Na? No

    I expect you’re all wondering what happened with my NaNoWriMo attempt this year. Sadly, after last year’s success, this year I failed.

    As you’ll have seen if you clicked through to look at my stats, I averaged 595 words per day, for a total of 17,800. It’s not nothing, and it’s still a decent start on the new novel, but it’s nothing like last year.

    Why did I fail? A better question is, why was I successful last year? This year’s result is comparable to other years when I’ve tried it. Last year’s success looks like the aberration.

    The big difference between last year and any other was my commute. I’ve tended always to have a commute of about an hour — except when I worked at the bank in the City, when it was shorter. Last year I was working in Croydon, which took me an hour and a half or more to get to. The one good point was that, picking up the Overground from Dalston Junction, I nearly always got a seat within a few stops. And on the way back had one from the start (coming from West Croydon, which is the start of the line).

    So I was able to get forty or fifty minutes of concentrated writing time in each direction. Add to that the fact that the office I was in was really horrible, so I didn’t want to spend my lunch hours in it. I mostly went out and wrote in cafes or at Boxpark Croydon. The one thing I miss about that job is the the places to eat, especially a little pizza place in Boxpark.

    Whereas now, working at Imperial, I’m back to a one-hour commute, with much less guarantee of a seat. And I really like both job and office, so I’m quite happy to go back there after I’ve got my lunch.

    One other point is that last year I had worked out how I was going to end the novel I had been working on for years, so I was running downhill towards that end. This year, starting a brand-new one — even though I’ve got a plan, it feels much more uphill.

    Still, we press on, writers against procrastination, borne forward ceaselessly into the future.


    I have finished my novel. Hooray!

    Stats: 121,304 words. 44,107 of them since the 1st of November.

    There is, of course, a great deal still to do before it will be ready for anyone else to see, but I’m going to put it away for a couple of months before starting rewrites.

    There is one little downside: that 44,000 word figure, while by far the most I’ve ever written in a November (or any other month) does not quite reach the 50,000 required to “win” NaNoWriMo. Which doesn’t really matter, as the whole purpose of the thing is to encourage us to get the words down, get a first draft out onto the solid-state drive.

    But I’ve come this far. It would be nice to hit the 50,000 mark. Luckily there is a solution.

    The publisher Angry Robot has an open submissions period running until the end of December. That means they accept and will read manuscripts from writers, instead of requiring all submissions to be via agents as normal.

    Now obviously I’m not thinking about the just-completed first draft for this. But the one I finished before is ready. Except for two things.

    1. I submitted it the last time Angry Robot had one of these.
    2. I’ve never been happy with the beginning.

    Point 1 would bar me from resubmitting, except it wasn’t rejected the last time. I just never heard back from them. So I asked on their comments page, and they said I could assume it got lost, which allows me to resubmit.

    Point 2 gives me the ideal thing to work on for the rest of the month: rewrite the beginning of the previous novel.

    So it’s time to jump back into the world of The Accidental Upgrade (though I may try to think of a new title).

    To Nano or Not?

    NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and I still haven’t quite decided whether to throw myself into it this year or not. I’ve taken part several times in previous years, but never completed the 50,000 words. And this year I still have the novel that I’ve been working on intermittently for about four years, that I’d like to finish off.

    Maybe it would be better, and more in the Nano spirit, to start something new. But I think if I were to do that, I’d never finish this one, and it would sit there forever, haunting me. Maybe taunting me too, who knows.

    I should have a better chance of getting the word count up this year, as I have a longer commute, and I usually get a seat at or near the start of the longest part (Dalston Junction to West Croydon, if you’re interested). So it should be entirely possible to get two free blocks of writing time each weekday. But I have found it to be strangely offputting to write in that environment, when there’s a person sitting on either side of me.

    Sure, they’re probably not in the least interested in what I’ve got going on, but as Stephen King says in On Writing, you’ve got to write the first draft with the door closed.

    Still, I have recently been looking at the novel again, and I think I’ve worked out how to end it. That has always been the problem for me: I don’t do a detailed plot, but I need to know how a story’s going to end if I’m going to have any chance of finishing it. If I just start writing with only an idea, maybe a setting and some characters, I tend to meander around all over the place and never get anywhere. Or at least, not to a sensible end.

    I don’t have to know much about the route, but I need to know the destination, in other words. So as I now know the destination — or at least have a much clearer idea of it — I think it’s time to take one last run at this thing.

    But this is me declaring that I’m throwing my hat in the Wrimo ring. I’ve signed up, and even given it a working title1 — by raiding that fount of quotes, The Tempest.

    1. Another problem has been and remains that I don’t have a title for it. Why are titles so hard? ↩︎

    Once again I won’t be reaching NaNoWriMo’s 50,000-word mark this year, but I have written over 30,000, which is the most ever. And I finished a novella at the start. So I’m pretty happy.

    This “short story” that I was going to knock out before getting back to my novel is growing into a behemoth. At 12000 words it’s thoroughly a novelette, and heading squarely for novella-land.

    November spawned some words (but not that many)

    I'm not very good at this NaNoWriMo thing, it turns out (again). This year I declared myself a NaNo Rebel (basically anyone who aims to write 50,000 words, but not of a brand-new novel). I had originally hoped to finish my previous novel before November started, and leave November clear for taking a big run at the new one, the idea for which came knocking when I was about three-quarters of the way through the then-current one. But as it turned out I didn't manage to finish it until a few days into November. So I decided just to count the words of original fiction I wrote in November.

    Which proved to be just as well, because after just a couple of days on the new novel, I was cycling home from work one day when a short story deposited itself in my head, unbidden, but complete. I took a few days off from the novel to work on that, thus further ensuring my rebellious state.

    As an experiment for my own interest, I also tried to keep a note of how many words I wrote for other things, both at home and at work; just to get an idea of how many words I write normally. I kept that all in a Google Docs spreadsheet, so I could get to it wherever I was. I’m sure I wasn’t complete in recording everything, though.

    In the end I wrote 16,600 words of fiction;1 so comparable with last year. And oh, dear: reading over those old posts to get links makes me realise that this is the third NaNo during which I’ve been working on Accidental Upgrade.

    But having said that, the thing that I’m underplaying in all this is that: I. Finished. My. Novel. 89,000 words of first draft, done and… well, left quite dusty, truth be told.

    And a new short story drafted, and another novel reasonably well under way. I’m feeling quite positive about it all.

    1. And around 9000 of other stuff. ↩︎

    The Words that Maketh Novels

    It seems like almost no time at all since I last wrote about not completing NaNoWriMo. But here we are again. A year passes like nothing.

    I wasn’t strictly following the rules (but they’re only really guidelines, and optional at that) in that I wasn’t starting a new novel this time. I was carrying on the same one that I started last year, and I hadn’t written many more in the interim. I managed just under 15,000 words this year, which is slightly less than last time (and less than a tenth of my erstwhile OU Creative Writing classmate Karl’s crazy figure)

    It has, however, given me a new kickstart, and I intend to carry the momentum onwards, but at a more manageable rate. My novel (working title Accidental Upgrade) currently stands at around 36,000 words. I’ve set myself a target of 80,000 by the end of February. That is more like the length of a modern novel, and achievable at a rate of around 475 words a day, according to Scrivener.

    That’s much more feasible for me than Nano’s 1667. Though I’m just realising that I said essentially the same thing last year, and it obviously didn’t work. Still, I feel more confident this time. I wrote around 600 words today, and I’ve got Scrivener to help me keep on track.


    Well, this is my [NaNoFail]( report. I managed around 15,000 words. Which isn't bad in its way, but is not only a lot less than the desired 50,000, it's also less than last time, when I at least made it to 20,000.

    Oh well. The plan now is not to stop, because then I’d most likely never finish it. Instead, I’m going to carry on, with a much reduced target of, say, 500 words per day, and see where that takes me.

    Edited to say: That’s 15,000, of course, not the meaningless “15,00”.

    The Day After Hallowe'en

    Well, midnight on the 31st of October is fast rolling round. We're not long back from a week in the Highlands of Scotland (very wet, but great, thanks). It'll soon be the 1st of November, which means two things this year.

    1. We'll be able to buy Mitch Benn's mighty 'I'm Proud of the BBC' in downloadable single format. So head off and do that now, and help it to chart. I'll wait.

      Actually, it’s not yet midnight as I type, and I’ve just downloaded it.

    2. NaNoWriMo is about to start. I'm having a go this year. Wish me luck.

      I last tried it in 2004, which is much longer ago than I thought. I sort of had a half-hearted poke at it last year, but soon stopped. I’m hoping that expressing my intention in public like this will help to keep me going.

      We’ll see, of course.

      I see that the approaching start has brought the NaNoWriMo site to its knees. Oh well. Hopefully they'll get things back together.