Count me out of the word count stakes

It’s nearly November and writers around the world are marking time, getting ready, and all set to go in a race against the clock to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. Nanowrimo is an exciting event. Here’s the challenge:
  • Write a novel in a month!
  • Track your progress.
  • Get pep talks and support.
  • Meet fellow writers online and in person.

If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, it’s a great way to kick-start the process. Last year more than 300,000 writers took part. This year there will probably be more. I won’t be among them. I’d like to be. It would be wonderful  to think that at the end of 30 days I’d have a complete first draft of a new novel to polish and fine-tune ready for submission to an agent or publisher.

There was a time when being that productive wouldn’t have posed a challenge. In my early years as a writer the words spilled effortlessly onto the page. My creative tap was permanently turned on and overflowing. I was also a star touch typist and rather proud of it. My fingers flew on the keyboard. I loved typing and did personal best speed tests for the fun of it. Later when I began working for newspapers and part of my job was to key in submitted copy, my editor nicknamed me Speedy Gonzales after the title of a long ago hit song.

Times have changed. My hands no longer work the way they did due to arthritis in my thumb joints. It’s surprising how many everyday tasks that affects. I’m not too worried aboutpoemhand having a limited capacity to chop vegetables, peg out the washing and do the housework. However it is an issue that I can only write by hand with difficulty when my preferred method of doing rough drafts is via longhand. I’ve also realised the importance of rationing keyboarding and mouse time, both to avoid discomfort now and delay the degeneration so I can continue to write well into the future.

Fortunately I’m adaptable. And fortunately my brain appears to be less affected by the passing years than various other parts of my body. My writing process has become more mental than physical. Most of the writing happens off page and off screen. Before I pick up a pen or strike a computer key I work out what I am going to write and memorise sentences, paragraphs, scenes and dialogue. My aim is to avoid using my hands unnecessarily by writing first drafts that are as close to publication ready as I can make them.

This might sound a rather strange way to work when there is voice recognition software available, particularly as other writers speak of how productive they have become using it. My trial attempts were an exercise in frustration so I decided to keep working the way I do for now.

So count me out of the word tally ranks. I’m saying no to Nanowrimo. Of course I will write during November. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. It’s an important part of who I am. But I won’t be racing the clock in a bid to produce as many words as I can in the shortest possible time. My progress will be slow and steady. In the writing stakes I’m the tortoise, not the hare. Once I might have pondered whether I fit into the plotter or pantser category as a writer. I now know I’m a plodder. I’m okay with that.

-Teena Raffa-Mulligan

(Visit my website to find out more about me and my books. www.teenaraffamulligan.com)

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3 thoughts on “Count me out of the word count stakes

  1. You’re doing well to be able to hold so much of a story in your memory! Mine disappears almost as soon as I think it, unless I write it down. I know what you mean about working slower: I feel it too, already. I wish my hands were still as dexterous and my brain as fast, but I guess we adapt and work ‘smarter’ instead. I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo either. I did it a few years ago, and ‘won’, as they say when you reach the goal. But it wasn’t a novel I had at the end, just a big mess!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Working ‘smarter’ and adapting to changes makes sense to me, Louise. I smiled at your description of your NaNoWriMo novel as ‘a big mess’. I have often wondered how many participants complete a publishable novel after that initial push to write a first draft.

      Liked by 1 person

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