November Pain

(of the writing kind)


November is drawing to a close.

It’s been a busy month, but things are easing off now.

It’s been a month of highs and a month of lows, pretty much like any other month.

It’s also nearly December.

And yet again, I’ve failed to finish NaNoWriMo.

old typewriter

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a scheme where you promise yourself that you’ll sit down and write a 50,000 word novel… in a month. November to be precise.

It’s tough, but can be hugely rewarding. It can also be gut-wrenchingly awful.

Now, as an editor type it may be strange to think of writing as a leisure pursuit. When you spend all day with words, the last thing you should probably be doing is trying to write down words of your own. But it can be fun. And the NaNo community can be hugely supportive.

I first heard of NaNo about three years ago and, with a story that had been floating in my head for years, I jumped in with both feet (or should that be both typing hands??) and completed my first “novel”. It was hard, some days the words didn’t come at all, but I got that damn story out of my system. It’s been languishing in a document file on my computer ever since, waiting to be edited. I just can’t bear to read it, it’s probably awful. But with the story out there it isn’t haunting me any more.

Knowing that you’ve completed your task and written your “novel” is a wonderful feeling. There are thousands of people out there who have reached the same finishing line and things are good. The writing doesn’t have to be good… it’s the actual writing that matters…getting your thoughts out there.


NaNo can be bad for you.


For the past two years I have started, then failed spectacularly. Work and life get in the way (I’ve also had Panto rehearsals for the last two years that suck the time away in spectacular fashion), the ideas don’t flow and self-esteem slides away into the bottomless pit of writer’s despair.

When NaNo goes wrong it can go wrong in two ways.

It can slowly creep up on you, so although you have the ideas, you don’t have the time and the word count slides. The second way is the worst. You can’t get a story to flow, or you just can’t start it…then each day you count the words that are missing. By the middle of the month you try to write in between work and life things…but you can’t… and the missing word count mounts up. By the last days of November there is a mocking hole where there should have been a “novel”. If you are the type to take things seriously it can eat away at your self-esteem.

Luckily I don’t take NaNo that seriously.

There are some things to take away from NaNoWriMo though:

It can be tremendous fun…as long as you have the time. If you know you won’t have the time it really is foolish to start (honestly, take my word for it). Put away your ideas and leave them for another time, take part in another NaNo exercise, or set aside some time when you can afford it.

It’s great for creativity. Don’t aim to write a best-selling novel – that rarely happens… just aim to take time out to create.

Learn to carry a notebook around with you. Not only can you pick up some gorgeous notebooks, but it’s great for writing down ideas that come to you in those moments when you don’t have the time to concentrate. Who knows when you might need those thoughts on why the traffic lights seem to hang on red whenever you approach, or if there’s a college course to teach baristas to paint images in coffee froth.

Finally, NaNo makes you appreciate those novelists whose books you read. You start to realise what they go through, how they deal with writer’s block and just how tough it is to write something that people want to read (hell, it may even lead you to appreciate good editors who make some of those novels readable!).

So December’s almost here. I haven’t written a “novel”, but I have edited one, so November hasn’t been a total creative loss. Who knows… over the festive period I may settle down with a notebook and write my own.

*You’ll notice I use the word “novel” not novel. If you read my “novel” writing you’d know why.

3 Comments on “November Pain

  1. Since I know you are an excellent writer (of nonfiction, anyway), I would be happy to take a look at your finished story, Sara. 🙂 I have the feeling that it’s better than you think.

    But apropos the challenge of writing fiction itself, totally agree with all that’s said here. To me, nonfiction is much easier to write, although the blank page is always a challenge.

    • Totally….non-fiction is a doddle compared to fiction.

      One day I will look at “The Novel” but for now I think I’d die if anyone read it 😉

  2. Pingback: Novel Polishing | Northern Editorial

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