On working for a living and writing a novel in November…

This is my first blog post about my November NaNoWriMo experience. Hopefully writing this as a kind of occasional diary it will keep me going till the 30th. I am having a first try at historical fiction, set in 1905, flashing back to 1885 and then forward to the 1920′s. Lots of opportunity therefore to make historical errors! Hopefully someone will be kind enough to tell me if I have gone badly wrong…

Last year I was encouraged by my friends to have a go at NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month, or a novel in November. However you look at it, the aim is to write at least 50,000 words of fiction in just 30 days. That is more than 1500 words a day and many people last less than a week.

I completed it in 2009, and my friends didn’t. I am immensely proud of the achievement but what I wrote wasn’t actually very good. It was a detective story, set in a residential care home and the two sleuthing residents were based on my sparky mum and her 90 year old friend Audrey. I don’t think I planned it very well, and by the time I was approaching the denouement I had a murdering 80 year old ex-cold war spy hiding out in the home. One year on and I still haven’t found a way of catching him. I considered a mobility scooter chase, superglue on the commode or poisoned tipped walking sticks, but in the end I set ‘Lavender Larceny’ to one side. I had reached the 50,000 word target but I hadn’t written a novel. I may go back to it – it certainly needs a good chop and a proper re-write but it is a daunting task.

This year I was going to try again, planning much more carefully, but I thought I may have a research project for November and had almost given up on NaNoWriMo 2010. The work fell through, so to take my mind off of impending bankruptcy I decided to give it a go. And here I am at the end of day two, having written nearly 4,000 words of historical fiction. The story is first set in London in the early 1900′s, flashing back in to the 1880′s, so I have to get dress, speech and environment right; ensure I don’t pack them off on a form of transport as yet undeveloped, or living with facilities that didn’t then exist. Having Auntie pick up the dog hair with a Dyson or Billy putting up a shelf with a Black & Decker is not an option. It isn’t a comedy, so I am winging it frankly.

It doesn’t really matter of course. This is all about getting people writing; that first step just putting some words down on paper, or in my case the laptop. I am on Twitter on a regular basis and many others are putting themselves through the same torture so at least there is a support group to have a good scream at as the word count slips back. The trick apparently¬† is to write without any thought to corrections, reviews or edits. A stream of consciousness may result but writers have won prizes with what appears to be just that – with swear words – so there must be something to be said for the method.

I am wondering however, whether there is any research into how far productivity levels drop in this month as employees sneak a few minutes on their magnum opus when they should be entering data on a spreadsheet? Or how many children are fed on ready meals by parents who would normally ensure their offspring only ate nutritionally balanced fare? I expect the number of articles pitched to magazines drops sharply and with any luck the Daily Mail will be quite devoid of scare stories for a few precious weeks as freelance journalists try their hand at penning best selling chick lit.

I know that once I get really interested in taking my story forward it will become increasingly difficult to tear myself away to finish off a report, or draft a programme of talks. I have pitched an idea to a magazine today, and at least thought about what I have to do to earn a few bob tomorrow, so there is hope for my marriage anyway. I shall keep blogging, as a way to bring myself back to reality every so often but like today I may just end up writing about writing. Perhaps on some days I should post a little of my story on here and allow anyone kind enough to read it to tell me whether I have made any historical bloopers, killed a character twice or included a sex scene that would raise howls of laughter.

I hope some of my readers might be up for that? I don’t want to test your patience but I would appreciate an opinion. And 49,000 words if you can manage them….

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6 Responses to On working for a living and writing a novel in November…

  1. Ellie King says:

    Would love to read some of the fruits of your labours – but not sure how helpful I’d be with the corrections! Good luck with it anyway :)

  2. Louise Berry says:

    Happy to help with feedback in any way I can. Good luck!

  3. sally snaddon says:

    throw them at me Sue, I’ll read them too.

  4. Runna says:

    Good luck man ;) I’m sure you dont need it but still

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