During the month of November, every Saturday, the Central Library metamorphosed into a creative hub of eager writers. It was a pleasure to have them working away on their novels – they were a complete delight to have in the library and such a lovely bunch of folk! Victoria Boulton, regional coordinator for National Novel Writing Month has kindly written a short piece for our blog. Why not come along and join in next year?
“National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – when 500,000 people around the world meet with each other and attempt to individually write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
That’s 1667 words a day, and most of us have jobs and families and commitments. It is crazy. It is frustrating. It is exhilarating and freeing. I keep coming back for more.
The coolest thing about NaNoWriMo is that it’s not really for writers. It encourages all those people who think ‘one day, I’ll write a novel’ to make ‘one day’, today. No more procrastinating, no more self-doubt: you only have to dedicate one measly month to it and then it’s done. There’s nobody looking over your shoulder, nobody critiquing your work – not even yourself. Editing is strictly forbidden during NaNoWriMo, where the aim is not to write something good, but to write something finished. The ‘good’ comes later, when you invest time in editing and revision. But for the month of November, you are a writer and a writer only.
The first week is always a blast: this amazing outpouring of words and character and story. You become a conduit to your idea, just something the story passes through during its mad rush to the page. The creativity of the beginning of the story is heady and gratifying: you never knew you were this artistic, that you had so much story inside of you.
The second week is the hardest. You burn yourself out on the first week of creativity, and in the second you might discover that you don’t have as clear an idea of where this is going as you thought. Most people who quit, quit during week two. But those who hang on manage to crawl their way out of week 2 and climb back up to those heady heights during week 3, they make it to the final week. Week 4 is a downhill slide, a thunderous avalanche of story and a furious rush of ideas that will carry you right to the end and give you the gleeful feeling of riding the elements.
The most important survival tool for this month of creative abandon and literary adventuring is to have a support network. And the way we do that is with ‘write-ins’, sort of like a meeting or party, but with laptops and novels. This year, we were hosted at Swindon Central Library, and it was the most amazing year yet.
We met in the community space near the café and children’s section, writing furiously in-between gulps of tea, asking each other for advice when we got stuck and sharing our successes when we raced ahead. We had all ages there – from young school children to teenagers to the old and jaded – and all experience levels, too. For some, this was the first ever creative endeavour – why not write a novel? For some, this was the first NaNoWriMo and beautiful, foolhardy attempt to write a novel in a month, and others, like myself, were hardened veterans, coming back to fight another year. But the wide variety of participants wasn’t a barrier by any means – everyone chatted and shared and joked, celebrated and commiserated, scarfed cake and toasties from the café, and most importantly, wrote. NaNoWriMo had given us all a unified purpose and sense of identities. We were all novelists, or would be by the end of the month, and it was a relief to write alongside others.
The library provided us with a comfortable and easily accessible space, electrical sockets and friendly assistants in the form of the library staff, who often helped us set up. Consequently, 2014 was our biggest, most successful year yet. Nearly everyone who turned up to the write-ins hit 50,000 words by the end of the month: our region collectively wrote over 1 million words in 2014. And we raised $450 for National Novel Writing Month, which is a non-profit event that promotes literacy among children and adults.
It was a gorgeous year, and I am delighted to say that I left with new friends, a shiny new novel, and, of course, the title of Novelist. I can’t thank Swindon Libraries enough.
If you’d like to join us in 2015, visit www.nanowrimo.org to sign up. The event starts on November 1st, and preparation starts in October. I look forward to meeting you.”
(Article written by Victoria Boulton, regional co-ordinator of National Novel Writing Month for Swindon, pictures by Ann Corrigan and Oliver)