Saturday, 15 November 2014


Write your novel in a month!
The world needs your novel!
50,000 words is only 1,667 words per day!

These are the taglines and phrases that the NaNoWriMo twitter page shouted at me for the month of October. In fact they have shouted them at me for the last three Octobers but this was the first time I actually listened (for future reference, if you ask me to do something, fourth time is clearly a charm with me).

I know that I'm an advertiser's/marketer's dream. I buy things because the media tells me that I need them. If I see two chocolate bars for a euro beside the cash register, you know I'm gonna be all over that. And as for the half price carpet cleaner (which I have yet to take the plastic off) - it's a given that it goes in the trolley. I have accumulated several items over the years that I have not and will never use (the steam mop, the deep fat fryer, the beanbag chair, the gorgeous silver quill sitting on my desk now judging me...) and so it goes without saying that NaNoWriMo, like most campaigns, was eventually going to pull me in.

So I signed up for an account, planned out the 50,000 words that I would write and began on the 1st of November. I'm just at the halfway point of NaNo as I type and the results have been... surprising to say the least. Writing a minimum of 1,667 words every day can be tricky (I know, who'd have thought it??) and it's taken me a while to view every word written as an achievement. I've learned a lot in the last 15 days, both about myself and about writing and I thought it might be a good time to share them.

Don't write in your pyjamas:

Forgive me for generalising but when one wakes up at 5am (or is woken up by your annoyingly-too-early-to-function alarm clock) it's tempting to stay in your PJ's until it's absolutely necessary to get dressed. It's totally understandable - you're cold and tired and annoyed. Likewise, at nighttime after a hot shower, you're going to get into your warm fuzzy Penney's PJs and snuggle up for the night. You can still write though, right? Wrong!

If you're doing NaNoWriMo - don't be seduced by your PJ's, not matter how appealing they look! I've quickly learned if you're dressed to laze around and sleep, you're going to laze around and sleep. Or at least you're going to want to. It's hard to be productive in PJ's, unless your goal is to sit around and do nothing. So put on some proper clothes (even if they're just your manky 15 year old tracksuit bottoms - a particular writing favourite of mine) and be productive.

5am starts never get any easier...

Again, this may be surprising but they don't. I commute a reasonably long distance to work with about 40,000 other road users every morning so I'm used to early starts at 6am. Sure what difference does an hour make, I hear you say? As it turns out, a lot. Sweet Jesus, the sound of my alarm going off at 5am is enough to make me fling my laptop out the window and scream obscenities at it for daring me to do this. But I don't. Because I'm far too nice. Instead I debate for a moment about whether to rise or not (and snoozing the alarm in the process, causing considerable annoyance to hubby beside me resulting in kicks and shoves beneath the covers) and eventually I do. It is not easy, in fact it is HORRIBLE! But it's only for four weeks and I remind myself (while stumbling down the stairs, trying to find a lightswitch) that I can have all the lie-ons I want in December. Well, until 6am anyway. I'll still have to go to work.

Coffee is horrible... But it works:

This is coming from a perpetual tea drinker. I've always been an advocate of tea - it's gotten me through difficult days, long nights (usually cramming college assignments) and early starts on my commute. It's refreshing, it's comforting and it's perfect with a bar of chocolate (or two). But it doesn't really have that get-out-of-bed-and-open-your-eyes-and-write-1,667-words-at-5am kind of kick. And sometimes the slump in the afternoon is the worst.

What do you mean I still have three hours of work left and I have to function at a reasonable level? Don't you know what time I've been up since? 

Sniping at colleagues doesn't get me far but coffee does. I have drank three cups of coffee in the last fortnight, which is three cups more than I've drank in my life before this. I hate it - it tastes rank, it leaves an awful aftertaste, it makes my chocolate taste funny but dammit, it perks me up. Noticeably so. The energy I have is actually astounding but what goes up must come down right? Just don't come near me at 9pm each night. Caffeine and chocolate can only keep my mood up for so many hours.

First drafts are terrible... but that's okay:

The whole goal of NaNoWriMo is to get the words written, never mind how bad they are. You can always go back and edit when you're done. Again, it might sound easy, but my god it's so difficult. I can now easily tap out 1,000 words in half an hour using the NaNo sprints on twitter (they're amazing for motivation!) but out of those 1,000 words I would estimate that 90% of it is rubbish. No joke. It's hard to write quality language when you're working against the clock. And for me, the perfectionist, it's extremely difficult to control my fingers and not begin working backwards, editing the sentences I have just written. But I'm getting better at it. And if the temptation to write is particularly strong during any given writing session, I just remind myself: 1,000 awful words are better than 0 words.

I could have worse hobbies:

It's not much comfort, but I do take solace in the fact that writing is flexible. If it's raining outside it doesn't hinder my writing (in fact it usually helps it). I can write in my office at home, my office at work, in bed, at the kitchen table, on the couch. I can even write in coffee shops (not with my laptop - I feel far too pretentious) by bringing my notebook and brainstorming and plot-developing for an hour.  I can have a cup of tea and chocolate as I write - an option I often treat myself to.

I see the local young guys leaving their football training in the evenings absolutely dripping wet. I notice people out training for races, running against gale force winds and horizontal rain. Or I hear of people getting up at the crack of down to drive to a swimming pool a good distance away to train for hours before school or work. I don't have those difficulties. Writing, although painstakingly difficult at times, does have some home comforts.

I'm allowed to treat myself:

I remember in sixth year history, we learned about Stalin's use of the carrot and stick method during the Cold War. Now, I don't habitually compare myself to dictators (often) but I do find myself leaning into this method during NaNo. I reward myself if I achieve my word count goal and I punish myself if I don't.

Rewards so far include extra chocolate (obviously), takeaways, lighting the fire, a hot bath, getting my hair done, Sex and the City episodes. I'm going to London at the end of the month and this is the big carrot for me: if I get my 50K done by this trip I'm going to bring extra money with me than I currently have planned and treat myself to some goodies on Oxford Street.

Punishments include no chocolate with my tea (that was a particularly cruel one), not buying a lovely grey dress that I saw last weekend because I hadn't reached my word-count (and I didn't really need it, but that's beside the point). Sometimes I can't control my punishments - last week I went to bed having only written 500 words that day and I barely slept three hours out of guilt. Although come to think of it, that may have been the coffee I had had earlier...

As can be seen, my rewards outweigh my punishments so far which can only mean one thing...

I'm achieving it!

Yes, that's right - I am officially succeeding at NaNoWriMo! It's currently day 15 which means I should have 25,005 words written right now. At the time of writing this blog, I have... (drum roll please) 31,584 words written! No, your eyes do not deceive you, I have actually written 6,579 words more than required. Me! The girl who has been putting off writing the book for the last six years. What on earth was I so scared of? Actually, never mind, we'll save that for the next blog...

Anyway folks, just wanted to share my tidbits of information and advice from this years NaNoWriMo. I'm hopeful that I can keep the momentum going (of course it dips from day to day) but my aim is to have the 50K completed within the next two weeks!


  1. You'll get there, Sinead, but stop beating yourself up. Your life is beginning to resemble, a monk's, early rising, punishment and flagellation, the hair shirt and constant devotion to TE BOOK.

    1. Haha thanks for the comparison Mary, it does sum up my life, for November at least! Hopefully a bit of normality will return in December! :)