Into The Woods Once More


It’s December. The year is drawing to a close, light and music and celebration against the growing darkness of the days, frost on my breath and in my garden – it’s a lovely time of year.

And November is over.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I just completed my first NaNoWriMo and, all things considered, it went pretty well. I hit my 50,000 words with a few days to spare and managed to write a few blogs as well. My family were kept clothed and fed, my house (reasonably) tidy and I even did a few small client pieces. At the time it really didn’t seem strange to sit down and bang out 2,000 words a day, images and conversations from my story coming to me so quickly it became a race to get them on the page.

But now I can’t look at it at all. It’s not that I don’t love the story I wrote – I do, and I believe once it’s finished it will be a fairly decent piece of writing. But it was as though when I hit the 50,000 word mark, whatever was feeding me the story switched off in my brain, and I didn’t want to know about it any more. I did print out some pages from it in a half-hearted effort to start an edit, but I put them down after a few minutes. I guess what I’m saying is that NaNo was a more profound experience than I’d considered it to be at the time, and I’m being shown I need time to step back and recover before I revisit the story again.

So I’m back in the woods with Ambeth instead. The other strange thing was, as soon as my brain switched off Patsy’s Journey (the working title), Ambeth reappeared. Sure, there had been a few things that slipped through in November, some hastily scrawled notes concerning timeline issues I’d been having in books 5 and 6. But this is full character conversations coming through, their voices speaking to me as though they’ve been waiting in the trees all month, ready for their stories to resume. So that’s nice. I love the characters and it feels great to reconnect with them once more. It has made me consider how I feel when I’m writing, where my ideas come from. I’ve always felt as though I’m tapping into something far bigger than me, pulling the thread of a story clear and spooling it onto the page, weaving around plots and characters to make a whole. And I do find it interesting that my brain is able to switch between stories like that – often when I read I have several books on the go, so perhaps this is something similar.

In my latest W&A blog I wrote that NaNo forces us to be writers, meaning that during the challenge we have to find the time to write every day whether we want to or not. But on further reflection I think it can also mean that NaNo forces our brains to think like writers. Personally, in the last month I feel as though I’ve made huge progress in my comprehension of what works on the page. I opened book 4 of Ambeth the other day (last opened 31/10/14), meaning to continue with an edit in progress and found so much more that I could amend when compared to my previous notes. It was as though writing so quickly and intensely for a month had changed the way I see my work for the better. It reminded me of a time many years ago when I was training for my black belt. I was at the dojo six days a week doing teaching hours and extra classes (all around my university work). After a while of training at this intensity the movements become second nature, fights slowing down so you can see the next move, everything crystal clear. It seems to me that NaNo works in a similar way – that the act of writing a huge amount of copy every day is like intensity training for the mind, leading us towards a place of effortless effort where the story becomes clear.

Perhaps I’m just waffling on here – after all, I just did some writing. I haven’t changed the world or cured cancer or solved the mystery of the Pyramids. I suppose I approach every experience in life with the idea that I can learn something from it, and NaNo was no different. How did you find your NaNo? Did it change the way you write? Or put you off writing forever? (I hope not).

Xx Helen

3 thoughts on “Into The Woods Once More

  1. Firstly, congratulations on completing NaNo! What a mammoth effort. Secondly, I think what you’re saying is (a) our subconscious has a lot more to do with writing than we know and most likely will ever understand, and (b) writing training helps us improve, like training in anything helps us improve.

    I agree with you on both counts. I like it when I’m in a regular writing routine. On those days, I get up at 5am, write my journal pages and whatever else I’m writing, then leave off to get kids to school, tidy the house, and walk the dogs, then return to my desk. On the days I do this, I accomplish so much. All it takes to throw me off, though, is sleeping in. Even though I think, Well, I’ll skip the journal writing today, or I’ll write a bit later into the evening instead, my brain is out of kilter and just doesn’t switch on. It’s strange, isn’t it?

    • It is! The more I write the stranger it gets! I’m not so much a routine person in that I write when I get a moment, rather than having a schedule. But NaNo forced me to make a lot more moments and it was like a bootcamp for the writing part of my brain! I can’t look at the book I wrote at the moment, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it in a month or so and seeing what my subconscious threw at me in November 🙂
      I also really enjoyed your parenting lessons post – my little one is only eight but I can already see some of this stuff coming through – it did make me laugh. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with all your family around you 🙂 xx

  2. Pingback: How Does Your NaNo Grow? | Journey To Ambeth

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