My adventures with the Novelling November

Guest article by Fanni Sütő

Although I like to think of myself as a girl of many virtues, I am also painfully aware of my shortcomings, for example; my questionable driving skills, my messiness and my impatience and lack of long term determination. While the first two flaws don't really interfere with my writing the last one can make life quite tough for an aspiring novelist. The reason why I participated in the Nanowrimo, the national writing month is because I wanted to prove myself that there was no curse sitting on me and if I really wanted to, I could work on the same story for a whole month.

There are many people who frown upon this international writing endeavour; the anti-Nano fraction sees the writing month as a ridiculous attempt to make a fast (= necessarily hasty and bad quality) progress in one's novel. They see the Nanowrimo as a big playground of naive writers who don't yet know that a “real writer” has to pamper a novel for years to make it enjoyable. There is, of course truth in what they say but we mustn't forget that November is the month of the actual penning or typing down of the tale itself. We had the whole year to ponder about our novel, plan a complicated plot, fill out character sheets, make Youtube playlists for writing and Pinterest boards for inspirations. My own poor characters first appeared in my thoughts around April but until November they were roaming in my head, staggering around like zombies. I think they are grateful for the Nano and me too. Who would want to have half-ready, untamed creatures wondering around in their heads?

Another argument in favour of Nanowrimo: Why should writing always smell of sweat and blood? Why couldn't it be a game, a challenge or a social event?

I am very bad at challenges. If nobody is there to encourage me, after a few days I just shrug and give it up. I think this sense of community with countless other writers who also struggle every day to squeeze out the word count, makes writing easier. I have a writer friend and I think Nano brought us closer to each other because we were dragging ourselves forward together, in heroic comradeship, helping the other when she lost motivation.

To make my November challenge more complicated and action-packed; I started my first real job on the last days of October. It is a 9 to 6 office job and I commute almost three hours every day; after four month of post-university dolce vita it was quite tough. But it taught me one thing: to be resourceful, to fight for my writing time and to cherish the moments I can spend with my characters. I was taking my small netbook to work every day to write on the twice 20 minutes train journey. Of course it was not that easy; I met unexpected acquaintances so I had to socialise and converse instead of writing or I arrived to the station too late and there weren’t any sitting places.

But I can be quite cunning when I want to, so I was typing stuff into my phone while standing on the tram or sitting on the underground. I was trying to draw up new twists when hurrying to the station at half past five in the morning to have my driving lessons. Well, maybe it wasn’t my most effective time of the day but at least I was trying. Somehow I pulled it through and finished on the last day of the challenge with a little bit more than 50 000 words which is almost a hundred pages in Word. I really have no idea how all those sentences got onto the screen but I was happy to see them there.

Is my story finished? No it is far from it, there are a bunch of undrawn characters, unmined plotlines and uncorrected sentences. Many people who dismiss Nanowrimo say that you can only do a low quality hasty work if you have pressing deadline and word counts to fulfil. They forget two things: it is only a first draft, obviously you will have to work on it later, maybe you have to completely rewrite the whole text, but I don’t think that there are any stories which, like a literary Pallas Athene, jump out of the head of their creator in a perfect shape and shiny armour. Everything has to be reread, edited and reworked no matter if the first version was written in a month or in years. Secondly, if after a time one wishes to make a living from writing sooner or later one will have to make friends with a compulsory writing amount. Because, as my literature teacher once told me, nobody got paid for great yet unwritten story ideas.

Of course, I don’t want to forcefully convert anybody into a Nanowrimovian but I think it is worth trying if:

  • You have a good story idea, but no motivation (or time) to write it
  • You like challenges and you want to feel the sweet taste of victory over yourself (and procrastination)
  • If you are looking for a sense of achievement
  • If you just need the knowledge that you are not suffering alone, and there are fellow writers out there who are trying to do something with the gaping blank screen
  • If you want to win some cool writing related vouchers
  • Or simply you just want to play a bit and try your hand in a novel.

I am happy that I participated because I have learnt that if I really want I can find time for writing and while up till November I always found something more important, more pressing thing to do instead of sitting down and work on my stories. Nanowrimo has helped me to treat writing not as a chore but as a special treat after a long and tiring day.

Fanni Sütő is a 23-year old writer of everything she can lay a hand on; be it poems, flash fiction, novels or anything you can imagine. She has been writing in her mother tongue ( Hungarian) for a good ten years and started to come up with stories in English since the beginning of 2013. Her favorite genres are urban fantasy, fairy tale reworks and magical realism. She has been published in various online magazines and e-journals magazines such as Tincture Journal, Enchanted Conversations or The Casket of Fictional Delights. She dreams of finding the strength to finish her half-written urban fantasy novel which runs under the title "Londemonium"

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