Two years ago I wrote a 61,000 novel during the month of November. I was proud to complete the challenge as part of the #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) initiative which encourages people to write a 50,000 word+ first draft of a novel in 30 days.
The beauty of #NaNoWriMo is it stops you overthinking the whole process and putting it off indefinitely or never finishing it. Instead it forces you to write something safe in the knowledge that once you have completed it you are far more likely to edit it and have a finished product than if you overanalysed everything as you wrote. It’s quite liberating to not have to worry about editing until after the 30-day the first draft. Indeed, I put my first draft aside for nearly 18 months and it is only during 2016 that I have quietly been editing the whole thing.
Now, two years later I have an edited novel that I’m actually quite pleased with. Whether or not I get round to publishing it remains to be seen but for now I am focussed on another project: the novel’s sequel.
I wondered for a while if I should have outlined the plot of both novels (or even a longer series) before writing any. But then I realised that all my characters had so much more potential fleshing out to do and that I definitely had another story revolving around their lives within me. I’m glad I waited two years as I needed the first story to settle and the seeds of the second one to grow naturally rather than forcing it before I was ready.
So here we are, 2016, and I’m about to start this huge – and I really cannot exaggerate how big a challenge it is -task all over again. Here’s why I’m nervous/confident.
Why this is harder than 2014
- Although I am yet to publish or indeed show anyone my complete first novel, I still feel I have something to live up to this time. The Magic Lessons podcast with Liz Gilbert has helped me realise I should not even be aiming to beat my first attempt to begin with, so I’m comfortable enough not worrying but it is still in the back of my mind.
- In 2014, I was in between contracts and only working part time. I had ample free time to get the thing done and yet still ended up finishing only seconds before midnight on the 30th (although that was probably because halfway through the month I accidentally deleted my work…) This year, I’m gonna be still working 12+ hours a day, on my feet managing furniture removal from the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic village. Most days I get home and can barely remember my name let alone feel like bringing pen to paper. My weekends are filling up with trips and social events so using my time efficiently will be crucial.
- When writing a first novel one has literally a lifetime of unused experiences and thoughts to choose from and include; this time I only have two years of unused experiences and thoughts to tap into.
Why this is easier than 2014
- Put simply, I’ve done it before. I know how I work best and what motivates me to write, namely Word Sprints, Hans Zimmer soundtracks music, avoiding distractions, making a solid plan in October of each of the 25 chapters. In 2014 I had a lot of anxieties pre-NaNo that I don’t this time.
- In 2014 I set the novels in amazing places I had been to but actually wrote the thing in rainy London. This year, I’m setting the majority of the novel in Rio de Janeiro whilst living here in summer. If I get stuck for inspiration, I will simply go for a walk and the plot points will follow naturally. I know this because it has already started during my planning process here.
- After a year of putting it firmly on the backburner, I have read back through and edited the whole of my first novel in 2016. And you know what? It is much better than I remembered. I cringed at the thought of revisiting a messed garble of unconnected stories and was astonished when reading it back to discover a coherent, intelligent and gripping piece of literature. Sure, it’s far from perfect but it’s the story I wanted to tell and I now know there’s more of it to tell. Reading and editing part one has me super motivated to write Some Hero Part II. Wish me luck…