Monday, 8 November 2010


Why I don’t do NaNoWriMo.

Back in the early 1990s I helped start a masters course in Public Health at Birmingham University. The course is still going strong and I still teach two weeks of it. ( For reasons that I can’t really understand my weeks happen in October and November.

For reasons that I also don’t understand NaNoWriMo also happens in November. Is it because the days are getting short, or the weather is crap?

Whatever – I do actually get paid for the teaching and I like to keep it up to date. That means that all the way through the year I keep notes on stuff out of journals and other media, so that in a mad panic in September and October I can bring my lectures up to date.

After I’ve done the lectures I feel exhausted, at least for a day or two, and by then a chunk of November has gone by. This year has the added distraction that my youngest daughter is getting married in the middle of November.

So there you have it, if I was going to write a novel this month it would have to be done in a fortnight. Go for it I hear you say.


I wrote 40,000 words of my first novel in a week in a tiny flat in the Alps while on a ski holiday. The weather closed in with snow and fog for three days – almost two feet of wet snow – so I just stayed in this tiny room and wrote. By the time you could actually see across the car park I had the bug and then I just did the skiing to make a change from typing.

I figure if I can write 40,000 in a week then a 50k version in two weeks would be no problem, apart from the one snag. It was pretty rubbishy.

I did find it fun. I wrote the first draft of my second novel in a similar flat in the Alps. Actually my productivity fell off somewhat – that time it was only 35,000 in a week, but the weather was better and I had my wife with me, so completely antisocial obsession with the book was – well – wasn’t, if you see what I mean.

Does this explain why there is a skiing accident at the beginning of A Rag Doll Falling? Well they do say write what you know.

So that’s my excuse.

Instead, of writing a novel this month, I have treated myself to a package called Scrivener. This takes some of the mess out of building up a full size draft. It allows you to draft sections and move the order of the sections around, combine them, split them, rename them, keep notes about them, and no doubt a load of other stuff that I haven’t figured out yet. You can also keep research material in the same project.

We shall see. The point is that not only does my teaching knock out a chunk of National Novel Writing Month, but I also get paid for it – paid a lot more than I’ve managed so far for writing novels, so I can afford to treat myself to a new package – and maybe an Ipad. Further reports on the impact of these purchases on my writing may follow.

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