It’s November, the nights are fair drawing in, so it’s time for NaNoWriMo. 30 days, 50,000 words. At least, that was the plan a few weeks back.
I’ve been NaNoing since 2012, with six wins under my belt. That’s a hell of a lot of manuscripts. It’s also a hell of a lot of time writing furiously. What with 2016 being a bit busy with my Book Festival appearance and the usual flurry of autumn literary shindigs, I wasn’t going to do a full novel. With two books to edit and a bunch of short stories being flung at anthology deadlines, it felt like a bit much. So I decided to rebel.
Inspired by Laura Lam, Julia Ember and other YA writer pals on Twitter, I chose to do #DevilWriMo. 666 words per day, which is enough to produce a novella. I had a vague idea to write a contemporary crime/thriller thing set in a local college. And… then I went to a political conference, caught a bug and came down with pneumonia. In the real world, this would involve going to the doctor, mentioning asthma and having drugs thrown at me, if not ordered to be checked up in hospital. In the magical world of the freelancer, though, this translated to ‘the magazine deadline is this week and the other editor isn’t here, please prop yourself up on your deathbed and fire up InDesign’. You’ll never guess what happened next! </clickbait>
All I’ll say is I wouldn’t wish post-viral fatigue on my worst enemy. When you can’t write a word through brainfog, and miss several literary events you were looking forward to, it kind of gets you down. And when you have brainweasels that occasionally pop up, this doesn’t end well. So, what’s the answer to constantly pushing yourself to output writing and getting nowhere? Why, rebellion! Things that I’ve done (gently) in the past few weeks:
- Discussing the National Museum of Scotland’s new galleries over a cheeky Nando’s (for the confused non-UK folk, an explanation)
- Indulged my ‘kicking up leaves’ hobby at a country park on a beautiful crisp day
- Visited the Botanic Garden at night for an amazing light show
- Had curry and cheeky Vimtos (peak teenager, no?) in front of the telly with old friends
Turns out it’s okay to slack off for a bit. Yes, it’s important to keep up a daily writing routine – and I know many who have pressing deadlines from publishers and have no choice but to carry on – but if you end up in a mangled, exhausted heap there’s no point guilt-tripping yourself into limping onwards. Anyway, a few days off worked wonders, and soon I was back at sci-fi spoken word events, book launches (with a story of mine – go buy!), writing in cafes with the lovely SCBWI ladies (and I’m so glad I joined after the Book Festival, what with a member winning the First Book Award and being on the Carnegie list), and generally turning up and flogging paperbacks (buymybookbuymybookbuymybook &c &c). And not only have I poured words into a novella I thought was a lost cause, I’ve started on one of the novels I need to edit. (Sorry, folk I’ve pitched the queer banshee novel at – it’s scheduled to be poked in January, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer!) My mojo is back, baby!
And on that joyful note, I’m off to finish editing this scene, which is starting to feel like herding an angry, scratchy cat around a supernatural obstacle course. Send gin.