Nanowrimo is a must for me this year. I’ve given it thought before, a couple of times back while I was working as a journalist, but this is the first year I’ve approached the 1st November kick off with a solid idea that’s ready to be written. 50k words, 1500 a day, over the 30 days, and I’ll have my first finished novel.

The big reason I’m geared up this year is how perfect the timing is. I’ve spent the months since we moved out to the country wrestling with getting started on things, and staying started. I’ve struck on the coping mechanism of writing half a dozen things at once, jumping from idea to idea to stop the instinct to revise.

Honestly, I’ve already begun the novel I’ll be writing next month. Perhaps three or four hundred words of it have been typed or scribbled, but I’ve not touched it for a week or so and the urge to simply write as much of it as possible is calming me in the same way the six-things-at-once trick did. It’s a goal that isn’t about the ‘perfect’ product.

Having completed just one short story in the last ten years, the achievement of completing the first draft of a project is ambition enough – and to do so in just a month makes the whole idea even more attractive. A month spent hurling out this novel, forcing it to survive, before taking all the time I like to revise and edit.

I read a challenging concept of writing the other day, suggesting that the writer should be as out of the way of the content of the story as possible – you need a hole in your chest, wide enough to let the world pass through it and onto your keyboard, and the better and cleaner the angle it passes through the better and cleaner your writing.

Splurging out a novel in 30 days seems like the perfect angle to enable everything to pour through and spread out across the page, without too much of my own inner mess streaking and smudging all over it. Once it’s down, finished, whole, then I can start daubing it a little thicker with texture.

But approaching the Nanowrimo forums perhaps wasn’t the best idea for someone who feels claustrophic when surrounded by shelves of paperbacks. Here you have thousands of people with ideas all doing their utmost to bring it out and lay it down for other people to consume, or maybe just to say they’ve done it.

I’m resising the idea of writing on the screen, since I’m sure I’d find myself just as often exploring the forums or web itself when things got tough and the text started to bite, but also because I’m looking forward to rediscovering that joy of the noise of writing on a typewriter, and how it keeps you moving forwards. It is the shark of writing.

At the moment, the prospect of Nanowrimo is more useful to me than The Book, which I’ve been revisiting and trying to see if there’s anything it can help me with. However it’s largely, I’m finding, about taking you to the point I’m at right now – actually writing, no matter what it’s about. It’s about making you do, not what you do.

That’s perhaps not totally fair – there are plenty of exercises designed to make you think about what you’re writing and the different kinds of writing. But I don’t want to write a review (not surprising after having been a reviewer) or come up with descriptions of things or write a letter. I’m beyond this point. I want to better create what I have.

Which is success in itself, and which the book has after all helped me achieve. Back in February, when my wife was my W2B and about to head off to America, I had written a smattering of posts here, thought about what I wanted to write in the future, and sat on a whole collection of notebooks with ideas in them. But I wasn’t writing.

The simple suggestion of doing a journal, of exploring myself in this way, is probably the single most useful exercise in the entire Book – and yet it’s only the first and the most basic of elements of the Book itself. It’s done everything for me, and it’s more to do with how much I was holding myself back than anything else.

Tapping out these journal entries without worring whether they mean anything, or achieve anything or really even get me anywhere at first was liberating, and led to me finally being able to let a lot of my ideas breathe deeper – leading to the birth of a lot of new, fresher and longer-form ideas that I had never even had before.

So finding myself with a need to be brief, with a requirement to just write, and with an aim to just get something finished, whatever the state of it, is perfect right now. Bring on 1st November. And bring on Movember too…


About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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