Saturday, November 14, 2009


We love our races in Oz and November is significant on the racing calendar with the running of The Melbourne Cup – the race that stops the nation. This November I discovered the race that gets the nation going – the novel writing nation, that is.

Yep! NaNoWriMo – it turns out – has all the thrills and spills of a great race. It can be exhilarating and exhausting, dangerous and disheartening, excruciating and enriching.

Week 1 - starts just like the Melbourne Cup – horses in the starting gate, excitement and anticipation oozing from every pore like cheap cologne. We are the jockeys strategising, our goal in plain and indisputable view. The gates slam open and we’re off and racing, sprinters and pacers soon separating the pack.

At the end of the first straight, we discover this race is not so straightforward after all. It’s now a steeplechase of unexpected hurdles and challenging jumps. As we cross the week one finishing line, we feel slightly overwhelmed but still focussed on one thing – numbers.

Week 2 - is definitely about numbers. It’s like being part of the mad mob in Sydney’s City to Surf fun run.

The elite easily intimidate first-timers (like me) – overawed by our own insignificance in those shiny new Kmart joggers. Also among the mob are:
• the serious competitors with starting line honours,
• the don’t-get-in-my-way-or-I’ll-crush-you runners,
• and the I-really-should’ve-gone-home-last-night party animals.
Speaking of animals, you’ll also find the gorilla suit guy – a little crazy for thinking he can do it, but giving it his best shot and having fun – after all, that is the aim of the race.

Again, week two starts off strong, although it’s not long before the pack thins.
Some give up.
Some fall over when they realise they’re not serious or prepared enough this time around.
Others hang on until Heartbreak Hill – and oh, the pain!

You set a feverish pace, heart pumping, back aching, such pressure! The mob eggs you on, but they are passing you to the left and to the right. You try The Little Caboose method, “I think I can. I think I can...”

Do you quit?
Simply let the race go on around you, stay focussed and stay on track.

Week 3 - is like the Bathurst Grand Prix at Mount Panorama. The view is good from here, although still not quite all down hill yet. This is where skill is important – knowing when to accelerate and brake. You are desperate to edit through those chicanes and re-write those hairpin bends out of the story.

Should you? The race rules say this is a no-no. But do you really have to follow the rules?

Not always. Look at the iconic Beetle. Volkswagen suddenly stopped and switched the engine from the back to the front. Now it’s better than ever. So yes, go crazy. Break a few rules and get back in the race because the best is yet to come.

Week 4 - is the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race (or in RWAus Nano speak it’s the Plotsville to Happy Ever After Race). You’ve got the wind in your sails (your ballast most likely the result of too much Nano chocolate). But beware the albatross. This last leg can be deceiving. It’s not always smooth sailing and only the prepared will survive.

So grab those reins, hold on tight, have fun, keep those revs up and avoid seasickness by keeping an eye on the November 30 horizon.

Most importanlty, run your own race, your own way and achieving your personal best.

Jenn J McLeod

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm running for the train....

but I'm behind as usual. Story of my life at the moment. I'm so far behind on most things it's scary. I'm still doing everything but there's so much and not enough time....
What makes me keep going even when it looks like I won't make that train? Could be a number of things but for me it's everything, the destination and the journey have equal appeal. Neither of which I want to let go of even if the train is on of those ones where people hang out the sides and sit on the roof.
That's probably why on day 11 of Nano and at 5,283 words I'm still optimistic I'll make the 50,000. Maybe I'm kidding myself and maybe I'm not but no matter what my word count is at the end of November I'll have more words than I did at the start. I'm determined to get those words because I want the story. I want to see what happens to my characters on this journey we're taking together.
I have a goal and I'm aiming for it. It might be unrealistic at the moment with all that's going on but I'm not backing away from it because that would be giving up. It would also be easy for me to say screw it. I've got so much going on in my life most would say NOT doing it was a good idea but what they don't see is that NaNo is mine! Mine, I tell you! Back away and let me have it. In a way spending the month of November writing 50,000 words is selfish but it's no more selfish than getting that new shirt or book, or going to see the latest movie or... the list is endless.
But the difference between my selfishness and most others is the struggle to get my goal. It's damn hard work, it's frustrating, it's annoying, it's depressing and then it's fun, it's exciting, it's satisfying. It's one great big emotional roller coaster and I love every minute of it.
So when the family complains I'm chained to my chair or they get the bolt cutters to pull me free for one of the many IMPORTANT things I have to do for them I'm not going to rant and rave about no ME time. (Well not much anyway. *grin*) I won't complain because that's life, it's part of the thrill that makes this journey the ride it is. And even though we might not make the whole trip we can be proud of the effort we put in to try. What's that saying?..... Oh yeah.


What are you waiting for? Get in the race people! You never know who you'll meet on the way or what you'll get at the end of it.