Monday, 17 November 2014

NaNo Never Again!

In the past, I have seen people on Facebook saying they were doing NaNoWriMo and I didn't know what they were talking about. It sounded like a weird form of religion. Then I learned that it stood for National Novel Writing Month and it happened every November and you were supposed to start a novel on Nov 1 and finish it on the 30th.

I have written under time pressure before. In fact, my first ever book, Sweet Temptation,(soon to be re-released as The Earl's Captive) was 85,000 words long and hammered out in just five weeks on an old typewriter, manual, not even electric. No wonder I have arthritis in my fingers! The publisher had given me eight weeks to write it in, but I split up with the man I was living with and had to move house and yet, despite all the tears and upset and a full-time job to boot, I still managed to finish it.

The second occasion, also back in the 1980s, was when Virago wrote to me about a new series they were starting for teenagers, called Virago Upstarts. They had a sudden gap in their schedule and if I could promise to produce a book in just one month, the slot was mine. I did, and it was called City Sax and featured a 16-year-old girl sax player's impossible crush on her teacher, a handsome, worldly-wise jazz musician called Lester. (I am updating this book at the moment as it's been out of print for years and I'm very fond of it.)

The third time was two years ago, when a publisher who shall be nameless asked me to alter a chick-lit book I'd written called Perfect Lives and turn it into a sexy teen novel for the New Adult market. I managed to write 90,000 words in about eight weeks, but, being a lot older and less energetic than I was back in the '80s, it half killed me. I had RSI in my arms and headaches every day! And then they decided not to bring out that particular line of books after all. Now, I wish I had stuck to the original older version and self-published that, but it's too late now.

After these experiences, you'd think I'd know better than to undertake to write 50,000 words in four weeks, without even the carrot of a publishing contract at the end of it. So why did I decide to take up the NaNoWriMo challenge?

The reason is that I needed a kick up the backside to get me started again after the rotten experience I had with Perfect Lives - the promises of multiple book contracts and lots of publicity and the chance to revive my writing career after ten years in the doldrums that just became crushed dust in my fingers.

I decided to leave writing for a younger market behind and venture into writing for adults, something I've wanted to do for ages. In the past, I sold dozens of short stories to magazines like Woman's Realm and Fiction Feast, but I'd lost heart. I actually think I've been suffering from depression. I ticked every box on the depression checklist on one website I visited. I have good reason to be depressed, not the least of which is the poor health of my partner and the fact that I freeze to death every winter in his cold, draughty house.

But NaNo gave me a way of writing a book before winter had set in, whilst I was still able to write without being muffled up in restricting thermal layers, scarves and fingerless gloves. It gave me a deadline, something which I was used to in my journalist days and which I find it hard to work without.

I am now 33,000 words into the 50,000 and I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying it! I feel rejuvenated, The creative juices are flowing and I feel like a writer again and what's more, I can go ahead and publish the resulting work myself, without having to wait for the rejection slips to arrive. I think I am writing well and that the theme of childlessness will strike a chord with a few readers, at least. Having had to give up my own baby for adoption and having suffered nothing but miscarriages since, I think I know my subject matter, though writing it in the context of a marriage required a big application of imagination!

When and if I finish it and decide to self-publish it, I'll let you know. Trouble is, once I've penned the final word, what am I going to do with the long, empty days then? Oh, of course. I'll write another book. Why didn't I think of that!

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