Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Today is the first day of the National Novel Writing Month. The aim is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. This works out at 1,666 words per day.  In theory it sounds fairly easy - about three Word pages, single spaced, per day.
Easy?  Sometimes I can agonise over a single sentence for an hour or more - in between munching wine gums, staring into space, playing another game of Pyramid (my excuse being that it's 'thinking time'), checking emails, Facebook and Twitter, writing a blog (just like I'm doing now) and otherwise procrastinating. 
The trick, or so I've been told, is to turn off the 'inner editor' and simply write.  Revision and editing can come later.  That's going to be the hardest part for me, since I edit constantly.  I also research as I go along, since that's so much easier to do than it was in pre-internet days.  Already I've broken off from writing to research courses in French culture at the Sorbonne in Paris.  Then, drawing in a deep breath, I forced myself to bookmark a website so that I can look at it in more detail later.
Usually I'm a pantser, but in this case my NaNo novel is already plotted, as I'm rewriting one of my early novels, published in 1981.  Is that cheating?  No, not in this case.  The novel needs serious updating - technology has changed, for one thing. Mobile phones and email make it easy for the characters to get in contact with each other.
The story is set in a school and they've changed too.  Educational issues in the late 70's when I wrote this novel are completely different from school issues today. As a former teacher, I knew what those issues were when I first wrote the story, but I've been out of teaching now for nearly 20 years.  Fortunately my daughter is a teacher, so I grilled her last week about current issues, and she came up with one I think I can use.
Quite apart from the background and setting, I'm already cringing at my early style of writing.  So much telling instead of showing - ouch! Long, unwieldy sentences, speech tags, far too many adverbs, and, oh dear, exclamation marks galore (my friend Michelle will laugh her socks off at that last statement).
So I'm treating it as a partly pre-planned novel because I know I'm going to have to make a lot of changes as part of the updating process. In fact, it wouldn't surpise me if, at some point, it took off in a different direction than the original story. We shall see ...  


  1. Yeah, I did laugh too:) It's good to hear your first day went well and I shall check in when time allows for updates. Eyes down....

  2. I don't think it matters whether you follow the rules of NaNo, producing a story you're happy with is the important thing. Good luck.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  3. Preplotting is allowed in Nanowrimo, in my understanding.

  4. Michelle, I knew you'd laugh!

    Mood, thanks for dropping in. I'm just hoping I will be happy with the story once I complete it.

    Ana, yes it is allowed, so I don't feel guilty about using the basic plot of my previous story. Already I've changed quite a lot of the conversation etc.

  5. All the best with NaNo, Paula. I'm taking another stab at it. Haven't finished yet but each year I go a bit longer so maybe one of these days.

    I took a planning course for NaNo which is helpful to have a structure but like you, I'm a pantser and like to discover the story as I write it.

  6. Cathy - thanks for dropping in and good luck with your NaNo too. I'd find it impossible to pantser a whole novel in a month, so I'm looking at this revamp as writing an already plotted story. Of course it could still go off at a tangent I'm not expecting!

  7. its exciting ISN'T IT..and you know what i smile with tears again..i have found my niche!!! I DO THE SAME THING..i just THANK GOd HUBBY IS OUT OF THE HOUSE..its quiet..and i put the parrot outside for my first one!! and yes i too edit research edit..my finger pads hurt on my left pinky!!!!! LOLOL adore you Paula! Looking fwd to your next novel too

  8. All the best with your NaNo project, Paula. I'm continuing with a novel I had started but left for too long, so I'm going back to the beginning again and hope to be a lot further on by the end of the month! Haven't even tried switching off the internal editor yet, but I will need to eventually.

  9. Brenda - I'm so glad you feel so excited about having found your niche. I feel the same too, having come back to writing fiction after a long gap when I didn't write any.

    Rosemary - hope your novel is going okay. I've just finished the first chapter (5677 words) but know it's going to need a LOT of detailed editing eventually. At present I'm just trying to bring the setting up to date, and to improve some of my cringe-worthy style of 30 years ago!