I wasn’t planning to do NaNoWriMo this year – I’ve got one book to rewrite and another to finish by the end of December – but then I realised that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the first time I took part, which was also the first time I finished a novel. Which led to me writing another novel. Which led to me getting an agent. And a book deal. And being what I am now, a professional writer. (Apparently I’m not professional enough to write that without wanting to add some sort of disclaimer, but I’ve managed to stop myself.) (Sort of.) So, in the spirit of nostalgia, I thought I’d hunt out the first thing I ever wrote about NaNoWriMo, on my (old) blog on 1 November 2004:

squirrel-winner-100.jpg.htmlPosting may be a bit erratic over the next month, now that NaNoWriMo has started. I’m only allowing myself to post on here once I’ve written the day’s NaNo. I’m aiming for 2,000 words per day – it has to be more than 1,666 which is 50,000 (words) divided by 30 (days in November).

You can read it here [not anymore you can’t] or if you click the ‘Chick Lit’ pic [Chick Lit!] or the link over there (assuming I’ve got it to work). The working title is Be My Baby. [This was an adult novel I never managed to get past 50,000 words. Last year I finally reworked it and it was published as an ebook novella by Hot Key Books – All I Want for Christmas under the name Esme Taylor.] Let me know what you think. [You could still do that if you read the novella. I’m really proud of it.]

David’s doing it too and he’s being interviewed by Mark Lawson for Front Row on Radio 4 this afternoon. I think the interview will be going out tonight between 7.15 and 7.45. [David still brags about this.]

So that we can both do it, I have to write in the day (how that’s going to work when I go back to work next week, I don’t know) and he’ll have to write at night. Which means I have to cook tea. Luckily David got the new Jamie Oliver for his birthday and it’s wonderful, so I’ve already planned out this week’s meals (and we’ll get a takeaway on Fridays as a reward!).

Anyway, I managed 1,854 words this morning while Harry was napping (although I forgot he was supposed to be having his jabs today and I missed the appointment – bad mother) [baby Harry!]. Will have to think tonight about what I’m writing tomorrow.

The rest is history. Well, not history. But four published novels (and two novellas) and two more novels coming out next year. (And I don’t cook anymore. That very Jamie book is in the charity shop pile in the corner of my office right now. Sorry, Jamie.)

NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?

NaNoWriMoFINALI was very excited to be asked to take part in a WordPress roundtable about NaNoWriMo. There’s an introductory post here:

NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?

And the roundtable posts are here:

NaNoWriMo Roundup: Seasoned Authors Share their Secrets

On Blogging and Publishing Your Book: Authors Talk Shop

I’m NaNo-ing again this year, so no doubt I’ll be posting about it throughout November. If you want to ‘buddy’ me, I’m half_squirrel (it’s a long story…).


Not this year. I had been planning to do it – I’ve done it pretty much every year since 2004 and two of my three published novels have been written during NaNovember, but this year…

I’m currently writing Lilly’s Wish and, though I planned to have finished it by now, freeing up my time to NaNo, I, um, haven’t.

But even when I thought I may finish it in time, the thought of NaNo gave me a smidge of a sinking feeling. One of the best things about finishing a book – for me – is that I then give myself a month or so off to read and do other things without having the constant ‘But you haven’t written anything today, have you?’ nagging to deal with.

I have a couple of books that I’ve started and need to either finish or rewrite/edit before I start something new.

Although I’ve always enjoyed just throwing myself into a book and writing writing writing without having a clue where it’s going – and that, for me, is the joy of NaNoWriMo – I feel like I need to try something a bit different. A change is as good as a rest and all that.

So instead of NaNoWriMo, I’m going to attempt to work my way through the Guardian’s How to Write a Book in 30 Days supplement (extracted from First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner). I’m going to do it for a book I’ve already started, but feel needs some structure: Rebecca Hearts Paris (working title!) and I’ll try to blog about it along the way.

Are you doing NaNo this year? Have you tried the First Draft in 30 Days method? Are you a panster or a plotter? Enquiring minds need to know.

How to write a book

Yesterday, on Twitter, I saw this

and it annoyed the hell out of me.

First of all, to clarify, I thought the Guardian supplement Higson refers to was related to NaNoWriMo which, it turns out, it’s not, but I think my point still stands and here’s why:

In the early nineties when I was trying to be a journalist, I bought a How To Write book. I can’t remember much about it, but I do remember that it put me off trying to be a journalist – and off writing altogether – for, well, years.

One thing I remember clearly was that the author said that if you say you want to be a writer – rather than saying you want to write – you don’t really want to write. At that point, I’d been saying I wanted to be a writer for at least five years. So that bit of the book made my heart sink. Had I just been kidding myself all that time? Was I just messing about with this writing thing? Apparently real writers say they want to write. I was doing it wrong.

Yes, I had no confidence/self-esteem and there may be lots of people who read that and thought “Hey, screw you! I want to be a writer and I will be a writer!” and stuck the book in the recycling. Good for them. But that’s not how it was for me.

Now I still haven’t read the Guardian supplement and I’ve heard it’s not actually very good, but consider this: Someone who had been thinking about writing a book for a long time may have read that supplement and been inspired. They may have been struggling with starting a book and thought the advice laid out in the Guardian seemed useful. And then they saw Charlie Higson’s tweet – Charlie Higson who has written 14 novels – and felt their heart sink. Consider the wording of his tweet: “Any novice writers intrigued by…” What if he’d said, “Any novice writers inspired by…” And some “novice writers” will have been – they really will – and then a successful writer comes along and says no. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU WRITE A BOOK. You’re doing it wrong. And so they don’t try. And their book remains unwritten. Congratulations, Charlie.

I feel a bit bad singling out Charlie Higson – I haven’t read his YA books (too scary for me), but I loved his adult books (and The Fast Show’s Ted and Ralph is a work of beautiful genius) – and he’s certainly not the only author to do this. Every November, I see many many condescending tweets from writers – published and unpublished – saying THIS IS NOT HOW YOU WRITE A BOOK. 50,000 words in 30 days? No. You’re doing it wrong. But they are wrong. All of them. Because, as I said on Twitter yesterday, the only right way to write a book is the way that works for you. And you should feel free to ignore anyone who tells you otherwise.


So it’s over. And I finished the first draft of Emma Hearts LA and I actually really enjoyed it. AND I have more story so I’m keen to get back to it (this is pretty much unheard of). But I’m going to take a couple of weeks off to read, catch up on TV and admin (and *cough* go to Disneyland Paris *cough*) before starting the second draft.

How did you all do? Maureen Johnson has some excellent post-NaNo advice here.