Category: NaNoWriMo

Rainbow Connection

KermitWhy are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told
And some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Some day we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

1st November.

Thirteen years ago today I was sitting in my flat in Manchester, frantically typing away on my debut NaNoWriMo attempt on an even-then ancient laptop which resembled nothing much else than a breeze block. I still have that laptop, and amazingly, it still works.

Ten years ago today I was sitting in my rented room in Wimbledon, not too many miles from here, frantically typing away on my first NaNoWriMo attempt that would actually cross the 50k line.

Four years ago today I was embarking on my first year as ML (basically regional organiser) for the London chapter of NaNoWriMo.

… and so on. You get the picture. Except something’s changed. This year I haven’t even attempted to pick up my laptop and start writing. I’ve been working on and off on one of my long-running projects, but not to the extent that I’ll set myself any kind of goals. I want to write, but I don’t really feel like NaNoWriMo is the right place for me any more. Absolutely, there are still plenty of people I know doing it, but every year I check back into the forums and it feels like everything’s just a little bit safer, a little bit less of the counterculture sort of vibe that there was there in the beginning.

I look at NaNoWriMo right now with detached bemusement; I wouldn’t say that I regret the time I put into any of it, not the writing half a million words of stuff desperately needing a polish, and definitely not the volunteering- the organising meet ups, managing the hectic London calendar or the time spent writing pep talks for the London crowd. But the culture has shifted as years have gone by. Once upon a time, the ML guide to life was written by Chris Baty, the man who founded NaNoWriMo (and an excellent fellow). It had loads of useful advice and wasn’t afraid to leave things to the reader’s best judgement. It was possible to tailor the NaNoWriMo experience to the audience.

Then Chris left and not much later, the guide was rewritten by no doubt well-meaning people, the upshot of which was that much of the nuance was lost. It now reflected a much more North American-centric and specific way of thinking about NaNoWriMo. One in which meant writing means coffee shops, timed writing sprints and word wars. And enforced sobriety. I got the impression that those regions who organised meet ups in pubs were mostly tolerated through some sort of grandfathering-in.

Anyway, this weekend I happened to watch The Muppets. It struck a chord with me. A world that had moved away from the titular characters felt somehow familiar. NaNoWriMo has moved away from me. I don’t want to sit in a coffee shop with numerous others. I want to sit wherever takes my fancy with the beverage of my choice. I don’t want to write as fast as humanly possible, competing to see who can throw out the biggest word count in the shortest amount of time. I want to spend my allotted time crafting if not a good sentence then at least a decent enough one to get me to an initial draft. There might be a target per day but I don’t want to care how long it takes for me to get there.

I want to agonise over my choice of words, struggle to cross the finish line and then spend about fifteen times longer agonising over whether I’ve put things together correctly as I edit. I don’t want achievement badges. I want a sense of genuine achievement in having written something I can take pride in. The world may need your novel but what it doesn’t need is your fifty thousand hastily scrawled words that were written because you couldn’t think of anything better to do.

One day the NaNo community may shift back. And on that November 1st, I’ll be opening up scrivener to a new blank document. Until then, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, good luck. It isn’t for me right now. I’m not trying to detract from anything anyone else might get from it as it is now. I hope you get as much out of it as I did back in the day.


She lived alone, and few could know when Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and oh! The difference to me.
A slumber did my spirit seal – I had no human fears. 
She seemed a thing that could not feel the touch of earthly years. 
No motion has she now, no force; she neither hears nor sees – 
Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course with rocks, and stones, and trees.

This is a companion piece to the blog entry I’ve just made for NaNo London. If you’re not interested in NaNoWriMo, there’s probably not a lot here of interest. But if you’re interested in how I find inspiration in music and elsewhere, read on…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five and ten – glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

Well, maybe not a lot like Christmas, but the mince pies have arrived in the supermarkets, the nights are drawing in and summer’s over. Most importantly, my Winter Ale is maturing nicely. So much so, in fact, that I’m going to have a go at a second autumn / winter beer, flavoured with plums, liquorice and spices. An interesting experiment if ever there was one. And after that I have plans for a US-style pale ale. Beer brewing: it’s the hobby that just keeps going…

And then there’s the other big part of the autumn coming up: NaNoWriMo. This year I’ve gone down the planning route again. I have a notebook that’s gradually filling with plot outlines and character notes. For my 10th anniversary of trying the challenge, I’m doing something different. The last few years have all been pretty grounded stuff – based as far as I can in reality. I haven’t cared to write anything that’s fantastical, preferring instead to take a concept and grind it down to what it might have originated as.

This year, I’m having a break from seriousness. Inspired by the fantastic production of Sweeney Todd that is about to close in the West End, which takes the Victorian story and sets it in the 1930s, I’m inspired to go even further and write a complete antithesis of steampunk; my novel this year will be inspired by the classical victorian melodrama, but set as a space opera. I’m beginning to think it might work quite well.


Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World

Do you remember that old T.V. show,
Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World?
Well if ITV make a new series,
They ought to come take a look at my girl.

I don’t understand her,
She doesn’t make any sense to me.
I don’t understand her,
It’s like she’s speaking in Swahili.

Blimey, has it really been six months? Time flies when you’re having a blast, I guess. But what have I actually been doing with my time? To tell the truth I’m not entirely sure. There was NaNoWriMo for a start. That was one of the hardest Novembers I’ve had since, well… ever. At 30,000 words on day 20, I had 7,500 on day 21. Thanks OpenOffice/Ubuntu/Asus, whichever of you conspired to eat my work. I finished on time – day day ahead in fact – which while being bloody amazing, knackered me entirely. Not sure I’m happy with the result, though, which makes the score so far 3 good, 2 need work and 1 failure. Overall, I’m still winning, I think.

I celebrated the win with a trip to IKEA. On what turned out to be one of the snowiest days of the year. It took me 15 minutes to get there, and five hours to get back. I wish I could say that the trip was worth it, but all I bought were a couple of picture frames…

Since then, what’s happened? Work. Then there was work, and work. And did I mention the work? Seems all I’ve done since then is the daily grind. And I’ve decided that that has to end. There is more to life than work, and I intend to swing the balance back into my favour. So here I go. Sleep Away The Afternoon is back. I’ll try to update more often, though I already know that anything approaching regularity is out.

I’ve noticed that Scrivener for Windows is now available for Linux too, so I’ve started work on editing some of my old stuff. It’s so much nicer than a regular word processor – polishing and rearranging each bit at a time seems so much easier and at this rate I might have something I’m happy with by Christmas (though we’ll see).

And finally, and most importantly, I’m planning a holiday. The first proper one in a couple of years. Hopefully with all this, and more stuff that I’ve no doubt not thought of yet, I can stop marking time and get on and do something. Seems like it’s time for something to happen.

A Little Respect

And if I should falter,
Would you open your arms out to me?
We can make love not war –
And live at peace in our hearts.
I’m so in love with you,
I’ll be forever blue.
What religion or reason
Could drive a man to forsake his lover?

I’ve written my foreword, I’ve produced a PDF of the (un-)finished article, and very shortly I’l be sending it off to the printers, for a very limited print run of two copies, much as I have for each of the three other completed NaNo Novels.

Tomorrow I get to kick back, relax, and most importantly, not write anything. It’ll be marvellous.

In case anyone is interested, while I’m not ready to release the text of Thinner than Water to anyone other than myself as yet, you can read the foreword, which I hope gives a clear indication of what I’m doing, here:

Another Universe

It’s a strange way down from the cradle to the hearse,
Take me back, oh, put me in reverse.
‘Cos you’ll never be the last one and you’ll never be the first.
Maybe we’ll all meet again in another universe.

Yay! NaNoWriMo over for another year. Just got a foreword to write, explaining how my world was conceived and I’ll be chucking it in the direction of Lulu, to gather dust for 12 months or so until I decide if it’s worth doing something with. Of the previous three I’ve finished, I have one I want to clean up, one I never want to see again and one I’m not sure about.

This year I’ve been particularly annoyed by What I’ve written this year has been particularly dialogue heavy, and there’s a bug in OOo’s wordcounter that counts opening quotation marks as words. So, having carefully planned my last 5,000 words, I wrote my ending paragraph, was over 50k and rejoiced. Then I copied and pasted the manuscript into the word count validator. 48,800. At that point I was ready to explode. How do 1,200 words disappear? Cue frantic skimming through the manuscript, find bits here and there that could be extended. Two hours later, it verifies as 50k. That two hours was the worst of any NaNo experience I’ve had to date, but at least it’s over now.

This was all complicated by the fact that what I’ve written was originally intended to be a prologue of about 5,000 words to a completely different story, so with regard to plotting it’s very tight and there isn’t a lot of space for adding waffle. In terms of setting up the next part, it’s all done very well, but I suspect that part 2 will never be written (I’ve tried sequels before; I become too attached to the characters and have trouble doing things like killing them off).

Ah well, I have 50,000 words of fiction, telling a story. It’s just not the story I originally intended to write.

Fresh Feeling

You don’t have a clue what it is like to be next to you.
I’m here to tell you that it is good, that it is true.

Birds singing a song, old paint is peeling,
This is that fresh, that fresh feeling.
Words can’t be that strong, my heart is real,
This is that fresh, that fresh feeling.

Ahh, bliss. As is traditional every November, I’m in the middle of a week off work ostensibly to catch up on my NaNoWriMo word count. This year, though, there isn’t much catching up to do. By the start of this week I was bang on target (and I’m now 500 words ahead, and will probably get some more down before the day is out). I’m satisfying my “primary” reason for this time off, but there’s an important secondary reason.

Since January 2nd this year, I’ve had two short breaks away from work and that’s it. A couple of long weekends away, a couple of odd Fridays (which were spent travelling up north for family reasons) and the strain is beginning to take its toll. So I have ten straight days without having to go to work and it’s bloody fantastic. There’s some stuff that I need to get done, but just doing bits and pieces as I get to them rather than trying to fit them around work and everything else that’s going on, it’s lovely just to do one at at time, no pressure, chilling the rest of the time.

So, yes. Rest is fantastic. A break from everything is just what I needed, and I’m enjoying myself immensely. May my newfound chilled-outness follow me back to work on the 1st.