#NaNoWriWee 26th and 27th January 2013

6 Feb

For those of you who don’t know, a couple of weekends ago I took part in #nanowriwee which was organised by Kernel Mag in conjunction with publisher HarperCollins. You can find out more about the event in The Kernel. Been remiss in not posting this sooner but life and being mortal got in the way.

The premise is rather simple: over a weekend, writers, journalists and miscellaneous creative types would come together and each try to write a novel in just 30 hours. It sounded crazy the first time I saw it advertised and, to be fair, it probably is. Received wisdom teaches us that great works of fiction don’t get written in 30 hours. A friend, a writer, described it as a fool’s errand, but I do like a challenge so I have now written a Novella-ish in 30 hours. I’m so pleased I did, it’s one of the most rewarding and fun weekends I’ve had. I wasn’t alone, 122 pieces of fiction, of varying length and style, were submitted from all over the world, by the deadline at midnight on the Sunday the 27th. I Wanted to share some of my experiences.

I decided not to venture out to London to write my novel at Kernel Mag HQ, instead choosing to write mine in our office at home in Rugby.

I have some regrets about not going to London, as all reports from those who did have been of a supportive and creative environment. I was worried I would be too easily distracted by others and not manage to finish the task. I was equally worried that my incredibly loud typing might have me thrown out and barred; anyone who has ever worked with me can attest to this, the keys have been bad, they must be punished. So I missed out on a part of the experience, but throughout the Twitter hashtag #nanowriwee provided ample support for writers taking a break from the slog.

You can read accounts from Shirley Ayres and Chris Brosnahan who were both at Kernel HQ over that weekend.

I’m certain I would not have been able to complete the challenge were it not for the support of my beautiful wife Lara. From 8am on Saturday morning until 10pm on Sunday when she went to bed I was taken very good care of, provided with endless cups of coffee and three meals throughout the day while ensuring not to offer too much in the way of distraction while being supportive of her, increasingly frazzled, husband. I’m a very lucky man, there’s no doubt about that!

So, what did I learn? (in no particular order)

I’m really rubbish at picking titles for novella: Singularity was chosen as title for my Sci-fi masterpiece towards the end of my 30 hours…not exactly my most inspired moment, Singularity was the name of the first chapter I wrote and therefore the name that Word picked to save the file under. I should probably come up with a) a better title or b) a better story for the title.

I learned that, no matter how much I might like it to be true, I did not think up the line: ‘Here I stand with the knife in my hand and now I understand why the genius must die’. That’s a lyric from the Iron Maiden track Edge of Darkness which I probably hadn’t heard for at least 10 years, but still managed to recall word-for-word with the exception of the source until post-submission.

There should be a name for a work of fiction that is longer than what can reasonably be termed a long story but a little shorter than what can be thought a novella. I quite like Novella-ish which feels quite a fitting description for my work.

I learned that writing for 15 hours a day, almost continuously, for two days is exhausting. I’m not overstating that in the slightest, it was far harder than I had ever appreciated. By Sunday night it had sapped every ounce of strength from my body, leaving my brain feeling decidedly like it had the consistency of a cheese soup. I’ve been reckless in the past, fun but reckless, I’ve gone quite long periods without sleep, but seldom have I been so tired. It took me the best part of a week, filled with much more sleep than I would usually have, to recover from the weekend; it’s been a long time since I said that.

I was reminded how much I enjoy writing, totally exhausting granted, but I loved every single moment doing it. Not since I was a student have I really had the opportunity to sit down and focus on a single piece of writing like I did over that weekend. Writing has always felt exhilarating to me; the excitement of crafting totally new worlds out of words, crackling with potential, The exhilaration of creating and completing such a work in such a short space of time remains, though tempered somewhat by recent events.

I learned that, despite my long-held suspicions that I had been a pretty awful student, I remembered most of what I’d been taught by David Morley and the other brilliant writers on the Warwick University Creative Writing Programme. I’m not sure whether I would have been able to get through the challenge without using some of their techniques. I shared this link before the event, but these writing challenges are a really useful resource.

I learned that if you are not going to go completely abstract and plan to write a traditional novella with a beginning, a middle and an end, it is advantageous to know what that ending will be before you start writing the final chapters.

I’ve learned that the story I just planned to tell in a weekend seems to have the legs to become a lot bigger over time, already written some material around the fringes of my submission.

Finally, I learned that although one day I will possess the prowess as a writer to convincingly describe sex between a man and a badly damaged android in a zero gravity environment, that time is not yet. Perhaps not ever. Seriously, sex in a zero-g environment, ponder that thought if you will.

Well done to Nero and The Kernel for organising a great event and congratulations to everyone who took part whether you submitted a piece or not. Same again next year!?

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3 Responses to “#NaNoWriWee 26th and 27th January 2013”

  1. www.eliconstant.com February 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    I had a blast with NaNoWriWee also – It wasn’t possible for me to fly into London and yes, my home environment was a total distraction. How could I write when my daughter started walking on Saturday and my husband’s family had a party on Sunday? Too much excitement for this little ole author.

    I did manage to bang out a respectable 14.3k story called DRAG.N. which I’m releasing on eBook and in paperback next month. Everything had to be edited – so goes the product of 16 hours (in my case) of relentless typing. Thankfully, the storyline itself was solid.

    I quite like novella-ish, however, you might consider novelette =)

    Novelette – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novelette
    Novelette may refer to: a narrative prose fiction shorter than a novella and longer than a short story

    Cheers,
    EliC
    http://www.eliconstant.com

    Like

    • paulcoxon81 February 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your experiences 🙂 I’ll look forward to reading it when it’s on ebook. Yes, you’re right, I forgot the Novelette, that’ll do, I reckon 20k is a good sized Novelette.

      Like

  2. Jeyna Grace February 10, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    It was indeed a good experience. A challenging opportunity to push one’s self to the limit.

    Like

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