I love NaNoWriMo, the yearly escapade of struggling writers everywhere where we collectively throw ourselves off a cliff of sanity in pursuit of a 50,000 word count and a printable pdf certificate. This year, since I’m completely new to where I live, I’m doubly looking forward to it. I don’t really know anyone down here, and I know that writers are generally outgoing, personable types, so I’m basically betting the farm on being able to wander into some little coffee shop somewhere and make immediate and lifelong besties of the writing variety. I’m definitely not setting my expectations too high there, or anything.
Anyway, I’ve written a grand total of seven first drafts over the course of Novembers past, three of which have gone on to be actual books you can hold in your hand and everything. Another two may yet see the light of day. Not bad going for a silly challenge on the internet that nobody of the non-writing variety seems to really understand if you tell them about it. (But what do you win? they ask. You’ve written a first draft, you reply. Yes, but what’s the prize?)
The only problem for me is that it’s all become a bit, well, easy. The last three years I’ve entered November knowing that I’m going to win, not because of some dreadful arrogance, but because the 1667 word count you need to hit is not exactly a million miles away from the 1500 I try to hit every day that I’m working on a draft. It equates to just over an hour of actual writing, which isn’t that much of a commitment, really. Even when procrastination will usually stretch it out to two hours. Last year, I made it with four days to spare and just stopped dead on 50k, completely unmotivated to continue on my draft until December 1st.
So, this year, I’m going to try something different.
One month. 50,000 words… of short stories.
As a writer, I’m always looking to improve my craft, and it’s occurred to me recently that short story writing is a part of my writing vocabulary that’s dramatically underdeveloped. So, I’ve been reading all the advice I can. Bingeing on works as diverse as I can find, and, finally, turning my hand to it. This weekend, after a full fortnight of trying, I finished my first serious short story in over a decade. 2,250 words of overwrought horror that I may well never show anyone. In what’s left of this month, I’m going to try for a few more, and try and come up with a few dozen rough outlines which I can rely on throughout the month of November itself.
I may end up failing, badly. At this moment it feels as utterly unsurmountable to me as NaNoWriMo did when I very first attempted it, all those years ago. But, I guess that’s the point. Yes, I’m going to be breaking the rules, but the whole point is to challenge yourself, and that’s definitely what this is going to be. A hell of a challenge.
I may end up with 50,000 words of complete drivel, with nary a salvageable story amongst them. But at least it won’t be easy.
Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores. You can get the first book free by joining my mailing list or read along at Wattpad. Oh, and I’ve got a Patreon.