NaNoWriMo (and putting money where my mouth is)

Beneath the Floor - Nanowrimo 2020
Wallpaper forest

After giving up alcohol last month, I decided that I liked having a horrendous challenge to burden myself with, so plunged into National Novel Writing Month. Well, I say plunged. It was more like I sat on the edge of the swimming pool and dipped my ankles in until I could get used to the cold water. But then I never was a strong swimmer.

I also had a head start. Rather than a full novel, I just needed to finish a half-written one. My target was a measly 1,000 words a day, which after the month of November would give me 30,000 (polished and fantastic) words. In theory. So, this was like NaNoWriMo light.

Still, it was far more than my normal writing output, even on my best weeks - when I was consistently finishing a chapter a week. But - and I know you’re not going to believe this - I quickly fell behind. My first week, dominated by the US election and workplace revelations, I only managed half my target. The next week, my workload picked up. And the weird thing about working from home is the time you would normally spend commuting just seems to evaporate. The house is dirtier. You take a longer break at lunch. You need to take a break from the screen. You procrastinate. And if you’re like me, you don’t feel comfortable booking that as ‘work’ on your timesheet. So, you inevitably end up working later than you planned, to make up for any down time in between your actual work. Then, when you’ve finished, the people who start their day later haven’t. So you inevitably get phone calls and end up turning the work computer back on. Stuff just seems to get in the way.

Plus - and you’re probably feeling this too - it’s a weird time, isn’t it? There’s a monotony to Lockdown 2 that didn’t seem to be as present in Lockdown 1. The days are short, dark and cold. Everything’s gloomy. Anything you can do to distract yourself has a ‘been there, done that’ quality to it. My playstation bores me. Netflix bores me. And whilst my writing doesn’t bore me, moving from ‘work’ screen to ‘hobby’ screen can feel… draining, I suppose.

So, I’m quite proud of the fact that I’m finally pushing ahead this week. On Tuesday I wrote over 2,000 words, my NaNoWriMo personal best for a single day. It brings my total to 13,232 out of my target 18,000. Still behind, but doing well, enjoying it, and above all writing stuff I’m proud of. I’ve never subscribed to the ‘vomit draft’ way of thinking, where you just hammer it out as fast as possible. If something doesn’t sound right, or doesn’t work, it’s getting deleted. And my ending has been drastically improved, finally worthy of the ‘grand finale’ title all books should have.

I’ve also commissioned my first illustrated cover. I’ve been working with a fantastic Italian artist to bring Floor Fifty-Four to life. The colour sketch is now completed, and the artwork is fantastic, even in its unfinished form. I’m really excited to see it come to life, and can’t wait to show it off once it’s done. Keep your peepers peeled for that one. I’ll probably do a few sneaky teases before the big reveal.

Making big leaps of progress on two books around a similar point in time really gives me confidence in this secret world I’m building. It’s weird carrying stories around in your head. Over the years, I’ve built up a vast collection that never really leave. Comic book stories, screenplays, novels and fan fiction, they all float around up there, chatting away. It’s kind of weird having these entire worlds that nobody knows about except for you. I think that’s what excites me most about this project I’m focusing all my energy on at the moment. Launching two books together gives me the best chance I’ve ever had at getting these ideas out of my head and into the real world. And it’s just the start. Kind of like sitting at the edge of the swimming pool. Dipping your ankles in and finding out the water is nice. Warm enough to swim.

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