In 2008, with a week to go before November 1st, I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I was in my final year of secondary school, taking all honours classes, not feeling especially confident about the exams at the end of the school year, and not feeling like I’d do especially well with my writing to that point.
I gave it a shot, keeping a blog about the writing process. The posts exist somewhere on a computer or a memory stick or a harddrive, no longer online – having only existed on Bebo, that ancient relic of the Internet. They chronicled my journey with my protagonist, Sam, and all the ways I tried to keep myself going with the book. (When I went looking for the book’s cover for this post, I found them. They make for a cringe-worthy 3000 words.)
On November 30th, with only a few days to plan the book before the month began, I verified a word count of 50074 words. I “won” a free print copy of the book, Meet Sam. A friend of mine, a photographer named David Doherty, took some photos for me for the cover. In 2008, he was the only photographer I knew, and I had no design (a) experience or (b) software. I think I used something that came with a camera. I think we’ve both come a long way since then.
I still have a few copies of the book on my shelf. I had teachers and lecturers provide some feedback on it. There’s definitely something to work with, there, though my genre focus would require a bit of a rewrite with some slightly more fantastical elements thrown in (nothing that would drastically change the book, mind, just something to solidify it on the teetering edge of Fantasy, in the way that Kazuo Ishiguro writes Fantasy and Science Fiction.
The few days before NaNoWriMo are the best time to commit to a book. Meet Sam didn’t exist in my head before I decided to do NaNoWriMo.
I wholly believe that it’s not too late to start planning a book, that it’s not too late for someone to give it a shot. I’d only ever written one (bad) book before taking part for the first time, and had two incomplete books floating around up to this point.
Anyone who thinks that, maybe, they want to write a book should give it a shot. And here’s the thing I want to make clear, both now and with my NaNoWriMo novel for this year: failure is okay. Failure happens. We can never prepare for every eventuality. Things come up and derail a perfectly good month of writing, or a job, or a relationship. Something in life happens, and we have to figure out how to move forward from that point on.
But just because failure is a possibility, and just because you haven’t tried something, is no reason not to make an attempt. Life is about experiences.