NaNoWriMo: The second half – retire hurt, change tactics or keep the faith?

This is my second blog post about my November NaNoWriMo experience

Half way through November. Fifteen days gone and I am still plugging away at my NaNoWriMo novel. I am afraid I am behind schedule, and will have to write nearly 2000 words a day to make sure I finish this side of Christmas let alone by the end of the month. But will I make it? Well with over 20,000 words committed to paper already it would be a bloody shame not to now wouldn’t it? Still I have to consider all my options. Two weeks is still two weeks and as we are frequently told, every day of our lives is precious. As you can tell, it is crisis time for the Grogan novel. Am I really a storyteller? I am beginning to think facts are more my forte.

The trouble is, that no matter how many pep talk emails you get from the team at NaNoWriMo, it is still a lonely battle. Your own determination and will power is the only defence against the ennui or burnout commonly experienced by those attempting to produce the necessary 50,000 words in thirty days whilst maintaining some vestige of a normal life.

For example, I have spent some of my day out taking photographs of Wellington, with a view to compiling something that makes it look even vaguely interesting to a would-be tourist, day-tripper or anyone quite honestly. I may or may not succeed, but it certainly didn’t get any of my novel written. I watched a history programme about the German invasion of Poland. It was enlightening (I really never knew that Hitler was not only evil but such a lazy man) and utterly terrifying, something we all should watch, but it didn’t get any of my novel written. Then there was the dog to walk, my son to nag and the last half hour of Midsomer Murders to watch. And yes, you’ve guessed it, a blog to write.

My story is not the problem. It is about a man whose life is deeply affected by his experiences in WW1, but it is told from his own and also his mother’s perspective and weaves in his lifelong mental health issues. So I am in London, moving between 1905, 1922 and back to the 1880’s. I fear I may have made it over-complicated, but at least if I have exhausted ideas for one period of history I can start working on another. It is however based on real life characters from my own family and I am finding it hard to fictionalise them without somehow cheapening their real experiences. After all, I am speaking for the dead, in a non-spooky way.

I also feel as if the whole tale is moving too slowly, but I think that is as a result of the ‘50,000’ word rule. It gives the impression that having written that number of words you have something acceptably ‘novel-length’. Which of course you don’t. I don’t spend my time counting the words in the books I read but if you took the trouble to do so you would find 75,000 as a minimum. That gives me plenty of space within which I can find a space for madness, infidelity and murder. But as I don’t want it to be an epic or hit 500 words I am panicking already.

So what is the point, a rational person might legitimately ask? Well, I have spotted a lot of fellow tweeters keeping up with the word count, so that is a fair few people getting that story they had in their head for so long out and into some sort of form they can work on long after we have said ‘goodbye’ to November. Alternatively, it might become clear to them that it is all so much hogwash and should be consigned to the waste paper basket and a new idea formulated.

So, should I keep trying, knowing in my heart that I am really interested in their true lives rather than their fictional ones? To save time, I thought I would include a paragraph or two at the end of this post. I would be really grateful for comments, even if it is to say it is rubbish or I have an apostrophe in the wrong place. Knowing it is out there will keep me going as I head into the third week and continue to neglect my family, leave the housework and give myself RSI and a bad back from poor posture over the PC. Or it might make me pack a bag and head to London for some real research. Please do tell me if I have made any historical bloopers. I am very thin-skinned and will probably cry but take no notice and fire away.



Chapter One

Standing on the balls of his feet in front of the mirror on the inside of his mother’s large, old mahogany wardrobe, Alf Hardiman imagined himself as the tall, strong man he had hoped to be, when early in his teens anything had seemed possible. Even swaddled in his father’s black frock coat he could not shy away from the image that presented itself to him in a mottled reflection. Five and a half feet from soles to scalp with an extra half inch if you counted the unruly mousey mop that sat aimlessly on his head. Even copious amounts of hair could add little to the weak profile. He sighed, pulling in frustration at the thin line of hair that covered his top lip and sat down heavily on the pink candlewick counterpane. He was eighteen, aimless and a worry to everyone around him. Even his youngest sister, eight year old Bess, was beginning to cast glances at him at odd moments, as if he was saying or doing something somehow out of the ordinary. Yet he could never understand what the problem was.

He slipped his feet back into his brown brogues and with arms on knees stared down at the wildly colourful carpet, its swirling shapes seeming to dance in front of his eyes. He tied his laces and stood up, swaying slightly as the blood rushed back to his head and the creatures conjured up in that brief moment gradually disappeared. He had thought about trying to recreate these images, the patterns he could see in everything around him. He had even bought himself a sketchbook and coloured pencils, but the shades were not bold enough and he had given up, another disappointment amongst others he was more regularly finding in himself as he approached what was called ‘manhood’.

George, his brother, was two years older but a world ahead of him in life, and love. He was the same height, the same build and was even losing his russet hair in a small patch on the crown of his of his narrow head; but that didn’t seem to make any difference to the local girls who laughed at his jokes and danced to the tunes he played by ear on his old fiddle. At twenty years of age he was no nearer finding useful work than Alf, but odd jobs seemed to come his way on a regular basis, giving him large amounts of cash which he could offer to their mother to pay his keep with plenty left over. He made Alf feel like a leech, but his brother was so charming and full of life and fun that Alf could never take against him.

Shaking himself free of the frockcoat his father had long since discarded as ‘Victorian’ he hung it back up on the back of the door, slipped on his own black jacket and left his parent’s room quietly. He didn’t close the door for fear of drawing attention to himself. He hated questions.


There you are. Should I keep the faith? Should I start writing science fiction instead so I can write off anomalies as, well just that. And if you know what a kitchen would look like in a newly built terraced house in the Nth London suburbs in 1905 I would be SO pleased if you could let me let me know. Otherwise I may have them cooking in a microwave and eating their tea in front of the telly. Well no-one said the novel had to be right first time…

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13 Responses to NaNoWriMo: The second half – retire hurt, change tactics or keep the faith?

  1. Louise Berry says:

    Sounds good to me Suzie and very well written. You should keep plugging away at it.

  2. Rin says:

    Definitely, definitely keep the faith – what you’ve posted so far has reams of potential, particularly for a first draft done under serious time constraints! You’ve created a very sympathetic character, and there are some lovely bits of description in there too. I’d certainly read more.

    Yes, a creative writing tutor might have one or two suggestions (Stephen King would cross out all the adverbs, for example) but that’s the stuff you come back to and tweak later. Personally I find over-analysing at this stage very unhelpful because your inner editor tells you not to bother with what he or she terms as rubbish. But that’s what NaNo is about – get it down, and sort the problems later.

    Jo and I are meeting for a Jbiz write-in on Friday afternoon if you want to join us? Let me know and I’ll Facebook you with details.


  3. Sarah says:

    Keep at it, you’ve written more than me – I’m seriously beginning to wonder whether I should turn my monks into face sucking zombie ones 🙂

  4. Sheila says:

    It’s a very promising story and I do hope you’ll continue. My own effort for NaNoWriMo is so much fluff & idiocy by comparison. Brava!

  5. I hope you continue as well the story sounds like it could be great. I signed up for NaNoWriMo but haven’t done a thing. Unfortunately it has clashed with trying to start a website and shop up so has had to take a back seat. I will do it again I am sure! xx

  6. Pingback: Odd Jobs Novel

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