NaNoWriMo: A Month To Write A Book

08/11/2015 9:34 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Typing on typewriter

If you’ve ever had a burning desire to write a book, NaNoWriMo is the perfect place to start.

National Novel Writing Month is a free event that kicked off on November 1 -- a special date in the lives of writers who use the U.S-based competition to kick-start the book they’ve been dreaming of writing.

Others use NaNoWriMo to finish final chapters of a festering manuscript, or get them stuck out of the horror of writers' block.

Australian novelist Cayt Mirra signed up for NaNoWriMo on a whim on the 30th of October, reasoning that it’s a perfect opportunity to push herself to write.

“I’ve had an idea in my head for a while but life gets in the way, so this was a way to make me prioritise writing. Since the birth of my son, Max, I've been working part time, so I have been trying to use this opportunity to write more. Writing is hard, but it is also my happy place so it's important for me to make time for it,” Mirra said.

“The novel I have started is called 'Reclassified'. It’s set in the future, and women are now classified as animals, not humans. The story follows a young girl named Hadley, who is born in captivity, in a zoo. Throughout the novel, she is subjected to many of the things we currently subject animals to, such as breeding, product testing and hunting. I wanted to shine a light firstly on the objectification of women in our society, and what that would look like if taken to its extreme. But I also wanted to highlight some of the atrocities in our treatment of animals. The combination of the two will hopefully be quite confronting.”

cayt mirra

Author Cayt Mirra. Picture: Supplied

NaNoWriMo expects participants to finish a 50,000-word manuscript in just 30 days. It is not impossible, but it is not easy either.

I’m mid-way through a novel myself, yet I’m using NaNoWriMo to kick-start the book I plan to tackle when I finish my current book. Is that crazy? Like Mirra, my novel is also set in the future.

It involves futuristic crime and focuses on a female bounty hunter who revolts against the government when she discovers the lives of 13-year-olds are being ended if they show signs of a supernatural power or superior intelligence.

The point of NaNoWriMo is to get your first draft completed. Most writers will agree the first draft is the toughest. Once you have that all-important first draft finished, then you can spend as long as you like editing and polishing it to perfection. In other words, do not expect your first draft to be perfect. Your first draft might be dreadful.

As you write, don’t be tempted to stop and re-read. Just keep writing and do not stop until you have finished. My NaNoWriMo attempt for 2015 does not even have a working title and, in the interests of proving my point -- that a first draft is usually far from perfect -- I present you with my opening page.

The Bounty Hunter

Kendell Troy walked up the steps of the Central Expiratory Agency feeling too pissed off to be scared. The night had just begun. She could barely see the weather regulators poking through the darkness. She paused at the door, staring up at the sky; realising it might be the last she ever saw of it.

Her grandmother’s voice echoed in her mind with stories of differing ‘seasons’ and ‘wind’. While the concept of natural weather alluded her, she always remembered her grandmother describing what wind felt like and how it could make you feel invigorated or exhausted, depending on your state of mind. She closed her eyes, trying to imagine what wind would feel like on her face.

Kendell had the same long straight light brown hair, slim frame, and delicate features of her mother and grandmother; making her more beautiful naturally than most were allowed to look in the capital of Arenia. In an almost genderless society, Kendell was one of the last reminders around of the beauty women once possessed. Always trying to look more neutral to avoid attention, she was usually out at night dressed in her black hooded cloak. As a Bounty Hunter, her job was to stay under the radar. As a closeted good guy, her job was to stay extremely under the radar.

She turned back toward the door, her bright gold eyes meeting the hard cold face of Neutral Member 778. She stumbled backward in surprise, barely able to catch herself.

“What are you doing here, Kendell? You do not get your new assignment until tomorrow,” he said.

“I’m afraid for the President” she said, looking solemnly into his eyes. “Why?” he asked, cocking his head to the side in the least charming of ways.

“I’ve heard people talking about a resistance forming,” she said, telling him what she already knew he was more than well aware of. “Kendell, trust me…we have everything under control” he said, evoking more distrust than ever before.

In grey jumpsuits, bald, and devoid of almost any unique features, the Neutral Members were supposed to be inoffensive in every sense of the word. Burdened with the responsibility of assigning Expiry Chips to each member of society, neutrality was the most important features of these man-made creatures.

Perhaps I'll change my title next month. Or perhaps, once finished, it will sleep on my laptop for another year or two. Yet I am hopeful that at the end of November, I will at least have another manuscript ready to be polished.

Mirra told The Huffington Post Australia she is aiming to write 3,000 words on some days, and 1,000 words on other days. How you manage your word count is up to you.

“The site is really good at helping you keep track of your daily average and telling you when you finish at your current rate. So far, it is telling me that I will finish on time, but I guess if it drops below that it will push me to write more,” Mirra said.

"When I signed up I figured I wouldn't be able to write the whole 50,000 words, but that whatever I got written was better than nothing, and more than I would have written otherwise. But now that I've actually started, I really want to hit the 50,000 words.

"I also invested a bit of time on the first day putting together an outline of what will happen in each chapter, and that has worked well. I have it broken into 10 chapters, so I know that each one needs to be roughly 5000 words, which means I am writing in more manageable chunks.

"Taking on the whole 50,000 at once can seem a bit overwhelming but I'm sure I will make it happen."

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