NaNoWriMo and the British Press

Elizabeth Haynes is an old, old friend of mine – far older than I suspect either of us care to remember. During our teen years we were close and then, as happens, we drifted apart as university beckoned. I think that drifting was my fault though I recall little of that period but we certainly went out separate ways for a long time.

Then, thanks to the marvels of the internet, I found her again through Friends Reunited and we both caught up with each other’s lives, marriages, children and careers. I remember that Elizabeth told me then she had a dream of writing a crime fiction book. I can’t honestly remember if I had already begun my dream of writing at that point or if it was still just my own unrealised dream. Pursuing that dream wasn’t far behind however.

Then, annoyingly, Elizabeth wrote her book and had it published. I say annoyingly because I was certainly writing by that point wanted to publish too – yet I’m still to finish the final draft for my novel and hand the thing to my own publisher. I just keep wanting ‘one last re-edit’. The books are stacking up but that final push is elusive – all the more so now I’m writing full-time for a living.

I didn’t think anything of it until, quite by chance I stumbled on the fact that not only had Elizabeth published, but her book was very successful and she became a ‘bestseller’. The rest is history, as the cliché goes. Elizabeth now has several books published and a rather nice shed to write in (I’ve seen the pictures). Yep, I’m still jealous – I wish I could write crime fiction. Alas, it’s just not my ‘thing’.

So why tell you all this? Because right from the moment Elizabeth and I reconnected, she was raving about NaNoWriMo. To this day, she still does. In fact, having taken part in NaNoWriMo again this year, she’s written a post about it on her own blog. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo myself because, as a teacher in my former life, it was a bloody stupid place to put such a ‘competition’! I mean, seriously – with exams and reports in time for the end of term/semester it couldn’t be at a worse time for ‘writer-wannabee’ teachers.

It wasn’t until coming to Bangladesh, where the school year ends in June rather than July that I was able to take up NaNoWriMo‘s baby sister – JulNoWriMo. And, like Elizabeth, I’m so glad I did. In fact my novel (yet to be completely finished off one last time), like her first, came directly out of that competition. While my contribution to the literary world will no doubt be a small one comparatively, I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with this passage from this bestseller’s post:

“NaNoWriMo changed my life. It gave me a reason to write, and permission to do so, for one month out of the year. It told me I could write 50,000 words and call myself a novelist. It said nothing about publication, about being a New York Times bestseller, about winning awards and having book launch parties. It said other (far more useful) things, like “turn off your inner editor” and “plot happens” and “quantity over quality”. It told me to start writing, and not to stop until I’d finished. And yes, of course there were stumbling blocks along the way, like self-doubt, massive plot chasms that meant certain plot lines made no sense whatsoever, and real-life things happening that took me away from my keyboard – but I kept going. And the end result was, and is (because I still take part every year) truly magical. At the beginning of December, I have a new novel. It’s not in any way publishable. It’s not even, realistically, a first draft. But what I have is 50,000 words that I didn’t have before, and some of them are quite good. You can’t edit nothing, after all, and without the encouragement of NaNoWriMo I would still be staring miserably at a blank page.”

Elizabeth’s gripe was at how The Guardian portrays this annual event in all its versions, and does so every year. She writes:

“But the worst of it for me is the sneering tone – as if the participants of the write in are at best eccentric, at worst somehow deluded.”

You can read her full post here:

This Happens Every Year

Have a read and, I hope, be inspired that NaNoWriMo (or JulNoWriMo, of course) really can be an important part of making that writing dream come true. If you like Crime Fiction too, join her blog (though she infrequently writes – probably because she’s just too busy) – it might encourage her to write more often. 😉

Best of all – take part yourself next year.

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