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What 'winning' Nanowrimo means to me. – Lizzie Harwood
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What 'winning' Nanowrimo means to me.

Lizzie Harwood / Inspiration  / What 'winning' Nanowrimo means to me.

What 'winning' Nanowrimo means to me.


At first I thought that what I wrote wasn’t too bad and started imagining how quickly I can put Betty and Alabama out there in the publishing world as ‘real’.

Then, of course, I finished reading Jo Nesbo‘s The Devil’s Star and I realised that my 50,000 words towards Polaroid Nights needs a) another 50,000 words, and b) some really excellent research and thinking-through of the perpetrator and crimes because c) I pretty much wrote it just from some odd ideas in my head that aren’t researched or thought through.

This is where I need Mum to come over and be my editor. My Mum is a huge reader of crime fiction because it gives her the answers to why people act in awful ways. Unfortunately for me, Mum dashed down to New Zealand to help a couple of my sisters. It sounds like it’s not going great. But, Dad is turning up soon. He will likely be an excellent receptor for ideas to bounce off of.

Meanwhile, I am making the acquaintance of my children – the toddler hardly recognised me and thinks ‘Marma’ is a biscuit tin. The 5 year old has hardly eaten since having gastro 2 weeks ago. My husband has only seen me to watch episodes of The Killing to ‘unwind’ after writing.

When I tried to NaNoWriMo in 2004, I only made it to 48,000 words – a lousy effort considering I didn’t have a job or children, or even a cat at the time.

This time, I can see how much Nanowrimo has changed, I’ve changed and importantly, the writing world has changed.

Writing, to me, used to be a very lonely exercise where I hid myself in a grotto and only shared pages in order to prove I was prolific, not to actually understand feedback or edit my work. NaNoWriMo was a competition with yourself; now it’s a worldwide community complete with cheerleaders, pep talks from mega-authors (think Nick Hornby, Audrey Niffenegger), Statistics to freak you out and urge you on, Writing Buddies, Merchandise, the whole brass band.

The sense of community and, I guess, the brass band, was what really made all the difference to my achieving the 50K goal.

It wasn’t just me, writing, I jumped onboard a moving object with thousands of others, all of us trying to type fast enough.

Okay, one person wrote 1,000,000 words during November, so they achieved the 50,000 that I eeked out, on Day 2. But I’m not sure if that person is human.

‘Winning’ NaNoWriMo means I didn’t give up when I had too much going on and no energy left. It made me commit to Betty & Alabama and their crime-filled world of an Auckland a while ago before I stopped knowing that place of the world. It was hugely fun to go back to 1996 and be 23 years old again and remember how full of a 20-something’s false-bravado, impatience and self-doubt I was, but to return to that material now, as a slightly-older-than-22-year-old, it has been wonderful to view that world with compassion for everyone in it even whilst I killed and assaulted various characters.

And I will see Betty & Alabama in the ‘real’ world of bookshelves and Amazon’s carts and being read by actual people – not just silly me.

1 Comment

  • kristin

    Lizzie (Marma!), This post inspires me to try Nanowrimo next year. I have never been tempted before. Would love to read your book!

    December 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

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