Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I wrote a novel in 30 days. Is it any good? I don't know.

Okay, it's nothing to be proud of, I've tried it before and either run out of time or just got plain bored, but this year, I went for it: November is always National Novel Writing Month, key that into Google and you'll be directed to a website where the deal is this: you sign up and commit to writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, starting November 1st and finishing by midnight on November 30th. As I said, I've tried this before and either lost time or lost interest.

The problem, of course, is if you miss a day, you've got to double your workload the following day, which can get stressful and, ultimately, lead to you abandoning the project; this happened to me a year or two ago. I was determined to finish this year. I did pretty well, writing something on most days of the month and then, as the event drew to a close I found myself dividing the number of days left with the number of words still to write and I always getting something like 2,500 words per day. It was fine.

I found that early in the morning was the best time to write, so I often got up at the crack of dawn, around 0530hrs to 0600hrs, to write the first 1,000 words and then polish off the final 1,500 at night while watching the television – or rather having the television on but not really watching it. One night I sat watching a scary movie, The Grudge, while writing the story and noticed afterwards how the chapter concerned turned out to be pretty spooky.

Is it any good? I don't know to be honest. It was a children's story based on characters I dreamt up for my daughter. The bedtime process for my daughter has always involved me making up stories about three characters. I decided to use the characters for National Novel Writing Month. I had no real plan or plot and basically just started writing, making it up as I went along. Not ideal, but there you have it. It's odd because I never knew what was going to happen or how the story was going to pan out at the end, it all happened as it happened.

I am glad it's over because I was getting to bed late and I did find myself pre-occupied with the whole venture during the day.

"Winning", if that's what completing the novel on the finish date means, is an odd affair. You log on to the National Novel Writing Month website and submit your finished document to the word-counter and then, that's it, you get told you've won, you get asked to donate some money and then you can, if you wish, download a certificate, in PDF form, stating that you completed the task – all a bit of an anti-climax, although later on, an email from the organiser informed me that I could get the story produced as a book and possibly get it on Amazon too. It needs a rewrite before I do that, but I've got until July 2010 so it's got to be done.

I doubt if I'll get a call from Hodder & Stoughton, although I do admit to having the odd fantasy about getting a £1.5 million four-book deal and moving to a house on the beach somewhere near Aldeburgh in Suffolk where I can indulge a horribly twee, Sunday supplement existence. It won't happen.

Now it's completed, of course, I have to spend time in the evening reading it to my daughter. There are 18 chapters in total including a kind of epilogue entitled Boxing Day. I didn't want a Chapter 19 as my father-in-law died on the 19th and I didn't want the book to have any kind of jinx attached to it.

Now that I'm considering doing a rewrite, who knows? I might be suitably impressed by the end result to submit it to a publisher – but then again, perhaps I won't be, I've never been very self-confident. I'll probably just read it to my daughter and then put it in the attic where, in many years to come, it might be unearthed, turned in a multi-million dollar movie and I won't be around to rake in or enjoy the cash.

There are four months in the year with 30 rather than 31 days and we all know them: April, June, September and November. Perhaps I'll write stories during those months, sequels to the one I've already written. Talk about practice makes perfect. Anyway, gotta go.