The house that NaNoWriMo built

Last year, like many good folk, I ‘won’ NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, where the challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days – a small novel for some, about half a novel for me).

It was a very hollow victory, despite resounding initial success.

I went in with a detailed plan.

Despite the fact that characters and plots tinkered with my plans, I saw this as a good thing because I ended up with a far better story.

I was on a roll.

I finished the book. Ended up somewhere about 110K a few months later.

On fire. Multitasking. Typing while working on a clean slate.

Then, it was sent for editing.

Don’t get me wrong, the editing advice was perfect.

I redrafted. Fairly hard, but I got there.

Yet more editing again (you gotta love it). Currently my word count is standing at 135K.

This time the journey was, and continues to be, harder, much much harder. This is despite being more informed, better prepared and a great deal more confident in the outcome.

Rather than tweak, I added new plots, linked things together, tried to simplify, fixed some things that were troubling me. But along the way, I became lost and disheartened by how much work was needed. Facing a lack of confidence, I trudged through each chapter, then slowed to an inevitable stop.

“The next stop is…” somewhere I don’t want to be.

I had seriously considered using NaNoWriMo to write a big chunk of book three. I wrote a blurb, got excited by it. Created a mock cover. This would be the last of the three books.

I don’t think I’ll try a series of books again, so it was an incentive which I hoped would give me strength and inspiration as well as flexing some creativity and generating some much needed momentum.

However, I came to the conclusion this morning that I should use the time for something else.

Writing the book last year was like choosing to build a quick house with timber framed construction. Get it up fast. Dig the foundations, put up the external walls, put a roof up – worry about the external appearance later. Don’t even think about decorating the rooms.

Don’t worry that the location is next to the spooky woods, or that deathly mists creep in the dark.

Nothing to see here, move along.

This year, I could repeat the same process.

But I have a house sitting on the same plot. I have grown to love the house and everything it could become, one day it could become an incredible home.

But I’ve also come to hate it.

It stares at me half-finished, mocking me every time I step foot in it knowing full well the rooms will need to be reconfigured, walls knocked down, materials are spread everywhere, discarded nails jut at haphazard angles waiting for my bare feet to be impaled as I stumble in the darkness.

My welcome mat

I can’t find my tools, when I find them they are rusty and are just as likely to cut limbs off or cause me some hideous infection.

Strange ghosts stalk this house, some half-formed and begging for more life, some wistfully waiting at the door hoping to be released, some so tangible that they’re almost alive again.

Shadowy figures lurk in my unfinished house

The new house plan next door seems temping. Give up this malevolent place of ghosts and bear-traps.

But I know I need to go in. I’m not one to hide from challenges.

I have 23 rooms left to fix. 23 chapters I need to rewrite. Most require a lot of work.

I have one month.

This is a crazy target, even by my standards.

To add to the challenge, I am weak and stumbling in the dark.

But you are my torch.

And when the batteries fail, I know you will be there with candles.

Hopefully, against the odds, I’ll see you when the month is over where my timber-framed house has survived the tempest and I’ve got a few snagging jobs left, but nothing major. That would be incredible.

Then, maybe, you can join me for a quick cuppa and a biscuit and I can reflect in calm. And as I sip my warm tea with you, my loyal friend, maybe I’ll come to love the unique home that NaNo built.


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