University is a place of growth. I certainly have grown as a person, though not in height, unfortunately, and it’s only natural that my writing too would grow, in quality (I hope) and in length.
Primarily I’m a flash fiction writer. I know this, and embrace this, but I knew that I would never have as much time to explore different forms of writing and to develop myself as much as I do now, so I challenged myself to write longer prose and prose poetry. I can do this now, I think; the poetic lyricism yet striking nature of prose poetry and the length and power of short stories do not intimidate me.
It’s only natural that I attempt to acquire the skills necessary to tackle the behemoth of form: the novel. This year I’m studying a Researching and Planning an Extended Piece of Prose module and, though I could work on a collection of short stories, I really want to write a novel.
I want to learn how to take a character and an idea I could normally condense into 500, and sometimes much less, and expand and develop their world into a piece of fiction much longer than I have ever done before.
For some of you reading this you’ll be thinking ‘pffft, this is easy’, but when you’ve spent so long writing shorter pieces you get used to writing with such concision, leaving so much unwritten for the reader to feel for themselves, that you forget, or struggle, to write something beyond a few hundred words.
I know this will be a challenge for me and I believe NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) can help me achieve this. I’m vaguely aware of some type of website people use to interact with each other and discuss their novel, which I think is great, but it’s not for me. I have a lot of other studying to do, so Distraction does not need extra opportunities to hold me tight in its claws.
So I’m popping my NaNoWriMo cherry, kind of…because I started writing the first draft of my novel a few days before. Cheeky, I know, but as writers we all know that if it’s there in your head you need to get it down on paper, physical or virtual, before it disappears into the deepest shadows of our minds forever.
But here’s the good news: the first day I started writing my novel I wrote in excess of 3000 words! This may not sound a lot to most novel writers but for someone whose longest piece of fiction was roughly 2200 words I was numb with disbelief. Of course, first drafts are always nonsense, so maybe only 50 words may survive in some form, nevertheless it filled me with the feeling that maybe I can do this.
I plan to write a lot of the novel over November and, hopefully, December too, and want to write a minimum of 1000 words per day. Before NaNoWriMo I had around 4000 words, so 34,000 words after NaNoWriMo sounds grand to me: roughly halfway to the approximate word count I think it will be. So it’s more like National Half a Novel Writing Month for me!
Oh, and this definitely doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing flash fiction! I will always have a fondness for flash fiction and the things they can do that novels can’t.
To everyone reading this: whether you’re embarking on NaNoWriMo, developing on a WIP, redrafting a manuscript or anything at all, whatever your project is I wish you the best of luck!