Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Many brave souls I know are currently involved in the hugely impressive NaNoWriMo – national novel writing month. These diligent writers commit to scribbling 50,000 words of a novel in one tiny month. Not only that, it’s November, national present buying month if my bank account is anything to be believed, where cosy fires and Christmas to-do lists flutter their procrastination-inducing eyelashes and before you know it, you’re wondering where you stashed the Advent Calendar and mild panic sets in that you may, in fact, have forgotten to buy one.

The brilliance of Nano is in its time frame. There is nothing like a deadline to get those fingers typing, those characters inventing a story for you while you sit, almost as a by-stander, and watch your tale appear on screen. At the last count, Nano writers had written over two billion words and we’re only three quarters of the way through the month! www.nanowrimo.org/

Another year and I could be tempted. This November, however, I needed the opposite of NaNoWriMo. 

I had a wonderfully indulgent autumn of total immersion in my novel, following interest from an agent with whom I’d dearly love to be associated. (Yes please! All wafts of fairy dust always gratefully received.) The rest of my novel and an alternative ending, or three, submitted, I finally raised my head from the keyboard and could hardly bare to look at the carnage that the total immersion had left in its wake. The light fittings belonged to a disused stately home, spiders weaving works of art which almost stretched the length of a room; a battered cupboard sat hopelessly in the middle of the study despairing that anybody would ever bother to take it to a better place and it would take three bags to cart off the reams of post I’d saved for unnecessary filing.

Thus, I embarked on my own NOTNaNoWri month whereby I banned myself from any writing of book two until Advent descends. I am still writing short stories, book reviews and teaching but the rest of the time I’m … tidying up. 

It isn’t without some trepidation that I set about my NOTNaNoWriMo. There’s a loud voice in my head which normally prevents excessive expenditure of time on such frivolous past-times as domesticity, by instilling fear. It’s the fear that if I do not keep writing my current novel, I will simply forget. I will forget what I’m writing, I will forget where it’s going and I will forget how to write. 

This isn’t helped by the anti-dorphins, those pesky little destructors which have the opposite effect of the endorphin rush I get from story writing and which need to be firmly quashed by constant busy-ness.

Look! Nothing on the floor.
But it’s going well so far. Three times last week I went shopping. From a mere spot on the post-total-immersion to-do list, my Christmas presents are almost all bought. I’ve had coffee with friends, been out to supper, met with my Mum and my sister, the latter lives five hours away, and even indulged in a full week of illness. Then, I scrubbed the entire house from top to bottom – pictured room above, clearly excepted. This is in preparation for the journey to the Floor Of The Office. 

It may be that I’m blogging now because I’m left with the study project and no decent plan of where to start. But start I will. Today. I have ten days left of NOTNaNoWriMo and, as mentioned earlier, there’s nothing like a deadline for complete strangulation of inertia. If I can make it through to the carpet, I’ve been promised a new desk. I’ll let you know how I get on. 

And to the thousands of NaNoWriMo writers, I wish you the very best of luck - not that you’ll be reading this, of course, as you type feverishly at your desks, in total writing immersion. But I hope we can meet for a cyber mince pie or two together in December?


  1. Wow! I had a blitz on cleaning last week and it went well for a few days then i lost the momentum! Just warning you it may not last? But good luck and keep going!

  2. But ... but... your house is always tidy! I think you just ran out of things to clean! Thanks for reading :)

  3. I love the idea of a NOTNaNoWriMo. I always watch in awe from the sidelines as writers scribble away every day to meet that deadline. Friends who know I'm a writer have casually mentioned I should try it, as if it's that easy. While I do tend to crank out my initial drafts in sprints, I also know my writing style enough by now to know that I don't have the stamina to do it all in one month--and I'm totally okay with that. I think it's important to simply know what works for you. It might be NaNo, it might be a month of rest. The point is to commit ;)

  4. Absolutely, Natalia! I can relate to all of that - I love nothing more than a bit of sprint writing but couldn't sustain it every day for too long. my life couldn't sustain it either and I'd start to resent time away spent on other jobs (including domesticity). it does work for many though and it would be great to be part of the NaNo 'club'.

  5. The last nine months has shown me that, once you stop writing regularly, starting again is very hard. Could just me though and my easily distracted mind...

  6. You're right, Charlie, I worry about that too but I'm hoping the couple of short stories will keep my writing momentum going. I do find, in my calmer moments, that as long as I'm writing something -blog posts, articles, other fiction- that I can usually click back in quite easily. You are a prolific writer though, so we'd do well to heed your words!

  7. A couple of years ago I used NaNoWriMo to finish book one. It was a horrid and scary experience but by gosh it worked. Said book is now being considered by two (very small) publishers. I would never have got to where I am today without NaNo but by heck I don't want to go through it againa and surely only a bloke would think November is a good month to set aside for writing a novel!!!

    1. That's a great achievement, Gillian, I can really see how a deadline could help get those final words down when the story's already flowing. Keep us posted on those publishers and very best of luck.
      Love the comment about November ;) I was trying to think when WOULD be a good month and... it's tricky. How about January when everyone's tightenting their belts, it's dark outside and it would be amazing to start off the year with 50,000 extra words to your name?


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