A mighty challenge

Tomorrow is November 1st, All Saints Day in the Christian calendar, a special day grafted onto a much more ancient autumn/winter festival. It follows All Saints Eve, better known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween; I’ve written enough about that in the past, so I’m not going to say anything about it now because, to be honest, I have something else very much on my mind.

November is a challenging month for writers – if they enter the on-line writing event, National Novel Writing Month, trying to write 50,000 words in thirty days. It is an amazing challenge, one that I first undertook in 2013. I was really fired up, inspired even, and the words just dashed from my fingers onto the computer and I raced through and completed my task – and even surpassed it by over 20,000 more words! It wasn’t just I was bursting with inspiration, I found the discipline and the deadline really helpful, I found writing buddies who spurred me on, encouraging and challenging, and the terrific momentum of it carried me on. In fact, i was so fired by it that I took a second challenge five months later in April 2014, and did what’s known as Camp Nano where you set your own goals. That was also a great success. As if that wasn’t enough (and I’ve only just remembered this by looking at my Nano stats) I set myself another interim challenge and completed another 50,000+ in July!

November 2014, and another successful writing splurge, Nano 2015, and the fifth of my Radwinter books kicked off, challenge completed, and then 2016 arrived… I hoped that November 1st would dawn and inspiration would hit me; I’d decided to try to write something like an autobiography but didn’t have the least clue how to do it. I tried, I really tried, and struggled to find ‘my voice’. It was an absolute slog. I crept over the target on November 30th, not at all happy with what I had written, a rambling collection of disconnected bits and pieces, some not even about me and my life.

2017… I must say I was a little anxious as the start date approached; I had an idea of writing something based on imaginary runes, made up runes. Someone would find something symbolic, some symbol with a meaning and it would somehow be reflected in their life. I still think it’s a good idea, and I did have a collection of symbols which I had found somewhere and given a ‘meaning’ to, but I somehow had lost them – they are lurking in a file somewhere! I started my story, a woman with no history arrives somewhere and lives in a rented room in a shared house. I struggled on with it and did complete the challenge, and one day will go back and complete it. I really didn’t know where I was going with it, and it was quite boring – if it’s boring to write it will be boring to read.

I confess that as November 2018 approached I did feel a certain low-key anxiety about the writing challenge. I intended to pull together a true story I had become fascinated by of the tragic drowning of a young woman out skating on a frozen fen in the 1890’s, and my character Thomas Radwinter. I set to on the first day of the month, and looking back at the stats I see I ended up writing well over the target, surpassing it by nearly 13,000 words. That story became Winterdyke; having started quite well in November 2018, I absolutely hit the buffers with it, and I think in the next year I encountered something like writer’s block, and only managed to finish the book and publish it a couple of months ago.

Because of that stasis I thought I decided not to challenge myself to what would be a terrific struggle in 2019 – I hadn’t finished Winterdyke so what was the point of starting something new? However looking at my Nano records, in actual fact I did start the challenge and wrote just over 10,000 words… I wonder what they were? I think it was another attempt at autobiographical writing, but what, I have no idea!

Time for another challenge, so yes, I am trying again this year, 2020. What am I writing? I have no idea! Finish my 1950’s novel? Really get cracking with the next Radwinter book? Try something new and different? Gee, I don’t know.

I need to get back into  a proper rhythm of writing, so hard though it’s going to be, I intend to get up at six, in the dark, and write for an hour… that’s my intention. No doubt I will have to write more later, but that’s what I hope to do. I feel as if I am undisciplined at the moment and waste a lot of time, so this will be an extra challenge to myself… we will see how it goes!

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