After successfully taking part in National Novel Writing Month, IdeasTap member Ali George (pictured) set herself a Herculean task: writing 12 books in 12 months. Just over halfway through her challenge, she tells us why she's doing it...
Last November I took part in National Novel Writing Month and completed the first draft of a novel.
Then I got cocky. “That was EASY,” I told anyone who’d listen, “I need more of a challenge! I shall do this EVERY MONTH FOR A YEAR.” So, I allotted every month of 2011 a different genre at random, which I detailed on the blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and off I went.
January’s book was first based on a two-word pitch from my sister: “Caligula’s Blog”. February’s was a murder mystery. In March I wrote a Western, April was Romance, May was Fantasy, and June was Scottish. Now halfway and in the process of penning a book for 8-to-10-year-olds, my main conclusion is one most people could’ve guessed without all this rigmarole: six months is too long to be writing fiction every day without a break.
My lowest point came in June, when carrying on without stopping for so long caused my brain to quietly collapse. My final word count was a measly 20,000 (I’m aiming for 50,000 each month) and consisted predominantly of background characterisation that won’t make it into the second draft, never mind the final edition.
This would seem to justify those who scoff, “But how good are these books? Thirty days isn’t long enough to write much of quality.”
This misses the point. I’d be borderline lobotomised if I was prancing about claiming I could write 12 polished and publishable books in a year. These are first drafts – the one you never show anyone because it’s all too embarrassing. Hopefully on my return to these manuscripts I’ll find greatness to salvage, after a year of challenging my brain to work constantly on different ideas and themes. I’ll also find a number of slightly weird streams of consciousness, to be hastily consigned to the recycling bin.
In my mind, the main work of writing is the re-writing and editing. But to get that far you have to get past the worry that nothing you do is good enough, the constant fear of the creative mind. You must shoot your inner editor in the face and get on with the business of putting words down, so you have something to get rid of later. That first hurdle is where many people fall. Not me, though.
This project has taught me I can write and write and sometimes not even remember what I wrote 10 minutes ago. It’s increased my WPM, helped me try new ways of finding out whether a scenario or character works, and got me talking to like-minded people online.
It has also been amazing for my productivity – I always have more article ideas when I should be doing something else. And while I’ve blown off one or two trips to the pub, it hasn’t hampered my social life in a noticeably debilitating way. I’m tired a lot of the time, but no more than new parents or nightshift workers. And I’ve always said that the second it becomes something that makes me unhappy, I’ll stop.
So far, so good.
Read more about Ali’s journey on her blog.
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