Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Am I crazy?

Until very recently, it looked as if my now yearly pilgrimage to West Wing Land DC was not going to happen in 2011. I consoled myself with thoughts of going for the cherry blossom festival instead, and happy if unfounded hopes of being accepted by American University this year and soon getting to live there full time. 

I consoled myself too with the prospect of NaNoWriMo: every year, tens of thousands of writers worldwide indulge in (inter)National Novel Writing Month, the aim being to crank out a 50,000 word first draft in the space of a month. For the last two years, I've been on holiday and in the midst of another novel in November. Not this year. Maybe this was the year to give it a go.

When it turned out I could go to DC after all, I was not, initially, as excited as I would have expected to be. This concerned me - was it some kind of sign? It took me a little while to realise that I was, in fact, disappointed to be missing out on another NaNoWriMo. 

And then it dawned on me: why are travelling and NaNo mutually exclusive? Particularly when my next novel, like my first, is going to be a doomed love story set in DC, and DC is where I am going? 

This may be the best, or the worst, idea that I've ever had. But I've got a week in Washington this time, and I've taken the obligatory photos, done the obligatory tours, stood in the street where Josh threw snowballs at Donna's window (though I still don't know which house number it was - anyone?). I have time, in other words, to set aside a couple of hours a day to sit in a coffee shop and scribble in my notebooks. I also have plane journeys and train journeys. 

And one of the best things about NaNo is its communalness (this is where I wish, not for the first time today, that there was a decent English translation of the word convivialité). People meet in cafés and bookshops and write together. Not much in Belgium - and the ones that do seem to be Dutch-speaking. This is one aspect where being in the US will work for me. Maybe. 

NaNoWriMo requires stringent self-discipline, and I hesitate to be unrealistically harsh on myself and force myself to write 1,667 words a day on holiday - particularly in the 36 hours I have in Philadelphia and the four days I have in LA. But I have signed up to those NaNo regions just in case. The write-ins may actually be just the nudge that I need to keep me going at least every other day. And if I get ahead while I am in DC, I may not need to be too stringent. 

By the time I get back from the US, I should have 25,000 words of a novel written - perhaps more, because I know from experience that jetlag makes me useless for a good few days after I get back (and to make it more complicated still, I then have a trip to the UK for a wedding.) I have no idea if it's going to work. But I'm certainly going to give it a try. I don't want to wait another year. 

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