge known as NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month. Yes, people write a whole novel in a month. A whole one. In thirty days.

Ferrets (wait for it... all will become clear.)

Ferrets (wait for it… all will become clear.)

For the past three years I’ve eyed the approach of November with a vague sense of ‘maybe I should be doing that’. You see I do have a novel I’m working on. No, wait two novels I’m working on… or rather – let’s be honest now – two novels I’ve left at random stages of incompletion (in one my main protagonist has just made an exciting discovery, in the other she is in grave danger). NaNoWriMo could be the perfect way to get one or the other of them finished couldn’t it?

But I’ve never been willing to take the plunge. “I can’t just write that book, I want to write these other things!” I argue to myself “Well, quite. Not to mention that I need to do this (non-writing) stuff over here!” I agree with myself, “And then what about the kids? How do I pay any attention to them while writing a book and doing everything else?!” I exclaim to hammer the point home.

People do it though, they really do, and they manage to juggle all those things – I’m just not so sure it would work for me. And today I read a post that explained why. It was by the awesomely hilarious writer Chuck Wendig (if you’ve never read his blog just do – especially if you’re a writer. And if you like intelligent sweary rants and are a fan of tangents.) who was listing reasons for and against doing NaNoWriMo. There, in the list of ‘reasons not to’, was the one that made it all clear to me – not just my feelings about NaNo, everything:

“Writers are not particularly good at following orders, I find. In fact, every writer is basically ten ferrets. You can’t control one ferret, much less ten. Ferrets will not be commanded. FERRETS CARE LITTLE FOR YOUR NATIONAL FERRET WRANGLING MONTH (NaFerWraMo).”

That’s it! I thought, That’s exactly it! I’m ten ferrets! I KNEW it!

It’s obvious when you think about it – that’s why I feel dragged in so many directions, that’s why I struggle to do one thing, why my brain is always leaping off and thinking about so many other things at the same time. It’s why I can’t stick to writing one thing (poetry, picture books, flash fiction, short stories, and novels in different genres have all been at the ends of my typing fingers these past few years). It’s why my (long-suffering) husband is always saying “Are you listening to me? Because I feel like you just asked me a question then switched off” and “Didn’t I just say that five minutes ago? Why are you asking me again?” Well no, I’m quite possibly not and yes, he probably did but my ten ferrets are running all over the place so what do you expect?

But it’s ok you see, because the whole process I’ve been going through with my writing over the past three years has basically been ferret training. I’ve bought the leads. I’ve taught them how to sit in a row, how to run in a straight line without getting the leads tangled, how to do tricks.

Because, ferrets are very tameable it turns out. They may not take commands well, but they do respond to reasoning. They’re thoughtful and loyal and ok, they still run all over the place with wild abandon given half a chance but they can be very productive. Sometimes ferrets even write manuscripts and send them to agents.

All writers should nurture their inner ferrets – they’ll pave the way to our success.

Writing Bubble

*disclaimer* I wrote this post far too late at night for my rational brain to be fully functioning. Please excuse the constant references to ferrets.

camping it up

summer tree cropEver heard of NaNoWriMo (Nation Novel Writing Month) ?

In case you haven’t, it’s an annual, online creative writing challenge to write a 50,000 word novel between the first and the last day of November. It’s been running since 1999 and attracts participants from across the world.

It describes itself as: “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing… for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.” Basically you write (crazily fast) throughout the month, entering what you’ve written into their secure site where the words are counted (but never seen by a human eye) and logged. If you hit the target by the end of the month you are declared a winner. And maybe you’ll be able to get your novel published at some point in the future – over 250 NaNo novels have been traditionally published since its inception… and counting!

Sounds fun? A bit mad perhaps? Well yes. I toyed with the idea of taking part in it last November (for all of two seconds before deciding: “Who am I kidding? I couldn’t possibly do that – I haven’t slept for nearly a year!”) and am vaguely considering doing it this year.

But then via my friend Chrissie who is a total NaNoWriMo enthusiast (I think she may have done seven of them… possibly more) I became aware of an offshoot of the main event: CampNaNoWriMo which takes place twice a year in April and July. This is a less pressured event that you can enter with anything upwards of 10,000 words (and you can write short stories and scripts and things – it’s quite flexible).

So, I’ve decided to take part next month! I’m all signed up with a target of 15,000 words. If I manage that (and if I hit my 10,000 target for this month) my novel will have reached 45,000 words by the end of July.

I’m quite excited! But it does mean I need to write fast to finish my target for this month. I also need to leave myself time before July 1st to do some preparation work because basically I’ve got to the point where I need to plan more of my book before I can write more of it. Yes, If you’re a fastidious planner you can read this and feel smug because my novel is barely planned at all. I only really have a vague outline and am mostly making it up as I go along. Tsk.

On that note, I’d better scarper.