Camp NaNoWriMo!

I spoke a bit about how vulnerable I am with writing my guide to being a freelancer, but as part of the talking through process I realised that there was a bit more too it, than just what I wrote about – worried about people being mean, impostor syndrome etc. I feel like this is a confession, so here we go…..

I have always wanted to write a fiction book.

Eek! It is out there now. I love books, so very much, on my recent holiday I read 14 books in the ten days we were there, I love reading, it is vital to me and it always has been. But I have always wanted to write my own thing. But I have been too scared to, I worry that I lack the imagination. That I am going to be rubbish, that what I write is going to be rubbish and I am never, ever going to be able to write as well as my favourite authors. EVER. It is so paralysing I can’t think of what to write!


So I let the fear stop me from doing what I want.

After all, it is better not to have tried, than FAILING right? I hate any thought of failure or embarrassment, this is why I get into such a mess in exams, why I can’t watch comedians where they pick on the audience or anything else along those lines. I just cringe, want to curl up in a ball and die of embarrassment on their behalf.

Well, I have decided that I am not going to put up with this any longer. I am taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is the summer version of the main programme. In July, within the boundaries of July, I will write my novel – or at least 50,000 words of it. I bought myself a copy of No Plot, No Problem to read why I was on holiday and it fired me up. In fact while I was away I had an idea for a novel and I have just done a tiny bit of research around it and gradually, more and more ideas are coming to me, and I am scribbling them down in my soulbook.

So why have I felt able to do this now? Well talking to a therapist helps! Being honest with myself helps and I truly think that my illness has made it really clear to me that I need to focus on what is important to me, and this is important to me.

I also found No Plot, No problem to be reassuring. It talks about the absurdity of writing a novel in a month, how ridiculous it is and as it is so ridiculous you cannot have any expectations of the outcome at all. It iis really a case of quantity over quality.

a novel rough draft it like bread dough, you need to beat the crap out of it to make it rise

They talk about how with an artistic project we need a deadline, it is far too easy for us to keep putting EVERYTHING else first before our creative selves. I know how much happier I am since I started playing the flute and ukulele again, as well as my soulbook. Doing NaNoWriMo effectively creates a crucible, out of which will be a huge outcome, a pouring of words.

Anne Lamott (I love her writing) talks about shitty first drafts – and I think I have always had this idea that what flows from my pen (well touch typing) must be pure gold, worthy of Neil Gaiman, otherwise I am not going to do it. So the idea of shitty first drafts is appealling. As is the idea that if I have pushed it through in a month of course it is going to be shit, what else do I think it will be? That, it totally freeing!

An author that I really enjoy Anne Lyle, wrote her first draft during the proper NaNoWriMo in November. I find that heartening.

“by giving yourself the git of imperfection you tap into the realms of intuition and imagination that your hypercritical brain normally censors. These are the left of the centre dialogue exchanges and strange character quirks that end up forming the most memorable and delightful parts of your novel”.

So, who is going to join me? For Camp NaNoWriMo, it doesn’t have to be a novel and you can set your own word limit, the idea is though that you have to set a target and work towards it. We start in just over a week!

Join the conversation


  1. I read this and your immediately prior post with interest. I must admit the sense of vulnerability you mention is not something I feel about my writing, not in the same way at least. I have thought about this and what you posted for several days now and I truly don’t think that is just some bluff statement of arrogance.

    I think in my case it comes down to why I do – or at least used to – try to write in the first place. All the ‘reward’ if you like I found more from the actual creation of the story than the potential enjoyment of its – equally potential – readers. Which is not to say I did not care if readers enjoyed what I wrote! I enjoy making up worlds, playing with characters. In many ways I think my writing experience is just a crystallized and persistent form of day-dreaming.

    You might think this is a process that only works for pure fiction in any of its genre’s, but this is not true. I actually found it even more valuable back in my days of writing dissertations or scientific articles for journal publication. I found the fact I had a strong and supple, beguiling ‘voice’ to my writing – developed through fiction – was very much appreciated by my thesis advisers or peer-reviewers. This is not withstanding the rigid and often pointless formalities that are expected in this area. If a person is going to read your work for academic achievement or reviewing it alongside other panel-members for publication then I found the fact my worlds – even laced tightly in to corset of technical style – could capture and hold my readers was worth almost as much as the content of those words.

    In both cases I believe the fact my writing – sometimes – worked was entirely due to the manner of its creation. I was not trying shake the world with my wit and perspicacity, not was I attempting to be the next Graham Swift. I was telling a story that I had immensely enjoyed imagining and thinking up. I was freezing these ideas on to the page and taking pleasure form the use of vocabulary and style.

    So that would be my advice. Don’t worry about the end user at all. Don’t even think about them really. Enjoy the words, enjoy the imagination and expression and the rest will come as a matter of course.

  2. Thank you for your advice, I am really enjoying NaNoWriMo, more than I thought I would.. I think it’s because the idea of wirting a novel in a month is so bonkers that I fully exxpect it to be rubbish.

    I guess enjoyment is really key to writing, I love writing here on my blog and I have always enjoyed writing essays and everything else, including formal articles for clients and even marketing collateral.

    Fiction is something so new to me that I am scared, but now I have plunged in it is not as bad as I was expecting it to be, so that is a good thing. I wonder if it because it is somethign that I have wanted to do for so long that my ideas are just flying… of course I may not be saying that in a week or two!

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