November, as all astute and diligent readers will know, is a month devoted to the frenzied penning of an original 50,000-word novel. No cheats like using the one you got a third of the way through last year, of course, though shameless padding is allowed. I’ve done two NaNos so far. In 2007 I wrote a dreadful piece of experimental literary fiction called Tasting Shadows: it was about a girl with gustatory hallucinations due to a tumour, and it was mostly blow-by-blow recipes, with cryptic passages of exposition in between. Perhaps I shall post a brief yet humiliating excerpt in a bit, as a sort of Opus Dei-type confessional ritual. Nonetheless, the thing was over 50k — in NaNoWriMo terms, a win.
2008’s goal was a manuscript that, while still inevitably cringe-worthy, could be shown to family and close friends with relative impunity. End of Summer, it was called; I read the first half in instalments to my wee sisters and mother, who were duly agog. (The boy person friend, by contrast, read a bit and decided that a taste was as good as a feast.) I reached 50k, but the novel remained almost-finished. I’ll get to it.
The trick to NaNoWriMo, unless you have sixteen free waking hours a day in which to pen a hundred and four words, is planning: rigid, bull-headed scheduling and flexibly fertile plot outlines. You need at least 1,667 words every day, more if there are days off; they can be good or not, as you like; and they must be original. It’s perfectly acceptable to plan the structure of the novel in advance, but you can’t write bits beforehand.
October, therefore, is for coming up with ideas. As the kids say now, I got nothing. Stay tuned.