With just under a week to go, it’s time to make that all-important writing decision: to NaNoWriMo, or not to NaNoWriMo?

(To recap, the hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, where you try to write a novel – or 50,000 words of one – during the month of November. This blog started after I completed NaNo in 2010 and got cocky, then proceeded to try and draft a novel every month of 2011. More on this, and a couple of helpful tips, in this article I wrote for IdeasTap.)

I have one pretty sound reason not to participate in 2015, which is that I am moving house. As yet I don’t know exactly when or where to – but we have to be out of our current flat by November 24th.


By November 24th I’m traditionally playing catch-up like a person who has never heard of RSI – because let’s be honest, very few people actually do their 1,666 words every day. You start out doing far more than that, run out of steam at some point towards the end of week two, decide you’ll never finish, then go crazy at the end. This approach probably will not wash if I still don’t know where I’m going to be living by the time NaNo starts.

Having said that, I am hoping to find a new place this week so that the actual hunting is not eating up my November evenings, and it’s more the packing and cleaning in a systematic way I’ll need to factor in. Cue howls of derisive laughter from those who know me in person…

to do list

Still, I’m cautiously optimistic on the finding somewhere front. In spite of the best efforts of property websites to wear us down (Kirkcaldy and Burntisland are not within 3 miles of Edinburgh, fact fans, and don’t let Rightmove or Zoopla tell you different), we have five viewings planned for this week so far and a few other possibles to add into the mix. However, after the securing of the flat comes the packing, and the ditching stuff we no longer need, and the attempt to dismantle the warped chest of drawers (possibly with an axe), and the cleaning of the old place, and the moving and then the unpacking at the other end. All of which is fairly time consuming and needs to happen on top of a full time job, because that’s a thing I have these days like some kind of loser. Being an adult is depressing.

Anyway, if I do join in with NaNoWriMo regardless, I’ve got two options for what to work on.

  1. Revisit last year’s MS – a foray into a YA dystopia that I think could actually have legs, even though I read on ‘ask an agent’ a few weeks back that nobody is into dystopia anymore… I can’t take that too seriously though, as someone that has consistently returned to it for about twenty years. As regular readers may remember, my previous attempts to actually write it have been a bit painful… but as I say, I feel this latest project has something. There again, a recent re-read showed that basically everything I wrote down last November was bum. The story only really got going on page 60, which might not have been a problem if it hadn’t ended on page 82. (Eagle eyed readers may be able to work out that I didn’t reach my 50k last year.) Still, I’ve been letting the tale stew in the back of my mind for months, and have worked out more of the background and made some narrative voice decisions… I feel like I’m nearly ready for another bash. But as yet I haven’t written any sort of plan or outline to get me through, and that could pose a problem for something on this scale.
  2. Take the characters from my oft-rewritten (but not beloved, I fear, as it has been roundly rejected by children’s book competitions from the Kelpies Prize to the Times/Chicken House Prize) and ‘pants’ a different story for 7 year olds each week of November. Pantsing in this context is when you start without a plan, and I’ve found it isn’t the best method for me with longer projects – but with pretty short stories for younger readers this is quite a fun way of drafting.I don’t see myself having time to plan much ahead of November descending, what with this week containing the job and the flat hunting and the two spoken word events I’m meant to be attending (Edinburgh In The Shadows tomorrow and Poets Against Humanity on Thursday, be there or be square etc). I also have aspirations of submitting to a few journals and things, whose deadlines are all Saturday 31st (Gutter, Banshee, Lies Dreaming) – although I’m probably overreaching there.

Practically, option 2 feels like the more achievable, but I’ve been thinking about option 1 for ages and it feels like a bit of a cop-out to put it off. And of course a sensible person might choose option 3: just ignore NaNo and write at your own pace, preferably when you are a bit more settled. You don’t have anything to prove, you know perfectly well you’re capable of writing a book in a month, etc etc.

But option 3 is super boring, and NaNo focuses my mind creatively in a way that merely getting up half an hour early and free-writing before work doesn’t. There’s also a feeling of camaraderie and support from NaNo that I don’t really get the rest of the writing year, since I’ve yet to properly join a writing group or find a writing buddy. Participating in November gives me a boost – there’s a set goal, the encouragement of millions of other folks trying to achieve the same thing, and a general feeling of excitement.

In summary, then, I’m not sure what to do. Are you joining in this year, or are you filled with NaNoWriMo indecision? Feel free to post your own angst in the comments, and we can worry about it together. A problem shared is a 50,000 word count halved…