Monday 31 October 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

I've got a brilliant idea for a short story. And we could publish half a dozen ebooks this month with a little work! I'm dying to get stuck into my next batch of reviews. I'd just love to spend an entire day reading a single novel. Wouldn't it be nice to take the kids out for a walk in the park? Or take Mrs Theaker out to a fancy restaurant? Look at all those unread books on the shelf! All those unwatched DVDs! All those unplayed games! I must play Fallout 3 right now! RIGHT NOW!

And why are all these things barking at my attention? Because tomorrow is the beginning of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, and I'm going to have another go at it! Which of course makes everything else in my life seem twice as shiny as it did yesterday.

John and I used to be very involved with NaNoWriMo, organising local events here in Birmingham, and one thing we did was put together a Novel Writing Handout that we could give out to people attending them. (That link'll take you back to our old website. I loved that bright yellow, even if one correspondent complained that it made his eyes bleed...)

I eventually went off the event a bit over two things - the increasing demands on MLs to act as fundraisers, and the increasing acceptance of people on the forums who weren't actually taking part in the event. The brilliant thing about NaNoWriMo was that it helped loads of people to finish novels, but that got a bit lost as more and more people showed up who weren't even going to try. It started to feel like trying to run a race while other people were unicycling down the track in the wrong direction.

On the plus side, the NaNoWriMo forums were where I first heard of the Dvorak layout. Hard to believe there are any novelists out there still using Qwerty! And of the six and two bits novels I've written, all but two were written as part of the event, and it's been ten years now since I wrote a novel outside of NaNoWriMo.

Partly that's because I'm not really serious about novel-writing, and do it for a bit of a lark, but it's also because this event really does give you the excuse to clear all your other hobbies, interests, friends and family aside for a month while you get some serious writing done.

One thing that's often said about the event is that it's just an exercise in writing rubbish, but that's not entirely true. For one thing, a month is really quite a generous amount of time to write a 50,000 word novel. Last time I won, I think I only wrote on ten or twelve days in the month. If you write daily (and can touch type), it's just an hour and a half out of your day. A decent writer could write a more than decent short novel in a month.

The point isn't to write rubbish, it's to not worry about whether you're writing rubbish. Let's face it, for most us, worrying about whether we're writing a rubbish novel is a complete waste of time: our novels will be rubbish whether we worry about it or not!

I've sworn off forums, Facebook and Twitter until either the novel or the event is finished, and if you see me posting on any of them before then I'll pay you a fiver by PayPal. (Automatic cross-posting from the blog doesn't count, I'm afraid.) Participants can add me as a writing buddy here. Although, in my experience, writing enemies are much better: you're always happy when friends do well, but seeing enemies do well? That's a real spur!

So things might be a bit quieter here on the blog for the next month. Or it might be busier than ever as I look for ways to avoid the daily grind of the 1666! I have an idea for the novel I'm quite pleased with, but I'm not going to talk about it here or anywhere else, because it's a kind of crappy, crass, commercial idea and I don't really want my name connected to it if it gets published…

And no, it isn't anything saucy, if that's what you were thinking... Shame on you!


  1. It starts tomorrow and I have nothing! (chucked out my one idea). it still worth trying?

  2. Course it is! How else will I get to read more novels by you? I loved The Hatchling - how about another in that vein? Or a new Newton Braddell adventure? A cosmic Cornelius Gilligan epic! I'd love to read a Howard Phillips novel by you - I bet you could really do him justice.