Friday, 13 November 2009

Endurance

(Apologies to any Novel Racers for duplication!)

Oh lord I've just realised the date. Not that I'm suspicious or anything....

Back in 1995 I was among 50 nutters selected to take part in the World One Day Novel competition. (The entry form was devised by Terry Pratchett which tells you something about the kind of person they wanted.)

I got the letter to say I'd been accepted on my birthday. And panicked. My writing group met and we worked out A Plan, which was basically enlarging a short story I'd just had published. Based on the previous year's submissions I think the word count I was aiming at was 20,000 words but I could type fast in those days. But it obviously meant a lot of fleshing out from 12000 words to 20,000. So I walked round the village, reciting the plot, characters etc as I went (we werent allowed to take any notes in to the competition).

On a practical level, it meant travelling to the Groucho Club in London and doing the competition on a laptop. In those days laptops were like gold dust but thankfully my little brother came to the rescue with one from work. He also put me up for the weekend, dear of him.

So at 10 am that Saturday, 50 of us were poised, ready to start writing. We'd been told that the organisers reserved the right to set a subject at the last minute but thankfully they didn't. I was shaking so much that I didn't think I'd be able to type a word, particularly when the event was being covered by Radio Four and other news channels, so I had a huge fluffy microphone stuck under my nose (to hear my manic tapping of the keys, presumably. Either that or my belaboured, hysterical gasping). When we were given the Off my brain went entirely blank and I hyperventilated.

But eventually I got going – and didn't stop till we had to finish at 10 o'clock that night. We started at 10am again the following day, all of us feeling slightly more at home with what we were doing. Several had even gone off on the piss the night before, or what was left of it.

Being someone who always rushes things, I was the first to finish, some time that Sunday afternoon. Having edited and polished, with the few remaining brain cells left, I then staggered to the bar and got drunk courtesy of the Groucho Club, with various other members.

The experience was decidedly zany. It was terrifying, exhilarating and so unlike anything else that I will never forget it. It would have been great to have more time to meet the other contestants, but as it was I became friends with two journalists from the West Country. I then spent a week with my poor system in overdrive, unable to relax.

Looking back, what did I get out of it? Well, nothing that helped my day to day writing. But I did learn how to think – or write - on my feet. Or is that bum? I could type a lot faster – and more accurately – in those days, which helped a lot. I learnt how to plan and edit according to the time I had (not much). And I learnt how to work under pressure. Apart from all that, it was great fun and if asked, and after a few glasses of wine, I'm sure I'd do it again.

Whether it actually helped my writing is another matter. But I so enjoyed it!

15 comments:

Akelamalu said...

Sounds like torture! LOL

Well done for taking part though, you're a braver woman than I!

Sandra Ferguson said...

The fear factor would have been huge for me. I can be brilliant or full of . . . well, you know, in the privacy of my own little computer space, but to be splashed across the radio or newspaper . . . terror would have been my best friend. You, however, sound like you trudged through. What a great accomplishment.

Tracey said...

Hey well done you.. oh and did you get the Martin Clunes book? x

Amanda said...

Sounds scary FP :-)) x

Flowerpot said...

Ak - it wasn't actually - I was so fired up with adrenaline that I loved it!

Sandra - it wa the fear factor that kept me going!

Flowerpot said...

Tracey - no I haven't - what's it called?

Liane Spicer said...

Heavens, I would have been paralyzed with terror! You're made of stern stuff!

Flowerpot said...

Mandy - I probably would be much more scared now. I was a lot younger then!

Flowerpot said...

Liane - as I said to Mandy I think it was the optimism of youth!

Tracey said...

Hi again.. i sent a facebook message ages ago... anyway its Martin Clunes and Its a dogs life...
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dogs-Life-Martin-Clunes/dp/0340977043/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258366880&sr=1-1

brilliant read xx

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I think enjoying it has to be half the battle and a huge step in the right direction.

CJ xx

Flowerpot said...

Tracey - thanks for that. I did get your FB message just wasn't thinking straight!

Flowerpot said...

CJ - you're so right. Hope you're feeling a bit better now.

Ellee Seymour said...

Thinking on your feet is really hard, I know from Toastmasters. I would love to go to the Groucho Club one day. I wish I knew a memebr.

Flowerpot said...

Ellee well this was quite a long time ago now. I expect the Groucho's changed a lot since then!