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I won NaNoWriMo!

I won NaNoWriMo!

Wow, does my arthritic finger ever hurt.  I’ve been pounding away at the keyboard for about 2 hours a night for the last 29 days, with a final push of over 6000 words in a single day today.  But it was worth it: I reached the goal of 50,000 words, going over by about 3600 extra words and with one day to spare!  And without coffee.  Awesome.

It has been a month of incredible highs and lows. Mostly the lows were because of lack of sleep.  I’ve had a lot of work to do this month, so all my noveling has been done in the late evenings or early mornings.  (I’m proud to say I didn’t write a single word of my novel at work!)  My eyes are burnt out from looking at the screen, and my shoulders are killing me.  But I slogged through the bad days and got it done, and when I was having a good moment I really felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants.  In a good way.

I noticed that when I have a good moment, I’m typing so fast that I’m leaning over to the right, screwing up my face in the same tongue-sticking-out-in-concentration expression that I first remember noting, with some surprise, as I suddenly realized that I could see my reflection in our black lacquered Yamaha piano as I was practicing a piece.  What a revelation.  I hope no one ever watches me while I’m writing!

On days this month when I was having trouble writing, I was convinced that my novel was the worst thing anyone could ever write.  Now I feel like I’ve done a pretty damn good first draft!  I’m so glad I stuck it out.  I feel like I really achieved something.  I’ve never had a full first draft before!

I’ll be doing a little bit of work on it tomorrow, but then I’ll be setting it aside for two weeks so I can concentrate on other stuff, like all the crafts that have gone by the wayside this month.  I’ll pick it up again during the holidays, to start on the first revision.  For now: WOOHOO!

I am so close to winning Nanowrimo that I can hardly stand it.  I can’t believe I’ve been writing nearly every day this month and getting so close to the goal of 50,000 words.  I’m going to win!  Only 5000 left to go, and I’ve got 4 more days to do it in, including a weekend.  Luckily Thanksgiving doesn’t get in the way here in the UK.

It’s been very difficult at times.  I think the worst part was between 30,000 and 42,000 words.  I had come so far by then that I knew I couldn’t stop, but I worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to get to the 50,000 word mark before the end of the month.  It’s been pretty hectic at work, and I’ve gotten less sleep in the last few weeks than I usually do, so sometimes the stress got to me.  And sometimes I was pounding out the most inarticulate crap that I’ve ever seen (which is allowed, and even encouraged, during Nanowrimo!  Editing is for later).  Sometimes, though, I wrote something so good that I was amazed it came out of my head.  I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done so far.  All I have to do is write a few thousand words more to get to the goal.  It has definitely been worth it.

I meant to write this post eight days ago, but I’ve been too busy writing something else: a novel.  Well, a first draft, anyway.  It’s part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short), an endeavour that’s been going on for the past ten years.  During the month of November, participants are challenged to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  That’s 1667 words a day.  50,000 words is rather short for a novel, but it’s not peanuts!

Writing has always been my first and most beloved craft.  Unfortunately, it’s the one that scares me the most.  I can do all sorts of sewing, art, and craft projects, but when it comes to writing I balk.  My laptop is home to half-novels and half-stories that have petered out when I’ve taken too long of a break and then not had the nerve to return to finish my work.  Not this time.  I’m in it for the 50,000 words, even if I don’t sleep all month.  I’m going to get a full draft down, no matter how crappy it might be.

Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, wrote a book called No Plot? No Problem!, which I picked up a few months ago at the wonderful Willesden Bookshop.  After reading it I decided I’d be participating in NaNoWriMo this year.  Getting to 50,000 words is going to be a tough challenge, but having to concentrate on writing for most of the days this month will make me focus and get it done.  Some people have been participating for all 10 years, and some have ‘won’ every year (you’re a winner if you get to the 50,000 word mark). This year I’m going to win.

By the way, I’m not telling what my novel’s about.  That’s classified for now!

We went to Poetry International last night at the South Bank Centre.  Four poets (Valzhyna Mort, Mounid Barghouti, Jorie Graham and Mark Doty) read from their newest collections.  The first two poets read in their native Belarussian and Arabic, which was quite interesting from our point of view, not only because the words seemed more forceful and vibrant in their original language, but because my husband could understand part of the Belarussian and I could understand part of the Arabic.  The English versions were projected onto a screen above.

Jorie Graham and Mark Doty, the two American poets, couldn’t have been more different from each other.  Jorie Graham spoke to the audience for as much time as she spent reading, and both her poetry and her words were solemn and passionate, addressing issues of the environment and American politics.  She read true to the line breaks in what are already quite difficult poems, so the effect was purposely disjointed and stilted, all done extremely well.

Mark Doty, by contrast, read in a most relaxed and conversational manner.  His narrative poems are humorous when read on the page; in person he makes them into the most hilarious stories you’ve ever heard.  I was crying with laughter by the last poem ‘House of Beauty’.  A wonderful way to end the evening.

Whenever I go to a poetry reading or a talk with an author, I feel inspired the whole way through and want to grab my notebook and scribble various notes even while the author is still talking.  I don’t, because I feel like it would be rude to appear as if I weren’t giving them my full attention.  So I wait until afterwards – but invariably, as soon as I step out of the event, I’m distracted by something that brings the calibre of my thoughts downwards again.  Last night it was getting on the bus – the conversation going on behind us was at about the lowest of possible standards.  It made me angry that in London (and anywhere, I guess) the mood can change so quickly from highly-crafted and thoughtful to puerile.  It’s too bad.

I’ll be bringing our copies of the poetry books on the Tube with me this week, though.  That ought to provide a few more well-crafted words than usual.