You may congratulate me – I have given birth to a horrible first draft…

And so I did it. I wrote a perfectly horrible first draft of a novel. 50, 000 words in 30 days. And you know what? I don’t even care that it’s horrible. Because a horrible first draft can become an OK second draft and then a pretty good third draft…you can see where I’m going with this.

I could only do it because I had no time to criticize myself as I went along. No time to ask anyone else what they thought. No time to put quotation marks round the dialogue, even. But I have it. It exists. And I have some people to thank who helped me to write it.

First my writing friends who come to our monthly Writers’ Café in Westport, CT. If it hadn’t been for me sitting there and urging them all to write a novel in November, I probably wouldn’t have done it myself. There were pointed looks, as much as to say, ‘So you’ll be doing it, right?’ They shamed me into it.

Next there’s a great blog by Larry Brooks, at www.Storyfix.com. Larry has a great way of helping you plot a novel, and he should know. He’s published several, to great acclaim. Larry writes thrillers, and they’re page turners. That’s what I wanted my novel to be. Not a thriller – I haven’t the first idea about how to write a fight scene – but a page turner. So before November 1, I followed his plan for structuring a novel. And it worked.

The next person is a Brit called Keith Blount who invented a software program called Scrivener  (http://www.literatureandlatte.com). I’ll write more about it in a future post. Suffice it to say that the man is a genius. I could never have counted all the words I’d written without it. (I did that every 15 minutes towards the end.)

And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my husband. I started this novel on vacation in Indochina. This meant that instead of looking out of the bus window at the beautiful scenery flashing by, I sat in the back with my laptop on my knees and wrote. He didn’t complain. And he didn’t complain when we returned and there was a noticeable lack of interest in laundry, cooking and even going to the grocery store. Oh, I did do some of that, when the situation became desperate, but not as often as I used to. (I kind of like that, actually.) And my husband was unfailingly supportive in spite of being relegated to my second main interest for thirty days. He bragged about me to anyone who would listen. He didn’t ask me to watch movies with him. He even cooked. Yes, darling. Of course I will dedicate this first novel to you. You deserve it.

Write a whole 50,000 word novel this November – I am

National Novel Writing Month

http://www.nanowrimo.org/

It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days – specifically, this November. So I have no idea why I signed up for it. But I’m posting this so I can’t renege.

Having put my name down already, I belatedly decided to ask my friend Donna Orazio, a Fairfield writer, why she’d done it a couple of years ago, and how she felt about it now.

“I did it as a challenge,” she told me. “I saw a reference to it on-line and decided to try to see if I could actually write 50,000+ words.”  I think I’m doing it for the same reasons, so I asked Donna what the experience was like.

She told me that the hardest part was writing consistently.

“It’s easier to write a certain number of words every day, rather than trying to write just on the weekends.” She also told me that she had no real plot when she started, although she had an idea that involved three women whose lives become intertwined and there was a train setting.

Apart from writing consistently, Donna told me that, in order to succeed, the goal shouldn’t be to have a brilliant piece of writing, but rather a very rough draft. “I did no editing while I was writing.  My goal was getting words on the page,” she said.

Although Donna didn’t do this, WriMo’s (as I believe they’re called) often like to write outside their homes, so they won’t be disturbed. In the past, Fairfield Library has provided a room for WriMos. Café’s are also a good idea, ( writer needs that caffeine!) although make sure you don’t outstay your welcome. If you’re nursing a latte for two hours, you may get some pointed looks.  In Black Rock the Port Coffeehouse (http://www.portcoffeehouse.com/ ) is happy to host writers, and so is Las Vetas (http://www.yelp.com/biz/las-vetas-lounge-fairfield) in Fairfield. In fact, Andrew, a novelist disguised as a barista, told me he might even get his half finished novel out of the drawer where it’s languishing. The Chef’s Table (http://www.chefstable.com/contact_us.html) doesn’t mind if you hang around, but it’s best to do it outside their main rush hours. And, of course, Starbucks (http://www.starbucks.com/store-locator) everywhere welcomes writers. And Write Yourself Free (http://writeyourselffree.com/ ) at Colonial Green in Westport, also offers writers a place to write. In fact, Jane Green, best-selling novelist, wrote her last book there. There’s peace, quiet, coffee, and someone on hand to give you a word of encouragement if you need it. Call 203 858 8249, to find out when it’s open.

I asked Donna whether she’d done anything with her novel after the month ended. She told me that she hadn’t but since I’d asked her she was thinking about pulling it out and rereading it. “I know there are some very good stretches of writing in there and I like all three of my characters as they came alive on the paper.” Watch this space…