And so the National Novel Writing Month came to an end on Friday 30th November. I didn’t even come close to the 50,000 word count but I already knew it was an extremely ambitious target. I did, however, hit the 20,000 word mark and I am so pleased with myself – especially since the last time I wrote anything fictional was when I was still at school – I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but let’s just say it’s been quite a while!
Writing a novel is not an easy task – I have always known this, but after participating in NaNoWriMo I have experienced for myself just how difficult it can be. I began writing by hand but then realised that scribbling on paper didn’t work as well for fiction as it did with poetry and articles. Writing the first paragraph of a story that you haven’t even figured out in your head yet was possibly the hardest part of NaNo. The storyline I had thought about was very vague: I knew what the end result would be but I wasn’t sure about how the story would start or develop. This made writing the first few thousand words pretty slow and frustrating. So I changed tactics and decided not to write chronologically but by sketching out scenes as they came to me. So my 20,000 words is not actually a solid section of my novel but various scenes from all over! Er..what? Seems crazy, but it’s actually worked quite well for me because it meant I could write as I was inspired rather than force myself to write scenes that wouldn’t come naturally. It’s also given me a kind of skeleton so I can now working on filling in the gaps.
The most important part of NaNo has been the actual planning out of a novel and figuring out my story. Admittedly the 20k words that I have written is disjointed and bitty, some of it has been written in the first person, some in the second person, some in the present tense and some in the past tense. But this experimentation has been the best part of NaNo as it has encouraged me to think deeply about finding a style of writing that feels natural to me.
I know you’re all wondering about the storyline: I’ve been a little secretive about it – in fact I don’t think I’ve shared the details with anyone. The storyline hasn’t been finalised yet and I’m still trying to figure out certain events. What I can tell you is that, in a nutshell, my (still unnamed) novel is about a young woman who finds herself alone in the world and fighting conflicting ideas on what it means to be Muslim, to be British, to be Pakistani and to be a woman. And that’s all I’m going to say about it for now!
What kept me going throughout the month, despite getting ill and being swamped by family stuff, wasn’t the deadline or the word count, it was actually the support I received from everyone who knew I was writing a novel. It reminded me that, although I’ve never been career-orientated, writing a novel is the one thing that I’ve dreamed of since I was very young; the positive response from my family and friends makes it feel like I’m finally doing what I was always meant to do.
For this reason NaNo has easily been one of the best things that I’ve done this year. I’ve enjoyed doing it not just because of the outcome, but because it really made me feel like a writer. You know, when you become so absorbed into your story that it follows you everywhere, whilst you’re working, cooking, cleaning, in the shower, when you’re reading a book, exercising, watching TV, trying to sleep, in your dreams and the first thing you think of when you wake up! I don’t know if this will eventually turn me into a crazy person(!) but right now it feels like a very indulgent experience.
I’m so glad that I gave NaNo a try – not only has it kicked my butt into gear to do something that I’ve been dreaming of for years and has cured my procrastination, but it’s also given me a new goal for the coming year. A New Year’s resolution in fact: I hope to spend 2013 finishing my first draft and beginning the work of perfecting it. I will definitely keep you all up to date with my progress over the next few months and beyond. Watch this space!!