NaNoWriMo – bitten off more than I can chew?

So at the start of this month I signed up to do NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Naturally, the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month somewhat fazed me, but I thought if I put my back into it I could give it a good crack. The fact that I was also rehearsing for a show and that show week was in the middle of that didn’t seem to enter my mind at the time. Now, however, it most definitely is, as is the fact that I have just started working back in my old office for a few weeks, limiting my writing time for the final sprint. Out of a goal of 50,000 words, my current word count is: 2,918. Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

The answer is: probably yes. Will I make it to 50,000 words? Probably no. But according to the lovely folk at NaNoWriMo: “If it’s really not looking possible for you to hit that elusive 50k target, then why not set yourself an achievable goal for the end of the month and work towards that instead? We all know Real Life can get in the way sometimes, but even writing a little every day can make a big difference.”

Despite signing up to NaNoWriMo on the 2nd November, I didn’t actually write a word until two days ago. Up to that point I was still planning! Obviously the idea is to plan before the start of November so once the month starts you can write away to your heart’s content, but I was a little late to the party. Now I am cracking on with the writing, like most writers I’m finding it difficult to fit my writing time into the day. The bookbaby blog has some great advice on time management for writers and a few tips for setting deadlines that I’m going to use from now on to help me rattle off that first draft. One of the most crucial tips for me is to focus on phase one first. I’m guilty of constantly thinking ahead, looking to the future, the next step, the finished product, rather than focusing on the here and now, and not just in my writing!

To all you fellow NaNoWriMos, I salute you! Whether you’re on track for the 50k target, have flown past it already, or, like me, have set your own smaller goal (I’m going for 10,000), I admire your effort, your persistence, your tenacity and your desire to tell stories. Keep on writing!

 

A visit to Jane Austen’s House

On Saturday I paid a visit to Jane Austen’s House Museum in the pretty village of Chawton. Although I’ve always wanted to go there, this seemed a particularly fitting time to finally make the short trip, with One Off Productions currently rehearsing Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen's House Museum

Jane Austen’s House Museum

I wanted to get a feel for the writer behind the story – if I can better understand her, surely I can better understand her work and the characters within that. I’m lucky enough to be playing Elizabeth Bennet, and though I’ve seen the film and TV adaptations, and am a great fan of Jennifer Ehle’s Lizzie in the BBC series, the original source material has to be the novel, and indeed the writer herself.

As the novel is set during Jane’s lifetime, seeing the house also helped me get a taste of the clothes, living conditions and day-to-day life of that period, which I can apply to Lizzie’s life.

The baking was done in an outhouse, which would have been lovely and toasty when in use, but on a chilly day in the middle of January was rather less so! Inside the house, we wandered round the kitchen, which is entered separately from the rest of the house, then headed back out and in through another door to the other rooms. Although it’s not a small house, the upper quarters seemed a little cramped, probably due to the number of visitors trying to circumnavigate the furniture and each other.

The Austen kitchen

The Austen kitchen

The kitchen was my favourite room as it had things to play with – quill fountain pens with ink and paper, dresses and bonnets to try on, dried lavender by little circles of fabric and string to make lavender bags with. The writing proved to be particularly difficult, as you could only write a few letters before needing more ink. To think that Jane Austen wrote all her novels by this means fills me with an even greater admiration for her.

Upstairs there were further examples of the type of clothing worn at that time, including some delicate dancing slippers, which I’m guessing would have been worn at the infamous balls. Perhaps Lizzie wears these at the Netherfield Ball when she is dancing with Mr Darcy, ripe with sexual tension.

The museum portrayed a life of eating, writing and taking long walks, with a spot of needlework in the evening. Now if only I could give up work and do a spot of method acting – I reckon I could cope with that!

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It was wonderful to see the place where Jane Austen lived, to look down at the desk where she did so much of her writing, to walk in the footsteps of a person who’s beautiful stories have so delighted me – well worth a visit! I felt closer to the writer, closer to the mind behind Pride and Prejudice, and that bit closer to Lizzie. Bit by bit, I’m getting there…

Words will never die

I was sitting on the loo earlier (where so many of my best ideas come to me) when a thought just sprang up in my mind. Somehow my thought process had managed to meander onto what I would do, or rather how I would feel if The End was nigh, and I suddenly decided I would grab a pen and my notebook, and I would write. I’m not sure how I figured the notebook would survive, but I just did, and I decided that I would write and write. I would write the most beautiful words and phrases I have ever written, because my legacy, my immortality would depend on it. I pictured in my mind The End as it happens in The Day After Tomorrow, where the whole of the northern hemisphere gets frozen and anyone in the UK is basically screwed. Unlike all my previous imaginings of The End (and there have been many – my mind tends to wander towards the morbid when given free reign), I did not panic or sob or fight for my very existence, because I realised that there was a way I could go on living, that I didn’t have to completely disappear.

Before, I’ve always thought that one of the reasons why I simply have to get my novel published is to create my legacy, something that will live on and carry my name with it, so I can be remembered. For we all fear being forgotten. But sitting there in that draughty cubicle today, I realised I had it wrong. It’s not the legacy, the recognition of an achievement, the association of a name with a literary body of work that keeps the person alive. It’s the words themselves. The words. Because the words are my voice. When someone reads my words a hundred years from now they are hearing my voice, me. They may be reading a story about this character or that, but no matter whose viewpoint I write from, it is always my voice that underlies it all, me that the words are coming from. When they read aloud those words, they are reliving my thoughts, they are speaking the same words I spoke to myself many years before as I sat at my desk hammering away at the keyboard.

When I am dead and gone, when my lips have parted for the last time and rotted away into the earth, my dreams, my hopes, my fears, my very thoughts will live on. My words. Me. And that is why I must continue to write, I must scrawl my thoughts across the page, tip tap my sentences into the computer, capture every precious thought and moment and cognitive spark. Because when I’m gone, it is all that will be left of me. And as long as people read my words, I shall never truly be gone.