Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Squeezing the Hours

Over on Emma Darwin's blog, her thoughts on the mechanics of writing and how free writing allows you to 'let go of the outcome' reminded me of how suited I am to extreme writing processes - intense deadlines and slightly ridiculous circumstances. (If I weren't shielding the screen from The Australian he'd be scoffing: "You? Going to extremes? What a surprise.")

Two years ago I took part in a writing marathon to raise money for Children in Need, during which flash fiction prompts were sent on the hour, every hour, from 9pm-9pm. At the time The Girl still woke a couple of times a night (I'm not exactly Gina Ford, shall we say), so it went: crappy sleep, normal day, stay awake all night writing a piece of flash every hour (popping in to feed the baby a couple of times), attempt to continue writing while looking after the baby all day, feel sick with tiredness and start to lose the ability to speak, almost pass out, admit defeat, crappy sleep.

Despite being shouted at by my mother and The Australian for making myself sick with fatigue, it was a blast. (OK, I quite enjoyed being shouted at - I was giddy by then.) I ended up with one of my pieces in the Leaf Books anthology (a piece that inspired my second novel) and more importantly with a feeling that neither looking after babies nor sleep deprivation were valid excuses for not writing. 

So last year, the month before I was due to give birth again, I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo. I had scoffed at the idea before - writing a novel in a month seemed a bit cheap. But I was missing the point. NaNoWriMo is the most exhilarating and freeing extreme writing exercise. It was the first time I had really allowed myself to write a first draft - without to-ing and fro-ing over every single phrase, doing my nut. There wasn't time to fret, what with 1677 words to bash out every day. Yes, bash - not very glamorous, is it? What I learned is that first drafts don't have to be - I learned to shove a sock in the mouth of my mean Inner Editor and tell her to come back later and clean up the mess I was about to make.

It's nearly that time of year again. Things are different - I don't have a bump (well, apart from a digestive biscuit and too-many-takeaways bump) getting in the way but I do have an adventurous crawler who discovered today that the front wheel of the rain-drenched-just-traipsed-through-filthy-London-streets pushchair makes a decent teething ring, and a three year old who wants a grown-up to play with "because this is a grown-up game, not for babies, sorry". And I want to do NaNoWriMo, so I think that fact alone will carry me through, but right now I'm thinking - how will I squeeze the hours? What will suffer? (Who will suffer?) Will I clean less (even less), cook less, make us run out of wearable clothes, let the children watch (more) television, take them to the park less, talk to the Australian less, sleep less . . . sleep less

I'd better stop here before I talk myself out of it. This must be my longest post ever, and the first one I just sat down to write without giving it a second thought. I should probably wake my Inner Editor and let her loose but I think I'll let her snooze a while longer - she's going to be very busy indeed come December.

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Nik's Blog said...

You're braver than I am. Any Nano bod is!

Very best of luck with it.

Nik xx

Charduck said...

Oooh Myrts, you're tempting me to do it too! If you can, with two babies and an imminent emmigration, what excuse do I have? The bunnies don't need *that* much looking after! We can cheer each other on!

Duckster xx

Mum'sTheWord said...

Nik, didn't you recently write an entire book in a fortnight?

Char - it would be a brilliant way of making November go quicker so that waiting on subs is slightly less agonising.

Nik's Blog said...

I tell you what, that's a mighty good point about taking your mind of the subs. Still, a bit extreme!

Let's be fair - I wrote the first draft of a 17k word story over a week (which I'm still tyoing up and untangling). Nowhere near a nano novel. I wouldn't have the energy (or brains!) for that. Goodness no!

Best of luck with it and to Char as well if she decides to do it.

Nik xx

Charduck said...

Thanks Nik! Myrts, that's a good point about the subs! Would be good to get immersed in summat else! Something completely different. Like a YA novel or summat. Ooooh exciting. I LOVE the fact it doesn't matter if it's crap!

Ross said...

Sounds like fun. Of a sort. That's how we were taught to write when I studied copywriting. Mind you, we weren't expected to produce 50,000 words.
I've just finished Stephen King's "On Writing" and he calls the first stage 'writing with the door closed' - where you're writing just for yourself without your internal self editor worrying about what other people will think. The first rewrite stage he calls 'writing with the door open' where you edit, usually with a person in mind who will read it. In his case, his wife.
Best of luck with it. Remember, it's only just over 1600 words a day. :-)

Mum'sTheWord said...

Come on, Char, you know it'll be fun. Free fun!

Ross, I must get that Stephen King book; keep hearing good things about it.

My wife never reads my books. *sigh*

Emma said...

Good luck to all the NaNoWriMo-ers, and anyone else doing something similar.

'Writing with the door closed' is spot on. Stephen King's fiction is soooooo not my thing that I've never been inclined to look at On Writing, but I really must.


writer girl said...

All the best for your writing fest. I'm enjoying your blog more and more.

Mum'sTheWord said...

Thanks, Writer Girl. Welcome back!