Whilst I realise that the frequency of my blog entries is not what it once was, November 2012 turned out to be the first month for several years that I didn't write a single entry whatsoever. This wasn't due to my laziness or me spending too much time partying hard to be able to put finger to keyboard. Quite the opposite. Despite the lack of blogs, it's quite possible that I wrote more in November 2012 than I ever have in any single month in my life.

I am talking about NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is an annual affair. It's basically a challenge - write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and 30. When I first heard of it back in 2009 (when the project was already ten years old) my first thought was that it was impossible. An absurd thing to hope to achieve in one month whilst still trying to hold down a day job and live a normal life.

This year I felt differently. Not only had I got into the habit of daily writing via the site 750words.com but I was now determined to produce more. My novel Comeback had taken over three years from first concept to first draft but I didn't want to wait that long to find out what happened in the prequel. So I decided I was going to do it. Challenge accepted. Never mind that November also involved going to see gigs in Birmingham, St Albans and London, I was already writing 750 words a day, increasing that to 1667 words a day shouldn't make that much difference should it?

Basic premise - supporting character Wendi from Comeback is recording a new album with her band Beam at a recording studio in the Devon countryside in 1994 and something scary happens. In between we get flashbacks to earlier episodes in her life. And go...

Despite the name, NaNoWriMo is an international affair and during the month I read all sorts of blogs about it from all around the world. Increasingly these seemed to be rather negative in tone. Many seemed to think that the exercise was of no value and that any work produced would be of such low quality as to be effectively worthless, that pushing yourself to meet a daily target was artificial and would result in prose that was flat, dry and uninteresting. You had to be inspired, these commentators said. Was this true, I wondered? Was I wasting my time?

Now that the month is over, I have come to the conclusion that I certainly wasn't. As discussed before when it comes to writing stories I'm an archaeologist rather than an architect, and over the last thirty days I have been surprised and pleased by the adventures of Wendi. I had no idea. She did that? She went there? I was happy to make the acquaintance of some new individuals and took an instant dislike to others. I started feeling guilty at the bad times I was putting Wendi through. I got scared when writing some of the darker scenes when alone in the house. Was I going to look over my shoulder and see one of the beings that haunted Wendi hovering in my own doorway?

Of course it's rough and ready and of course a lot of it won't survive the editing process. That doesn't mean it has no value. I feel as if I've been down a clay mine, hauling great truckfuls of slippery grey material out of the earth. It may not look like much now, but by the time I've finished refining, sculpting and shaping it I'm hoping for something special.

Yes, 50,000 words is far too short for a novel. If anything I am now approximately halfway through. The nature of the threat is now becoming clear, but quite how it is going to be overcome I have no idea.  But I now have half of the first draft of a novel that I didn't have this time last month.

I am looking forward to continuing with it, although do feel a sense of relief that to a certain extent, the pressure is now off. I have the time to blog again and re-engage with a number of other writing projects that I put on hold for the duration.

As I typed in my final word count to the NaNoWriMo site yesterday I must admit I was expecting a fanfare of some kind. Perhaps some animated fireworks and dancing cats doing a conga across the bottom of the screen. But no. All I got was the terse message Words remaining: 0.

Never mind. I did it.

In the last sentence I wrote, Wendi fell asleep, exhausted.

I hope she wakes up soon.

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