I hereby commit to less Netflix.

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I thought it would be a great idea to publicly commit to taking part in National Novel Writing Month this year. Now I have the expectations of my readers – all one of you! – resting heavy on my shoulders.

NaNoWhatOh? 

Everytime I tell my mother that I am taking part in NaNoWriMo she asks me what it is. NaNo is basically a personal challenge – the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month, and there are forums and word trackers available on the site to help motivate you and remind you every time you look just how much progress you have made.

I will one day fill that little word counter bar with the bluey greatness of my creativity!

Past failures.

This will be the third year I am taking part in NaNo. I can’t really remember much about the first year I did it because I forgot I was planning on taking part almost immediately. Last year I had a well-meaning stab, but I had extended essays due and a College Ball to run – excuses, I know! I logged 2246 words nonetheless, which I know is shit but will claim as a valiant effort.

Future glory!

The outline is almost finished, the novel has been added to NaNo’s website, and I have been going to the library after work every day (yes, even before dinner) to prepare for the gruelling road ahead. I’m thinking 2,000 a weekday and 2,500 over the weekend. Yeah. YEAH!

The project I’m working on this year is the exact same one I attempted last year, and the time before that, but with some awesome additions and much better planning. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot (that’s inner circle info right there) but it’s something I’ve been enthusiastically adding to for many years, and am finally at the point where I feel I can write it. I know I said that last year too, but last-year-self was talking shite.

Word count.

I’m going to pin my word count bar to the front page of this blog for all to see, and will try to update it frequently as I go. I would say I am going to create weekly update posts, but I’m way too flakey and busy for that, and instead maywrite one large self-evaluation at the end of the month.

If anyone else out there is NaNo-ing, leave a comment! Hell, you can even make me your writing buddy. I promise to be totally non-threatening. Progress-wise, anyway.

JJ.

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The notebook. (No, not that one).

Part 1: the proper tools.

I have a novel idea (in both senses of the word, ha) and over the last few weeks I have set to work writing out plans, thinking out character arcs, and all the other things you are supposed to do before you can convert brain waves into Word documents. The plot for this novel has been knocking around inside my skull for about five years, and though there have been a few false starts before, I really feel like I’ve got the whole thing pinned down and ready to write now. So, itching to get some words out, the first thing I did was, of course, go to every stationary shop in town and stare at the notebooks.

I like to handwrite my drafts, you see – my laptop is too clunky to haul between home and work everyday and is filled with games and Netflix and other destroyers of concentration. From an artistic perspective, it also just feels more creative to write things by hand: the words just flow out a little easier, and it imbues one with a kind of wanky pretentiousness that makes all those infodumps and rogue passive verbs feel positively Shakespearean. So I thought I would celebrate the decision to try and get this novel down by swapping my tatty bits of file paper for a sleeker, spiral-bound solution.

What happened next will blow your mind!

I couldn’t find one I liked. It was a waste of time. However, when I got home later that night I noticed a little black leather bound notebook buried away on my bookshelf. I remembered then that this little book was given to me two years before on my birthday by a group of close friends; I had never written in it, wanting to save it for something special. It occurred to me that this little notebook could be the perfect thing to start writing my novel in – what words are more special than the first proper draft of the novel you’ve been working on since you were seventeen?

That’s when the doubt set in. This notebook is seriously nice – beautiful black leather on the outside, unruled ivory card on the inside, and my friends’ names wishing me well inside the front cover. Could I spoil it by scribbling in stories of witches and monsters? I mean, I am pretty good at making myself barrel straight a through something and leaving the word-cull til last, but my spelling is atrocious, I change my mind on character names all the time, and I never finish anything anyway. I’d only ruin it.

Part 2: the proper attitude.

All I can say to those thoughts are ‘fuck you’. I was essentially deciding that the words I want to write aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Mad at myself for being such a coward, I immediately broke out the fanciest pen I own and scrawled the words ‘Myths and Legends’ at the top of the first page. (This later proved to be a bad idea when the outline I intended to write of the novel’s internal mythology turned into an overall plot summary, but still).

If you don’t have any confidence in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to. Literally no one is ever going to notice or care that my fancy notebook is full of scribbles – if anyone does ever look at it, they will instead see that it is filled with something important to me: the elusive novel I have spent the last few years going on about.

The moral: always write in fancy notebooks.

I played a game recently called The Novelist. In the game you are asked to make a series of choices on the behalf of the game’s protagonist and his family, and what you choose affects how successful the novelist’s career and family life end up. At one point you are asked to choose whether to spend a bit of extra money you have on placing an advert for your novel in a magazine, or on a family-related matter; in my playthrough I chose the family, and my novelist wrote later in his little journal that his belief in himself was shaken. He took it as a vote of no-confidence in his writing.

This is why I use my fancy notebook now. It is a vote of confidence in myself, and in my ability; something every writer, artist, poet, dancer, or anyone else who is attempting to create something needs to have before they can expect anyone else to believe in them too.

In the wise words of Journey, don’t stop believing.

*Much applause and emotional scenes from the audience*

JJ.

Edit 13th Nov: As of today I have filled that notebook from cover to cover with my scribblings, and moved on to an equally beautiful and special new one. Who would have thoughts that notebooks could give you such feels?