NaNoWriMo

Life’s spanners and NaNoWriMo: getting back on the writing horse

It’s fair to say I haven’t been keeping up with this blog lately, missing weeks, publishing posts I wrote ages ago for fallow times, or republishing old posts. You may recall about six months ago I began a new day job (completely unrelated to writing) after eighteen months of trying to write full-time, and I acknowledged that I’d have less time to write, and it would take time to form new habits and routines. However, I hadn’t taken on board that shorter lunchbreaks than in my last job meant I could no longer get to the library at lunchtime to write (I’m working about 100 yards away from my old office), and I hadn’t realised how reluctant I’d be to sit at a computer on an evening when I was spending seven hours in front of a screen during the day, rather than the old blend of screen, paper, and time away from a desk. I certainly hadn’t anticipated the succession of spanners life was about to chuck in the works.

In the last six months OneMonkey and I have encountered bereavement, health problems in the family involving long periods of waiting, disruption and upset and general stress which looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. Plus we both turned forty and celebrated (dancing alone to our playlist) our twentieth anniversary. There has been much reflection on life and direction, priorities and what’s truly important.

For me, writing is definitely one of the important things, but such has been the effect of the past six months I’ve barely written anything. The writing community on Twitter is another one, but I’ve largely withdrawn from that partly due to squeezed time, partly because I don’t have the energy to be social. Those of you who’ve been around here a while or know me in real life know I’ve usually got a book in my hand (or I’ve just put it down for five minutes to make a cup of tea). I’ve been reading River of Gods by Ian McDonald for so long I’ve kind of forgotten what’s going on, I’m almost reading each chapter as a stand-alone story that sets off echoes of something else I once read, a long time ago. Clearly these are unusual times.

So, in part this stands as an apology for those of you who enjoy my blog and have been left wanting lately, and those of you who feel I’m neglecting you on Twitter, whose stories I haven’t read and whose successes I haven’t celebrated. In part (upbeat ending alert…) it serves as encouragement to keep trying – I’m aiming to take part in NaNoWriMo again this year.

Some people see NaNo as a competition, a thing to win, and if you haven’t written 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th you’ve failed. I see it as a cattle prod. There’s this writing you want to do, and it’s easy to lose it among the day to day. For one month NaNo and the other writers taking part will be saying come on, keep going, just write a bit more. And for one month you can tell yourself you can postpone this other thing or not spend as much time on that, and carve yourself out a writing niche. If you write 500 words during November when you didn’t think you’d manage any, then that’s an achievement. I certainly won’t be aiming at 50,000 words of the semi-rural fantasy, for one thing I reckon I only need another 30,000 to finish the draft, but I’ll try and write some, which is more than I’ve managed in a while.

Best of luck to anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year, and I’ll let you know how I get on. Eventually.

Rewriting a novel, a cry from the midst of chaos

Three and a half years ago, you remember, when we were all younger and more enthusiastic and had more energy, I started writing a sci-fi noir novel for NaNoWriMo. Because of a bad back which turned out to be a slipped disc, I wasn’t carrying my miniature computer with its heavy battery, instead writing longhand in a purple notebook at lunchtimes and on the train. As usual with me and NaNo, the 50,000 word target drifted way past the end of November and it was January before I declared myself finished.

In between all the other stuff, and allowing for the periods where I couldn’t face sitting at a computer (that back thing again) I eventually got the raw first draft typed up. Then I printed it out, wrote on it, crossed things out, split it into chapters and amended the file accordingly. And left it alone for a year.

In the meantime I re-read a couple of how-to-write-novels books and had a long think, and came to the conclusion that I had major flaws, possibly a character that didn’t need to be there, and not enough tension. I also realised that I didn’t know my world, despite the maps I’d drawn at the beginning and the history of the state that I’d dropped in here and there. I sat with a stack of scrap paper and wrote myself a list of questions (140 so far) ranging from the vague ‘What is really going on vs what appears to be going on?’ to the incredibly specific ‘What does Maud’s cafe smell like?’. The latter has no bearing on the plot whatsoever, but it felt like something I needed to know.

wp-1493202922653.jpg

Even if you can read my writing I don’t think it gives anything away

So I haven’t forgotten you, dear reader. In fact it could be said that I’m doing this for your benefit, as maybe someday some of you will read Sunrise Over Centrified City and you’ll thank me for making a better job of it. Now I must get back to answering such pressing questions as ‘Are all the barges pulled by horses?’ and ‘How old is Greg?’.

The over-analysed writer

I don’t mean over-analysed in the English Literature sense, where sixteen pages of hidden meaning can apparently be wrung from one paragraph of a novel. I mean, loosely, in the sense of data analysis. I read an interesting article in the Guardian this week (and believe me, I don’t say that very often these days) which looked at graphs of writing progress for one author on his way to a finished novel, courtesy of an app he’d used to log these things. Cheering to most of us, I expect, was the up and down nature of the thing, the long pauses where life intervened and writing was something that happened to other people, or the stumbling recovery made up of several days of adding a sentence, a paragraph, nowhere near target.

NaNo2016_graph

My NaNoWriMo progress during November 2016

Now, if you’ve been around here a while you will have guessed that I’ve been measuring things like wordcount totals on spreadsheets for years. It was probably during one of my attempts at NaNoWriMo that I realised the motivational power of a graph with a line showing where the wordcount should be, and columns representing my actual total. Certainly it was through use of a daily wordcount tally that I realised how quickly a couple of hundred words in the library in my lunchbreak became a short story, a novella, a few chapters of a novel. There is a flip-side, of course.

I imagine that even for those writers working to a publisher’s deadline, life will intervene sometimes. A family emergency, illness, even the temptation of a sunny day after a fortnight of rain. Wordcount targets will not be met. It’s clear, therefore, that for everyone writing alongside a day job and family (I don’t just mean children, you do need to spend time with your spouse or your sister occasionally if you don’t want them to forget who you are) this will happen a lot. If you’re writing with hope but no fixed publication deadline, anything you’ve written that wasn’t there last month is a bonus. Look at that sharp red target line floating way above your little blue column, though, and it’s easy to get discouraged. What was I thinking? I can’t write a novel, it’ll take years. I’ve missed my target twelve days in a row. It may be your targets are over-ambitious, but that’s another matter.

In the semi-rural fantasy novel I’m writing at the moment (I don’t think that’s a real genre, I started calling it that as a nod to urban fantasy but a lot of it is set in northern villages and moors) I’ve had days when I’ve written nearly 3,000 words and wondered how I managed it, I’ve had whole weeks where I’ve written nothing. I will have written something else because I don’t have a regular day-job now, but not the novel. I’m a great fan of conditional formatting, so on a day when I’ve written at least 500 words of the novel the cell goes green when I type my wordcount in and I smile a contented smile. Simple pleasures. Crucially, I don’t have any targets. I don’t count non-green-cell days as failures. I try not to have too many consecutive blank days, but how many is too many?

Try an app, try a spreadsheet, try writing your target and actual wordcounts on the calendar in the kitchen for a month. One or more of these may give you a boost and keep you going. But if you find yourself being frozen by fear of failure, or beating yourself up over missed targets, ditch them and focus on the writing.

Week 5: Sleighbells ring, I’m not listening

Somebody please tell me how it’s December 5th. I’ve had the first listen to the old Metal Christmas tape, I’ve eaten half a dozen mince pies, but I’m not getting what you’d call festive. There is no tinsel in my heart. Of course this won’t surprise anyone that much if they’ve ever encountered me in December before, but I do try (sometimes) to feel the excitement and capture the magic. In a non-consumer-capitalist way, obviously.

festivejy

Hat(s) courtesy Sister Number 1.

Closest I’ve got this year so far is via the fabulous sketches by Chris Mould for Matt Haig’s new children’s book The Girl Who Saved Christmas – he’s tweeting pages day by day I think. Incidentally, it looks like Chris Mould is from Bradford, which I honestly only noticed after I’d been bowled over by his illustrating style…

This week I’ve made two story submissions, and written nearly 6,000 words of the novel I was doing for NaNoWriMo (it got derailed so I’m giving it a bit longer). And read a lot of urban fantasy (which is relevant to the novel I’m writing).

Time to start thinking back on the (reading and writing) year, soon. How has yours been?

Week 4: NaNo grinds to a halt

Considering my prediction last week, this week has been surprisingly eventful. I managed to spend a few hours in Leeds at the New Writing North Northern Writers’ Awards Fiction Roadshow on Saturday, soaking up advice and information about the awards themselves, how to edit your work to a suitable standard for sending out, and how to approach agents, as well as some glimpses behind the scenes of publishing. I feel slightly more confident about entering the awards again this year.

No submissions this week, that would have required a bit more coherence than I was generally able to muster, and only the one rejection, but I have got a couple of submissions planned for the coming week. Along the way I wrote a short story I didn’t really mean to – I’m supposed to be writing a novel, if you recall. Sometimes, though, the story is just hammering on the inside of your skull, demanding to be written down, and if I could have written that many words in one day every day this month I’d have cracked NaNoWriMo about a week ago instead of being barely in five figures with only a few days left.

I also rediscovered a novel. By which I mean I looked in a file I hadn’t touched since August 2012, wondering just how many words of that crime novel I’d written and if any of them were any good. The answer being about 45,000 and if I’d read those first few pages in a book I’d picked off the shelf in the local library, I’d have been hurrying over to the desk to get it stamped. Simultaneous joy at my (ahem) brilliance, and despair at having wasted four years not finishing the blasted thing. It’s now been added to the (ever-growing) list of stuff I really need to spend some time on during this sabbatical/period of unemployment/temporary withdrawal from the rat race.

All this, and December is almost upon us. Time to buy some mince pies and limber up for a good Bah-humbug.

Week one of the writer’s life

I’ve drunk a lot of tea and I’m feeling free, as Ian Hunter never quite sang. One week into my season of writing and there’s not much more to show for it than a pile of teabags in the compost caddy and a vague aura of tranquility, though I’m enjoying the pre-breakfast walks and big rollneck jumpers of the new regime. I never did get used to the filtered air and unseasonal temperature of a mechanically-ventilated office.

I’ve had a rejection for a story I sent out in March (seven and a half months to read 350 words!), and I’ve sent out another story to a new magazine, but there’s been no step-change in my submission habits. NaNoWriMo carries on apace, but sadly that’s a snail’s pace and I’m averaging only about twice as many words as if I’d had to cram all my writing into my lunchbreak, as I used to do. If I was including all the notes I’m writing, however, I suspect I’d be nearer the mark (and I’m certainly doing better than last year). I have been doing a lot of poking around the internet and calling it research: Cumbrian folk songs, terraced houses to rent in small Yorkshire towns, maps of the north Pennines. Are you intrigued yet?

Thankfully I’m also finding time to read. I was a bit concerned that without that 40 minutes of sitting on a train with a book, I might fall behind. So far this week though, I’ve finished the Doctor Who novel (7th doctor, one of the Virgin New Adventures) I was reading for the last few days of commuting, read the first couple of chapters of a novel I’ll be reviewing for The Bookbag in a couple of weeks, and worked my way through chunks of two creative writing books (one fresh out of the library, one I own and have read before). And I’ve messed about on Twitter a bit. Obviously.

All in all not a bad start to a break from the 9 to 5. Further updates to follow.

November spawned a writer

New month, new phase, and for the next few months at least, I’m a full-time writer. I’d been in the day job nearly 9 years and for various reasons it was feeling like something I didn’t want to do any longer. Yesterday was my last day.

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-150

As you all know, November is NaNoWriMo time so today after a glorious early-morning walk on the moor I settled down with the big purple mug my closest colleagues (who I will miss, having spent more time with them than with my closest schoolfriends, who only had me for 7 years minus long holidays) gave me as a leaving present, and started on a new novel. I didn’t mean to, when I was planning to leave work I meant November to be a solid month of editing Sunrise Over Centrified City (which started life as my NaNo novel a couple of years back) but then this idea for a post-Brexit urban (semi-rural perhaps) fantasy started germinating and I’ve been writing notes since August and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

It remains to be seen whether I’ll take a few months out to recharge my batteries and finish up a few major writing projects, or make a proper go of this writing lark. Either way, I’ll keep you posted. Now to get back to listening to Morrissey and increasing my wordcount.

Not writing a novel in November

Suddenly, in burst a man with a gun. “What the hell are you doing?” I cried. “Blasting you out of a plot hole, sugar,” he said around a dog-eared roll-up.

NaNoWriMo, month of furious writing. I have been taking part this year, but you might not have realised because I’ve been relatively quiet about it. Those of you of an optimistic bent are now picturing me hunched over a computer keyboard, fingers a blur of caffeine-fuelled activity. Those of you who know me (not to mention my typing skills, usual coffee intake, and the state of my back) have a whole different idea, and you’re probably nearer the mark.

So far I’ve written just over 6,000 words, which is 6,000 more than I had on October 31st. It was never intended to be a novel – keeping it realistic, I was thinking maybe a novella. It’s called Larry Price is Missing and here’s the synopsis I put on my NaNo page:

Larry Price’s wife sent him on an errand but – typical Larry – he doesn’t turn up to meet her where he was supposed to. Not for the first time, her Saturday afternoon shopping trip is spoilt by her selfish husband and she’s not happy about having to traipse round their small town looking for him. When he isn’t in any of the obvious places she begins to wonder if he hasn’t just forgotten about her, after all. Might he be genuinely missing?

It’s based on an idea I suggested for Ilkley Writers months ago, when we were first kicking around ideas for this year’s Ilkley Literature Festival – we would each have done a monologue from a different character linked to a missing middle-aged man. In the event, we ended up doing something entirely different (and you can hear me reading the final performance story, and the one I wrote for the intervening idea here) but I liked this idea and decided when I had time I’d write all the monologues myself. Only in the meantime I read the wonderful Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg (you can read my review of it here) and it gave me the confidence to try something a bit different in terms of structure.

So that’s the novella I should be writing at the moment. Why haven’t I got further with it? Well, I’ve been reading and reviewing books (there’s a new one at The Bookbag if you haven’t seen it – gentle South of France mystery for gourmets and art-lovers), following up new possibilities for Ilkley Writers (more of which soon, I hope) and entering a couple of writing competitions. Plus of course, it being November, I’ve spent a few days wrapped in a duvet, sneezing.

A restrained hurrah, then, for my minor wordcount achievement (and the month’s not over yet), best of luck to those of you sprinting to the 50,000-word mark, thank you to all the spouses (spice) etc that make all this extra writing fit into busy lives relatively painlessly, and sorry to those who get sick of hearing about it.

First draft excitement

Pretend you’re interested for a moment while I share the excitement of having completed the first draft of Sunrise over Centrified City (the SF noir novel I began during NaNoWriMo). I wrote the final scene this evening and am now bathed in mild elation tinged with regret. The thing about finishing a long piece is, you have to leave behind some characters you’ve come to know deeply. Although as OneMonkey pointed out, it won’t be for long – I’ll need to start typing up (having written it longhand) and then re-drafting in a couple of months. In the meantime I’m marvelling at the accessibility of this achievement. In January I worked on the novel on only 3 Sundays and a Saturday, and produced a total of 10,000 words. Doesn’t that sound so easy to fit around other commitments and general life stuff? I don’t know whether to be inspired, or disappointed that I don’t manage this kind of output more often. However I end up feeling about it, this is only the beginning. The real work begins when I start plugging all the plot-holes with the rewrite, and I can see that taking me all the way to November and the next NaNoWriMo.

Where did that month go?

Looks like I haven’t been here for a month, not sure how that happened. No doubt you all missed me and have been waiting for my return (it’s nearly Christmas, I’m allowed to dream). The sci-fi noir novel I was writing for NaNoWriMo (Sunrise Over Centrified City, as its working title goes) reached just over 25,000 words by midnight on November 30th. It’s now creeping slowly to 35,000 and I’m still working away reasonably steadily, still enjoying myself. Maybe that’s how come a month has passed without me noticing.

It is of course the season of mince pies and tinsel which heralds, apart from the imminent arrival of friends and family to scoff the aforementioned mince pies, the end of the year. All those writing goals I didn’t stick to! The craft projects I didn’t complete for the third year running! People I haven’t met up with, places I haven’t been, jumpers I haven’t fished out of the back of the cupboard. Yes, it’s time for the annual wallowing in negativity and despair. However, this is what tinsel was invented for – to shine its purple plastic positivity around the house and enable you to dust yourself off and start planning for the year to come. All those writing goals. And the craft projects I know I can finish if I just find the right time. Now where’s my 2014 calendar?

Mid-NaNo review

Slightly past halfway and I have 14.5 thousand words of my sci-fi noir novel for NaNoWriMo, which is not bad – I won’t get to 50,000 but I wasn’t really aiming to, and the novel is going fairly well (still enjoying myself). I hope anyone else out there still busily NaNo-ing is enjoying themselves too.

In the meantime, while I’m neglecting you all terribly (or leaving you in peace), why not read this gratifying review of KZine issue 6, which included my Self-Aware and Living in Bradford. It may even make you want to go read the magazine.

It’s that month again

Ridiculous challenge warning: I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo again.

NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t yet know (and really, it’s getting harder to avoid) stands for National Novel-Writing Month. Except it’s international, and some people seem to write a collection of short stories instead. Anyway the point is you write 50,000 words during November and hope that enough of them will be good enough that you can call it the first draft. I’ve taken part once before, in 2011 (though I have also done the now defunct ScriptFrenzy which left me with a decent graphic novel script and a radio play I could have written better when I was twelve), when I wrote just over 22,000 words that I wouldn’t otherwise have got round to. For me, NaNoWriMo is an excuse to tackle something big that I’d normally put off ‘for when I’ve got more time’. This time it’s an idea from over a year ago, and I’ve spent October writing 60-odd pages of notes (filling up one of my Wallace and Gromit notebooks and getting a fair way through the next) on character, setting, plot. I’ve got street-plans, sketch-maps, a diagram of the main character’s apartment, and her family tree. I’ve still got a fuzzy grey spot where the main business of the plot should be though.

My tools of choice this November

My tools of choice this November

For reasons of expediency I’m writing this novel longhand, thus adding hours to the total project time with the need to type up eventually, and frustrating OneMonkey every time I stop after a couple of paragraphs and quickly count the words I’ve just written. However, it does mean that if all I need is an A6 notebook and a biro (usually one I’ve picked up for free somewhere along the way) I can write on the train, for five minutes before dinner, at the interval in the theatre (and inevitably there are 2 or 3 things I want to see this month). On Day 1 this seemed to work brilliantly and I wrote far more than I expected. Day 2, however, when I was at home all day with little to do except write, my relative lack of wordcount completely cancelled out the achievements of Day 1. Lashing rain, thunder and lightning, scarily strong winds – you’d have thought it would have been the perfect day for curling up with a notebook and retreating to another world. Maybe the problem is that the other world is bone-penetratingly cold and in the grip of an energy crisis, full of corrupt officials and with not much hope in sight at the moment. Yes, not only am I attempting a detective novel this time, it’s a sci-fi detective novel. OneMonkey asked if it was going to be as good as Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch; no, I replied (still haven’t got the hang of this self-promotion lark). Not interested then, he said with a grin. I guess I’d better go get writing and aim a bit higher.

Detective novel as history lesson

As a follow-up to my post in January about the detective novel as geography lesson, I thought I’d point out an article in last week’s Guardian, which my dad has steered me in the direction of. Mark Lawson, it seems, has made a series for Radio 4 about post-war European history as seen in the pages of detective novels. I haven’t listened to it yet, but it does sound interesting and the article mentions a few names I haven’t come across before and should probably go in search of. As Lawson points out, possessions and circumstances are particularly important in crime novels and they serve to catalogue the changing norms in society.
The Guardian also seems to have noticed the existence of NaNoWriMo, which of course starts tomorrow. I won’t be taking part this year (still sorting out those short stories from my mad March experiment) but good luck to all participants and we’ll see you on the other side.

November ended a few days ago

NaNoWriMo resulted in just over 23,000 words of detective novel, so no winner’s certificate but I’m still counting this as a win of sorts, and so should you if your NaNo activity didn’t make the 50,000 but did get you writing. As well as 2 days selling comics, which I’d planned for, I was ill for a while so in all I had 10 days where I didn’t write a single word. I’ve kept up my habit of lunchtime writing, and I’ve now conclusively shown I can write lots, regularly, without becoming a total stranger to OneMonkey. I am feeling rather pleased with myself.

I lost track of time a bit towards the end of the month, where I was frantically making up for the lost days. So I never got round to blogging last weekend, and I missed 2 short story deadlines right at the start of December, which I’m really kicking myself for – the story submissions have been almost non-existent while I’ve been concentrating on detective novels.

And now we’re counting down to Christmas; I’m limbering up for full-on bah humbug mode, and in the meantime I’m filling up on mince pies and dry roasted peanuts. And planning the long writing sessions I’m hoping to get in over the Christmas break. We’re due our first snow tomorrow, though it’s already been sleeting, but instead of worrying about the rose trees I haven’t planted yet, I’ll focus on the prospect of getting stuck at home – I have a cupboard full of mince pies and teabags, a laptop and a head-full of ideas. Sounds like heaven.

One last thing: my detective story is now up on the Comets and Criminals website if you’d like to check that out.

Those who don’t want to know the NaNo score, look away now

This is turning out to be ScriptFrenzy all over again… But hey, there’s only one (two at the most) more of these NaNoWriMo posts to go, so grit your teeth and it’ll all be over soon.

As this post goes out, I will actually be at (or on my way to – I haven’t set the time yet) the Thought Bubble comic convention in Leeds. With luck, I will be selling comics, but at the very least I’ll be with friends in interesting surroundings and I should be able to find some new comics to get interested in (these events can get expensive).

Where does this leave my frantic novelling, I hear you ask (look, just pretend you asked). It pretty much wipes out two days, but since one of the aforementioned friends is also in the midst of NaNo frenzy, we may goad each other into amazing literary feats on Saturday evening. My total should be at around 16,000 words by Friday night (Friday night itself being scratched out due to the Damned gig – got to get your priorities right) so fingers crossed for a decent total by the end of the month.

I’m enjoying NaNo – after ScriptFrenzy I thought I probably would. I’m taking it slow and steady, not worrying too much about the final total as long as what I’ve got is usable, and it’s taking me down some interesting avenues. I’ve already uncovered a weird antagonism between two secondary characters that needs exploring further, and I may even have got the wrong murderer (how can the author get it wrong?). Very much an enjoyable Sunday drive rather than a satnav-planned A to B dash.

Best of luck for the second half of the month to all those participating, further apologies to anyone who’s being neglected (more than usual). Back to the fray.

The bright side

I’m cultivating a positive outlook at the moment; maybe it’s the cold affecting my inner curmudgeon, but there you go.

Strange, Weird & Wonderful has published its final issue, just before the one that my story was due in. So while that’s a sale I won’t make (payment on publication, not acceptance), a credit I can’t chalk up on my scoreboard, and a story that’s back to doing the rounds, if I was looking on the bright side I’d say at least I don’t have to produce that audio version after all (though I’d actually started to feel good about the challenge).

NaNoWriMo is going slowly, probably even slower than I’d anticipated, but if you know you’re not going to make it to 50,000 words, any number’s an achievement and you don’t end up feeling stressed and guilty if you do other things for a while during November. Such as a 2-day comic convention.

Thought Bubble is less than a week away which is a bit scary (in an exhilirating way). I also know that I’m not going to get an early night before it, and I’ll probably have had to put up with a late-night long-distance taxi ride. The bright side of that one is positively dazzling though: we’re off to see The Damned on Friday. Excuse me while I touch up my black nail varnish.

It’s November and there’s too much to do

Time ran away with me last week and I never made it to my blog. We had a friend to stay for a few days, then suddenly it was November and I had a novel to write. Another one. I haven’t even quite finished the last one yet (a couple of thousand words away from a complete first draft, I reckon) but it’s been put aside so I can participate in the madness that is NaNoWriMo. I’m already behind schedule and it’s only day 4.

However, as those of us who listened occasionally at school may remember, it’s not the winning it’s the taking part. NaNoWriMo is a good excuse to write furiously, without giving yourself enough time for the self-doubt to creep in. I’ll settle for 20,000 words I can work on later. A belated appreciative moment for the support crew of friends and family that make these intensive writing challenges possible – once again, I take my hat off to you all.

And while I’ve got my hat off, consider it also doffed to Chris Packham – anyone that can manage (with a straight face) to work so many Damned titles (but particularly Machine Gun Etiquette) into a BBC Wildlife Programme deserves recognition. Well done Chris, and I apologise for considering you a poor second to Terry Nutkins way back when.

Wet weekend words

After an unseasonable week more summery than most of the summer, we’re now in full-on autumn. The curtain of rain hides the other side of the valley and gives me a good excuse not to leave my bureau to work on the garden, and I can break out my favourite jumpers again. Unfortunately it’s discouraging me from participating in the local literary festival – I hadn’t been organised enough to buy any advance tickets so I was planning on heading to the free events and some of those I thought would have tickets on the door, but twenty minutes’ walk which can be so pleasant and invigorating on a fine evening becomes much less so when you get chilled and wet on the way, and spend an hour sitting still, acutely aware of damp shins.

NaNoWriMo looms large on the horizon, and I’m wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, though I’m still determined to give it a go. The first draft of the detective novel, which I’d planned to complete by the end of September, is limping towards 50,000 words at the moment, disrupted continually by predictable distractions. Writing at home more or less came to a halt, first with clearing out and packing, then the move itself, followed by unpacking, DIY, gardening and suchlike. I realised yesterday that I don’t have a single short story doing the rounds, in fact I haven’t made any submissions since July (which is when I started the detective novel; I don’t think that’s a coincidence). Time for a reassessment of priorities, a flurry of submissions, maybe a break from the novel-writing to finish up some nearly-there shorts which can then be sent out, before I start the other detective novel at the beginning of November. Phew! Who’d have thought such a relaxing and peaceful hobby could be so hectic.

NaNoWriMo novice

I’ve been writing for years, and blogging here for quite some time now, but I’d like to make a confession of innocence: I only recently found out about NaNoWriMo. For others in a similar position, I’ll explain that it stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place each November. I’d seen Mercedes Yardley mention it in 2009 I think, but as it was in the context of challenging friends and I was skim-reading as I often do, I thought it was either something they’d made up between themselves to spur each other on, or it was maybe a micro-fiction competition (‘nano’, you see). It was only when The Librarian was taking part in November 2010 that details filtered through to me and I started to get interested.

A month of writing, no excuses – daily wordcounts, support from friends (and strangers), something that should be workable at the end of it, even if it’s a far cry from a finished draft. Sounds like a good idea, and assuming TL will be taking part again in 2011, I think I’ll sharpen my keyboard in plenty of time and join her. In the meantime I might try the April script frenzy to help me on the way to another graphic novel (and/or that radio play I’ve been promising myself for years), and I’ll try and take on board the NaNoWriMo advice at Uphill Writing.