National Novel Writing Month in Review

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017

November is dead.

Long live December.

The weather gets colder. The skies get darker. And tomorrow I will be putting up my Christmas tree even though my mother says it is too early.

I will also be spending at least the next month redrafting the book I wrote in October., so that’s exciting.

But irrelevant.

Today I’m here to talk about National Novel Writing Month. My thoughts on that and on the first draft I’ve just written.

I don’t know what I’m going to say yet, though, so this will all be a little informal.

Maybe even nonsensical.

So let’s do that.


As I said in the introduction to this series, I don’t often go in for Nano month.

I’ve done it once before, but I am usually either not writing at all or halfway through a draft when it begins.

I’ve never seen the need to shift my schedule to match National Novel Writing Month.

If I’m honest (which I’m not) they should shift their month to meet me.

This year, though, the stars seemed to align.

I finished the first draft of Project Perry in October and planned to start Project House this month anyway.

So I thought, why not?

And it’s been good.

NaNoWriMo is a great way to get you focused and writing, even when you don’t fancy it.

This can be a double-edged sword, as I’ve said in previous blogs, but on the whole, it’s positive. Especially if you are not good at forcing yourself to write of a typical month.

I’ve never had a problem with that, myself. But I did like the stats based aspect of Nano. It enhanced the fun and gave me something to blog about, and extra incentive to get words done.

Sure, I had a couple of zero-days, and a couple of forgettable ones where I wrote less than a thousand, but mostly I did okay.

Averaging over 3,000 words a day, I hit the 50,000 word Nano target by day 18 and finished the book by day 26.

So that was pleasing, and from the stats in my local area alone, I can tell a lot of people found it as useful as me.

So it’s great to get you writing. But does this finished draft give me anything to work with?

The Draft

The dreaded first draft.

Most writers will say the first draft is their favourite, but I’m not sure.

I guess the best way to put it is that it’s the furthest from being my least favourite.

But ‘favourite’ as a word has too many positive connotations, and I’m not comfortable with that.

It’s always a mess, that’s the problem.

You do your plan, and that’s exciting. Then you start, hitting the ground running, and that’s brilliant.

Then, about 10,000 words in, we reach thorny territory.

Nothing is working. Your character isn’t right. The plot no longer makes sense.

Panic sets in.

Pens are thrown. Keyboards smashed.

People give up. Writers everywhere choose this moment to bin their mess of a start and run off crying until they have a new idea.

One that will actually work.

One that people will want to read.

Because no one would have read the first draft you were working on, would they?

Well, no, that’s the point, isn’t it?

Not that I was any different.

I chucked away hundreds of unfinished drafts for that reason. Like writers everywhere, I was missing the point.

First drafts are about discovery, change. Not perfection.

Think of it like Science (hey, remember Science?)

Your plan is your hypothesis.

This is what you expect to happen. How you expect the individual elements of character and plot to react together.

The first draft, then, is the experiment. You’re not sitting down to follow your plan but to test it. To get those words on the page and see if your hypothesis is correct.

Spoiler alert, it probably isn’t

We are bad scientists. We can theorise all we want but once that character hits the ground and starts making decisions… well, things are going to change.

The best way to figure out who your characters are is to start writing them. It’s in doing this that you will realise the best version of them.

It’s the same with the story, which may look great on paper but needs to be adaptable.

Use your first draft to test, and to tweak. To do a complete 180 if you need to.

DO NOT allow that plan to limit your creativity.

Change as you go, and never go back to change what came before.

By the time you’re done, that first draft will be a disastrous mess.

But that’s okay.

That’s what second drafts are for.

Take my NaNoWriMo Draft (which is what I’m supposed to be talking about anyway.) I went in with specific ideas. Ideas that began to desert me as I wrote.

I realised my main character needed to change. Realised she needed to change and, as I realised this, I also saw that the plot had to change too.

By the time I finished, the first and last act sounded as though they came from completely different books.

But that doesn’t matter.

I’ve worked it all out now.

When I come to do that second draft, I’ll be editing from a position of strength. I know who my characters are and what needs to happen. I can rewrite and tell the story in the way it needs to be told.

That’s exciting, and that’s the best thing about first drafts.

That’s why things like NaNoWriMo exist. Because in forcing you to get through this first draft it forces you to see the potential.

So if you gave up halfway through National Novel Writing Month because it wasn’t working.

Go back to it!

In the end, you won’t regret it.

Next Steps

Speaking of first drafts going their own way. I didn’t intend this blog to end up more instructional than reflective, but there you go.

National Novel Writing Month is over now. I hope anyone who took part enjoyed it.

For me, I’m going to stop trying to get out a blog every couple of days for at least the next month.

I need to focus on the redraft of Project Perry, so I’ll keep on doing my book reviews, but that may well be it.

But, sometime in the next few months, I would like to come back and talk more about my writing plans and how things are going.

I may even do another writing challenge.

Whatever, I’ll keep you updated.

So, see you then.

National Novel Writing Month Days 20-23

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017


Written 21/11/2017 for 20/11/2017

My 10,000-word day got me into a better position than I had thought.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Didn’t you?

Anyway, it turned out I only needed to write 2,700 words to stay on target for finishing at the end of the month, so I aimed for 3,000.

The plan was to start at half seven, but I made that plan with a mouse so it didn’t work out.

(So many people are not going to get that joke)

In the end, I started at ten past eight, but did I let that hold me back from doing my 3,000 words by ten past nine?

What do you think?

Estimated words to complete book: 94,000

Words for par, Day 20: 62,666

Words written: 3,048

Total words: 63,923

Words over Target: 1,257

Average per day: 3,196

Remaining: 30,077

So it’s another good day.

If I can keep up these 3,000/day, uh, days, until Sunday and then on that day of rest knock out another ten thousand words I’ll go into the last few days of this challenge with very little left to do.

So, that’s exciting.




Written 22/11/2017 for 21/11/2017

If there’s one thing I love – other than Eastenders, Eminem and Emma Stone (all e’s, huh, how about that?) – it’s challenges.

These can take a grand scale, such as my four year Man vs Bookshelf challenge, or a much smaller scale, like the one I undertook last night.

I started writing at eight pm on the dot and I thought to myself, I wonder if I can write 4,000 words in an hour.

It was, I admit, a hefty challenge, and I thought it might cost me some quality.

However, I’m not sure it did.

What certainly happened was that I became focused. I didn’t stop to take mid-session stats or to check my phone and I continuously ignored my girlfriend as she shouted through at me from the bedroom (sorry).

It was tough, and I was constantly hovering between making it and just missing it, which added a level of excitement that NaNoWriMo was not, alone, able to provide.

But did I do it?

Estimated words to complete book: 95,000

Words for par, Day 21: 66,500

Words written: 4,098

Total words: 68,021

Words over Target: 1,521

Average per day: 3,239

Remaining: 26,979

How’s that for tight.

Just over 4,000 and I didn’t cheat, either. I stopped exactly an hour after I started, and I was bloody pleased about it.

I might try it again tonight, but we’ll have to see.

I’ll let you know.



Written 23/11/2017 for 22/11/2017

Look, I’m very busy today, so I really don’t have much time to talk.

Let’s keep it brief.

I wrote for just under an hour.

My output was not what it was the day before.

I still hit 3,000 words but did not quite match what I would have liked to do.

Still, I’m on target. See below.

Estimated words to complete book: 94,000

Words for par, Day 22: 68,933

Words written: 3,000

Total words: 71,021

Words over Target: 2,088

Average per day: 3,228

Remaining: 22,979

Another chance to move the chains tonight (that’s an NFL reference).

Hopefully, it can be a big day.

Until then, goodbye.

I got blogging to do.

Other blogging.



Written 24/11/2017 for 23/11/2017

I try my very best, always, to restrict my evening writing time to writing only.

The moment you start throwing other tasks in your time just disappears and you end up getting no words done and half a blog.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work in practice.

I try to blog before work and at lunch but recently I’ve been getting into work later than usual so I’ve had no time to do it then, and there’s not enough time at lunch to get everything I need to get done, done.

So last night, I had to do some blogging, and I was able to finish editing my latest Man vs Bookshelf review and schedule it (so look out that, the day after next). Then I set up this blog, putting in all entries except the one I’m writing now.

With all that done, I was left with a markedly short about of time to do any writing, and I had to go over my writing deadline to do what I want to do.

I’ll do a round up on this book when I’m dong and talk about a some of this stuff then, but it’s worth mentioning now that the final act is not coming together as I would have liked.

There will be large changes throughout whenever I do edit this book, but for the most part I feel that I have had a good starting point. Something to build on.

This last act has felt a bit like I’m writing for the sake of writing, and given how far I’ve come in terms of developing the idea of this series, it feels pointless writing what I’m writing at the moment.

It’s my fault, really. With the first draft I did last month I was constantly pivoting and changing direction as I went, adapting the story and the plan I’d written to fit new plans and ideas that inevitably arose as I went along.

It makes for a first draft that’s a nightmare to read and makes little sense, but it’s so much better for follow up drafts.

I haven’t done that here, sticking more religiously to a plan I’ve probably outgrown.

That’ll hurt later, I think, but hey, at least I got my words done for the day.

In the end.

Estimated words to complete book: 93,000

Words for par, Day 23: 71,300

Words written: 3,123

Total words: 74,144

Words over Target: 2,844

Average per day: 3,223

Remaining: 18,856

So yeah, I’m feeling a little lethargic, but there are positives.

I know where I want to change this story and where I want to take it.

That’s all good.

But for now, I just want to get this first draft done.

So let’s focus on that.

National Novel Writing Month: Pivot (day 19)

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017


Written 20/11/2017 for 19/11/2017

Right, I talked about this in the last post.

I completed National Novel Writing Month’s 50,000-word target.

Now, it’s time to pivot.

However, the book, which is shaping up nicely in many ways (and is a fucking disaster in many others – such is a first draft) is not yet done.

With that in mind, I thought it would be silly to stop now when I still have every intention of finishing this book by the end of the month (gulp).

Now, moving past NaNoWriMo’s end goal means something of a change of strategy in terms of daily targets and the stats I present. Luckily, I have help on that front.

I use Scrivener to do all my writing (and you should too if you have a Mac, which you totally should) and this presents me with a number of handy stats, which I have supplemented with my own information.

Given a target word count and an end date, Scrivener will tell you how many words you need to write on any given day to finish your book on time. A word count, I might add, that automatically updates every day depending on how many words you have remaining.

Knowing how many scenes I have, I use a constantly updated word count, altering it after every scene by working out the average number of words I have written so far per scene and timesing this by the total amount of scenes.

So, check out yesterday’s stats for the following:

  • The current predicted word count of hthe whole book
  • The words count I needed to be at as of yesterday to be on track for finishing at the end of the month
  • The words written yesterday (spoiler alert, it was a good day)
  • The total words written in the projects
  • The number of words I am over the target total at that day
  • The average words I’ve written per day across the project
  • How many words are remaining.

Check it out

Estimated words to complete book: 94,000

Words for par, Day 19: 59,534

Words written: 10,365

Total words: 60,875

Words over Target: 1,341

Average per day: 3,203

Remaining: 34,466

It’s going well.

A big day yesterday. 10,000 words put me just over where I need to be as of yesterday, and it’s going to take at least 3,300 words today to keep myself there.

Being back at work today after a few days on holiday, this will be difficult, but let’s see how I get on

National Novel Writing Month? Completed it. (days 16-18)

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017


Written 17/11/2017 for 16/11/2017

After a zero-day, you have to rally.

It’s not enough to look back and say you’ve done loads recently, so it’s okay. Or even to say that you’re well over target, so it doesn’t matter.

It’s a psychological thing. Two bad days in a row and you start to struggle. Or at least, I do.

So I wanted a good day. I needed a good day, and I wasn’t sure I was going to get one. I’m still up North on holiday and I didn’t think I’d get the time.

But then, I did.


Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 16: 26,666

Words written: 5,681

Total words: 42,680

Words over Target: 16,014

Average per day: 2,668

Remaining: 7,370

So it sucks to have a zero-day, but the stats are good. In the last four days, I’ve had the zero, but then three days where I hit over 5,000 words.

I doubt I’ll get anywhere near that today, but I’d like to hit over 1,500.

I’ll see how it goes.



Written 18/11/2017 for 17/11/2017

Less than 5,000 words to go!!

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 17: 28,333

Words written: 2,523

Total words: 45,153

Words over Target: 16,820

Average per day: 2,656

Remaining: 4,847

Okay, I know I normally write a bit.

I know that’s what gets you through the week.

But it’s 20 past nine am now and I won’t be able to write after midday.

In fact, I’m leaving at midday and I’m not dressed and there’s breakfast to come.

Basically, I don’t have very much writing time today and I want to get as close as possible to finishing the 50,000 words if you don’t very much mind.




Written 19/11/2017 for 18/11/2017

Well NaNoWriMo has hardly been a ticking clock thriller for me.

I started badly and had a couple of rubbish days between then and now. Even a rare zero day.

But I’m still done.

NaNoWriMo 50,000 words complete as of 18th November 2017 with 510 words change.

Well done me.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 18: 30,000

Words written: 5,357

Total words: 50,510

Words over Target: 20,510

Average per day: 2,806

Remaining: -510

Now, despite ‘completing’ NaNoWriMo the book isn’t finished, and I would still like to do it in November.

It’s going to be tough, given I still have at least half to go with less than half the month less available to me, but I’m going to try.

It’s Sunday, bang on midday as I write this sentence.

I’ll get some done this afternoon and tomorrow, when I write Day 19, I’ll create a new set of stats to deal with the shifting nature of the challenge.

See you then.

National Novel Writing Month Days 11-15

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017


Written 12/11/2017 for 11/11/2017

Friends are not unlike sanity.

You need them, or society will think of you as weird, but you can’t help but think you’d be a lot more relaxed without them.

I’ve been out with friends two Saturday’s in a row now, clubbing, like some eighteen-year-old.

It’s mad because of course, you have to drink (yes, you do) and that means however good a night you have; you guarantee writing off your entire Sunday.

This would be fine if you were a normal person who worked Monday to Friday, played on Saturday, and sat around watching telly and building matchstick towers on Sundays, but I don’t have that luxury.

I want to be a writer – for whatever reason – and that means I need Sunday as a day of work.

Usually, I’m excellent and get about nine or ten hours writing in but now we’ve had the first two Saturday’s of November and both have involved a night out leading to a hangover that has crippled my Sunday productivity.

So, with this in mind, I’ve had to get at least a decent showing on Saturday, even if I’m still not writing anywhere near as much as I do on a Sunday.

Yesterday, I worked for a couple of hours in the morning, working on a few bits, but dedicating a fair amount of time to my Nano project and knowing that, after the 849 words showing of the previous day, I needed to get at least a good couple of thousand on Saturday morning.

I did alright.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 11: 18,333

Words written: 3,940

Total words: 23,313

Words over Target: 4,980

Average per day: 2,119

Remaining: 26,681

3,940. That’s the best count so far, coming right after the worst count (and only second count under 1,000) yesterday.

Can’t be displeased with that.

Given that, I’m not going to worry too much tonight. I’d like to knock out at least 1,500, but I’ll see how it goes. Truth is, I have Monday and Tuesday off, so I expect those to be good writing days.

I can afford to do a bit worse today, but I’ll see how it goes.



Written 13/11/2017 for 12/11/2017

As expected, following my night out, yesterday was not the best writing day.

But that’s okay. I said I was going to give myself a bit of a break on account of having my best day so far on Saturday and because I’m home Monday/ Tuesday.

So, while 1,784 only just misses out on my bottom three days, productivity-wise, it is still above the 1,667 you have to do a day to get finished, and, as a result of getting over that, I am now more than 5,000 over the daily target.

Not only that, but yesterday’s session took me over the halfway point (woo) in the 50,000-word target.

Not so bad then.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 12: 20,000

Words written: 1,784

Total words: 25,103

Words over Target: 5,103

Average per day: 2,091

Remaining: 24,897

Now, last time I had some days off I was hitting 15,000 words a day.

That will not happen now.

For a start I was starting at nine then and it’s already ten past eleven now.

For a second, uh, thing, I’ve got quite a bit of blogging to do, and that’s going to take up some time.

Thirdly, I’m just not feeling as motivated as I was with Project Perry, so, it ain’t going to happen.

But that’s not to say I can’t have a good day, starting as soon as I finish this sentence.




Written 14/11/2017 for 13/11/2017

I’ve always been good at self-blame and getting down on myself.

Not so much about the quality of my work – although, also that – but more about productivity.

Every day I set my alarm for six thirty, and every day I don’t get up till gone seven, and every day I feel shitty about it.

That’s the big one, but regarding writing output, I tend to do the same.

So, while a lot of people might look at yesterday’s output and say “man, that’s pretty good, even on a day off, especially seeing as you wrote a blog and did some other bits and pieces as well” I only look at it and say…

“But I did 15,000 words a day last time I was off.

That kind of thinking, of course, is counterproductive. I only did what I did and to wish I did more only wastes more time and energy.

So, today, when I assess the below, I’m going to try and look at it in a more positive light, in comparison to my productivity in this National Novel Writing Month, as opposed to in comparison with my last week off.

Let’s check it out then.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 13: 21,666

Words written: 6,176

Total words: 31,279

Words over Target: 9,613

Average per day: 2,406

Remaining: 18,729

Over 6,000 words is my most productive day so far, easily ousting my previous best by over 2,000 words.

So we’ve done well, pushing to almost 10,000 words ahead of schedule, and now with less than 20,000 words to go to “win” NaNoWriMo.

It would be stupid to feel bad about that.

So what about today? My last ‘free’ day before going up North to see my Grandma. Well, It’s not just gone midday. I’ve been out this morning to the bank and to have a haircut (thank you, I think so too) plus I’ve done some writing.

So, we’re not likely to do as well as yesterday, but let’s just see what we can do, okay?

After all, it’s only a game.



Written 16/11/2017 for 14/11/2017 & 15/11/2017

Okay, it happened.

At the halfway point as well.

I suppose I always knew it would, eventually.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

I went a day without writing.

I have a bundle of excuses, of course. I was stuck in a car from nine am until two pm. Then I was with my girlfriend’s Grandparents for a couple of hours then it was another hour drive, and then I was with my grandparents.

We had dinner and played games, and I had a few glasses of wine.

Then it was the Apprentice, ruining things again as it did on that very first day.

By the time that had finished, I felt groggy from the booze, tried from the long day of sitting next to someone who had to concentrate on driving, and that’s not to mention the horrific cold I have.

So it was a conscious decision, in the end. But not one I took lightly.

In fact, I was sure it was the wrong decision write up until I fell asleep, but I’d made my choice.

There was no going back.

The decision, I suppose was made a little easier by the knowledge that I had an okay day of writing the day before, following on from a great day, Monday.

The stats below are for Tuesday 14th. Averages will have dropped since then, but at least I know I’m in a good place.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 14: 23,333

Words written: 5,670

Total words: 36,949

Words over Target: 13,616

Average per day: 2,639

Remaining: 13,051

So I’m not allowing myself to be down.

I had a day off, but it followed my best two days of writing this November.

I just need to get back on the horse. It’s morning now, and I doubt I”ll get much done in terms of novel writing this morning because I’m going out for lunch and I need to sort my next blog, but this afternoon, I plan to get some words back down.

Get back on, and shoot towards victory.

We’ll see how that works out.

National Novel Writing Month Days 6-10

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017


Written 07/11/2017 for 06/11/2017

I’m overextending myself.

I knew I would. I always do. I get too into it I love the writing and the blogging and the tweeting, so I just add more and more.

At the moment I write this diary thing when I get to work before I start. Then at lunch, I write for my Man vs Bookshelf blog (or read, if I need to). After dinner, I do my tweeting and FBing and write for my latest writing project, and then before I go to bed, I do my reading.

It’s too much; I know it is. If I get talking before work, or I go out to lunch at lunch, or I spend too long watching telly in the evening, suddenly, I’m behind. Even though I’m getting my Nano targets hit at the moment, I’m still never going to get the whole book finished this month, and that’s depressing enough.

But I don’t want to stop. I can’t stop. Stupid as it is I’ll keep pushing myself until it all collapses around my shoulders.

So, that should be fun…

But like I say, I’m still hitting my targets and yesterday, despite The Walking Dead being on, I managed to do it again:

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 6: 10,000

Words written: 1,795

Total words: 12,898

Words over Target: 2,898

Average per day: 2,149

Remaining: 37,102

Tonight I’m going to the cinema, so that’s fucked everything up.

I’m going to get home, have dinner, and try bang out another 1,800 words before I go. If I do it, fab, if I don’t, well, I’ll probably spend the whole film crying.



Written 08/11/2017 for 07/11/2017

Last night was an adrenaline packed race against time.

It was like a Michael Bay film but with a story.

I arrived home from work at half six, and I had until seven forty-five before I would be picked up and taken to the cinema to see Thor: Ragnarok.

In that time I needed to prepare dinner, eat dinner, and do at least 1,800 words on my NaNo project.

A terrifying task, but I was ready.

I chopped potatoes like a madman. Sprinkled herbs and spices over them like I had an infinite supply. Chucked them in the oven like I was flinging a baby from a burning building. Then it was to the writing.

600 words before dinner was ready. Food and conversation with the girlfriend followed and then it was back to the keys, time slipping away like a bar of soap out of wet hands.

But could I make it?

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 7: 11,666

Words written: 1,831

Total words: 14,729

Words over Target: 3,063

Average per day: 2,104

Remaining: 35,271

In the end, I suffered a string of texts from my ride to the cinema, but I managed to get the words done, doing less than 50 more than yesterday, but also drawing slightly further ahead of the target.

It was always going to be tough, but I did it, and I’m hoping for at least 2,000 words tonight.

Before The Apprentice that is.

We’ll see how it goes.



Written 09/11/2017 for 08/11/2017

I’m going to collapse.

I’m ploughing on. I posted my next Man vs Bookshelf blog yesterday, and I did my Nano words, but it came at a price.

I didn’t start writing till half eight; then I had to watch the Apprentice at nine. I got back to writing after but by the time I had done my words and tidied up etc. It was eleven o clock.

Eleven is the latest I like to be up, but I hadn’t even done my reading. By the time that was done, it was midnight.

Needless to say, I’m knackered today.

But at least I did my words, right?

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 8: 13,333

Words written: 1,875

Total words: 16,604

Words over Target: 3,271

Average per day: 2,075

Remaining: 33,396

What’s the target today? The last three days I’ve done a handful more words each day, so I guess let’s keep that going.

Today’s target is to get at least 1,876 words.



Written 10/11/2017 for 09/11/2017

Oh, bugger.

I was supposed to write this in the morning. I always try to write my Nano update in the morning before I start, so I don’t forget the circumstances of what happened the day before.

But I was late to the office today, so didn’t get a chance.

And now I have actually forgotten.

So, um, bugger.

Luckily I write all my stats down the night before, so you can still enjoy reading those (you lucky thing), and I’ll get back to writing these things first thing tomorrow.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 9: 15,000

Words written: 1,926

Total words: 18,530

Words over Target: 3,530

Average per day: 2,058

Remaining: 31,470



Written 11/11/2017 for 10/11/2017

I think NaNoWriMo can be a fantastic thing for writers.

I’ve said before how habit is vital for writers. The process of just getting words down day after day because, the truth is, the only way to get better is to keep writing.

You can read every book and blog going about how to become a better writer but, if you don’t start getting words down, it’s all for nowt.

So NaNoWriMo encourages this kind of commitment, but it also invites you to finish something, which is the other key to becoming a better writer.

In my years I have started over a thousand stories, novels and scripts and left them to die in the wilderness of my hard drive, and each one taught me a little more about writing. But, the problem with that is that no one publishes a first draft (I don’t care what Lee Child says, I’m not buying it).

Editing is vital to success. Reworking things that didn’t work in the first place.

It’s only by forcing yourself to this stage, however bad you might think the first draft is, that you finally learn to progress to a book that is good enough to be read.

So the habit NaNoWriMo brings is excellent, but I also think it’s worth being careful because Nano asks that you write at least 1,667 words a day, and this is where problems can arise.

Take last night, for example.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 10: 16,666

Words written: 849

Total words: 19,379

Words over Target: 2,713

Average per day: 1,937

Remaining: 30,621

I sat down after the England/ Germany game and pledged that I would write 2,000 words. I wanted to get further ahead of target, and I didn’t even want to think about giving up.

However, after about 250 words, it became clear it wasn’t working.

I couldn’t get into the right frame of mind, and I was pushing words out thoughtlessly. First drafts take a certain degree of free writing, but there comes a point – when you’re writing just for the sake of writing – that you’re doing more harm than good.

That’s what was happening to me last night, and it made me think.

I almost always cannot be bothered to start writing. It’s very rare that I’ll get in and want to get going. I start because I know I have to. Because I’m committed.

Despite this reluctance to start, once I’ve begun, everything tends to change. I fall immediately into the project, and I’ll just go, banging out however many words I can in the time allowed and not wanting to stop.

So, when I get to 250 words, and it’s just not clicking, even though that’s not very many, it is an obvious sign that something is not right.

I didn’t heed this warning last night, but I should have.

Luckily I came to my senses just after 800 words and realised I was wasting my time. I was tired, I was grumpy, and I was just junking out senseless nonsense to get the words done.

So here’s what I would say.

Promise yourself 250 words a night.

It’s nothing. It’ll take ten minutes, so you won’t be afraid to do it.

It’s because of this that you’ll almost always do more. You’ll smash targets, and you’ll be happier for it too. Keep writing as long as you feel good to keep writing, and you’ll easily make enough words on the on days to cover the days when 250 is about all you can manage.

I’ve been writing a long time, but it’s never too late to learn.

I’ll be holding this lesson close to me from now on.

National Novel Writing Month: Days 1-5

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017


Written: 02/11/2017 for: 01/11/2017

When getting into a new task or challenge, there’s nothing more important than getting off to a good start.

I said as much in Man vs Bookshelf. In fact, it was the reason I changed my mind about the book I was starting with at the last moment; to give myself the best possible chance of a good start.

I knew I was in equal need of a good start here. A first day of 2,000 words would have done it. A real chance to set down a marker and say, yes, I’m going to make NaNoWriMo mine. I am going to win.

So how did it go?

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 1: 1,666

Words written: 901

Words off target: 765

Total words: 901

Average per day: 901

Remaining: 49,099

Aye, not great.

Not great at all.

But it isn’t my fault. Who starts National Novel Writing Month on the same day as Apprentice and my trip to Ikea? Talk about poor planning.

You’re going to say that National Novel Writing has to start on the 1st of November because November IS National Novel Writing Month.

But “the 1st of November” as a concept is pretty transient, don’t you think?

Anyway, doesn’t matter. We are where we are, and at least I wrote something in the fifteen minutes I had sandwiched between dinner and The Apprentice.

I still hit nearly 1,000, despite the fact that I had a crisis about what I was going to write.

In fact, if you consider the fact I switched over and started writing something else halfway through the above mentioned 901 words then I would, in fact, have about hit 1,000.

But I changed back. It was only a wobble. I’ve been planning this book for the last two weeks and thinking about it a lot longer than that, and I’m going to get through it.

Tonight there is no Apprentice, and no Ikea (although, actually they didn’t have what I was after so I have to go back at some point, sigh!) so I’m going to take a big old run at it.

Today’s target: get up to 3,000 words total.

We’ll see how I do.



Written 03/11/2017 for 02/11/2017

I’ve been watching Game of Thrones.

This is causing problems.

Time was I would come home, watch half an hour of telly and start writing. I would hit up to 5,000 words an evening, and I wasn’t doing so much blogging, tweeting or Facebooking either.

After my terrible start to Nano on the first it looked like it was going to be another shit day yesterday. I came home, cooked and watched Game of Thrones. By the time that was done it was quarter past eight.

Now, nine o clock is reading time and I have to do that for my Man vs Bookshelf series, so time was already running short. Add in the fact I then had to schedule some tweets and Facebook posts, and I was sure it was going to be another terrible day’s work where I’d be lucky to hit a thousand. Mainly because I wasn’t feeling the writing at all.

Then I sat down and started, and you know what? It all turned out alright.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 2: 3,333

Words written: 2,270

Total words: 3,171

Words off Target: 162

Average per day: 1,586

Remaining: 46,829

So that’s alright then. I wrote till half nine in the end, but I’m now right under par. Much better.

Come tonight I want to get above that par. That’s the target.



Written 04/11/2017 for 03/11/2017

Habit is vital for everyone. It’s what lets us get out of bed in the morning to go to work with only five or six minutes of screaming and do all the other crap we have to do after that.

Habits are particularly important for writers (almost important as they are to nuns, hehe).

For me, when I get into writing, and I’m doing it consistently every day, my output is incredible. I’ll knock out several thousand words a day (as I mentioned yesterday, I think), I’ll race through first drafts like nobodies business.

But, when I allow the habit to break… that’s when trouble arises.

Finishing my last first draft when I did, I was left in a quandary. Usually, I jump right into my next novel. Keep that momentum going because I know that if I don’t, I’ll get out of the habit, and then my writing efforts will fly off the rails, and that way disaster lies.

This time, however, I finished my first draft just over a week away from November 1st, and I was ahead of schedule for writing anyway, having smashed out 60,000 words in four days on that novel over a week off.

So I made a decision. A quite terrible decision.

I took those days off so I could take part in bloody NaNoWriMo.

It’ll be okay, I reasoned, like some sort of idiot. I love writing, I’ll just get straight back into it.


Now, I’m on day three of November, and it’s just not clicking. I’m forcing myself to knock out some words every day (which is vital by the way, even if you’re not in the habit) but I’m not doing enough. I’m supposed to write between 7:30 – 9:00 every evening but the yesterday, as with the day before, I didn’t start till way too late. In fact, last night (Friday) I didn’t start till gone ten o clock.

I thought I would just write a few words (the bath was running, after all) but in the end, I managed to get in more than a few words.

I ended up with over a thousand words and a flooded bathroom (a double win, you might say, although that wouldn’t be very nice of you).

It’s still not enough. I’ve fallen further off target, my average words per day have dropped, and I’ve still not got into any kind of writing groove.

It’s becoming rather frustrating.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 3: 5,000

Words written: 1,027

Total words: 4,198

Words off Target: 802

Average per day: 1,399

Remaining: 45,802

Today is Saturday, day four. I don’t usually write on a Saturday but today will have to be an exception. I need to smash out a good three thousand words, get myself back on track, and see where I can go from there.

Let’s get habit building.



Written 05/11/2017 for 04/11/2017


If I can, I like to write every day, but a lot of the time, I have Saturdays off. Sunday is my BIG writing day – I try to do a full working day from 9 till 6 – so I can get away with having Saturday off.

However, I knew I was going to have to get at least something done yesterday for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it had been another bad day for writing on Friday, and I was in danger of falling even further behind in the NaNoWriMo stakes and, secondly, because I was going out last night, and I know I can never write when I’m hungover, so it was very unlikely I was going to be able to write for a whole hour, let alone a whole day.

So, I sat down yesterday morning, and I got to it. Finally fitting a good amount of words and, for the first time, going above the target for the total word count at the day, as you can see below.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 4: 6,666

Words written: 3,569

Total words: 7,767

Words over Target: 1,101

Average per day: 1,941

Remaining: 42,233

Today, Sunday, is going to be a difficult day because of the aforementioned hangover and the fact that I’m writing this entry at twenty past seven and I’ve yet to write any words on my novel, so, the target has to be to reach the par of the of the day at the very least and, if I can get to 10,000 words.

I’ll do that now.



Written 06/11/2017 for 05/11/2017

I predicted yesterday when writing about the day before yesterday but talking about yesterday that I wouldn’t do much writing on account of being hungover.

This was not unfounded, although I did far better than might reasonably have been expected given how I felt earlier in the day.

The principle of writing though is that you always write. EVery day, no matter what. Or you will fall out of the habit.

So I got on my computer and, in the hour and a half I had, I actually managed to bang out a respectable amount. Just less than the day before, in fact.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 5: 8,333

Words written: 3,336

Total words: 11,103

Words over Target: 2,770

Average per day: 2,220

Remaining: 38,897

So now we’re in a good place. I’ve built up over 2,000 words safety which means I can afford to drop a day further down the line, although I certainly don’t plan to do that. Today we are back to work, and tonight the aim is to reach at least 13,000.

Let’s see if I can get this week off to a better start than last.

Here comes National Novel Writing Month

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017

It’s that time again.

Tomorrow will officially mark the beginning of what many people are now calling “November”.

And, with the beginning of “November” comes more than just Christmas shopping, Christmas songs and lots of people crying about how cold it is.

November is also National Novel Writing Month.


For the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month is where loads of people write a novel in a month. Loads here being an official stat.

Myself, I always try to write my novel drafts in a month, but I’ve never gone in for NaNoWriMo before.

This isn’t because I feel utter contempt for other writers and loathe participating in anything that reminds me of their existence. Although there is that. It’s more because it’s never been convenient before. When November hits, I’m usually halfway through another project. That project being my first campaign in the new Football Manager Beta.

But this year is different.

The new Football Manager has changed enough to piss me off, and I finished my last writing project ten days ago. Now I’m looking for something to write while that first draft gestates (gestates?!)

NaNo has come along at the perfect time.   

As for the project itself, I don’t want to talk too much about it as it could be a long time before anything gets released.

Saying that, I do think it might be interesting to talk about my NaNo experiences themselves. That’s why I’m writing this. I’m going to take notes of my progress day to day and post them up here for all my readers to see.

I’m sure the three of you will be thrilled.

So, tomorrow is November, and my next first draft begins.

How exciting.

What a week (for writing)

Like the rest of you, I hate Monday mornings.

However, also like the rest of you, I knew that, as Monday rolled around (again) I had to drag myself out of bed and head to work because bills or something.

But that, I’m afraid, is where the similarities between you and me end. Because, while you sat at your desk and suffered in silence, not just on Monday, but all week, I had had enough.

“That’s it,” I said to my boss upon walking through the door. “I’ve had enough. I quit.”

And he said: “No.”

And I looked him in the eye, and I said: “you make some good points, Mr Boss, I retract my resignation. But I can’t hack it this week; I’m going home now.”

And he said: “also no.”

And I said: “Fuck’s sake, mate, can I at least have Tuesday through Friday off?”

And he said: “Okay, but only because you keep starting sentences with the word ‘and’ and it’s poor form, and I’m sick of it.

An- sorry, so I said: “Good enough for me.”

So I had a week off, and I told myself I was going to be productive.

I was going to cure world hunger, and if I couldn’t do that (which I couldn’t) I was going to write.

See I was 56,000 words into a projected 80,000 novel, and I thought, if I work hard, I can finish that book this week.

I did an’ all. But it’s better than even it sounds. Because that 80,000-word novel grew over the next few days and by the time I finished, yesterday evening, it had become 116,000 words.

I had just ploughed out 60,000 words in fours days. So I whipped my calculator out and worked out that’s 15,000 words a day.

Yes, a calculator, I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

It has been a whirlwind. Pretty much non-stop writing and I’m so excited to get to re-drafting it after “letting it lie” a while.

In the meantime, I’m going to be ploughing on with my Man vs Bookshelf challenge. (I’m meant to be writing my Lisey’s Story review for that right now, but it’s harddddd, so I’m doing this instead) and, come November, I”m going to writing a new first draft for National Novel Writing Month so I’ll be planning that over the next few days.

So thanks for reading this ego piece and look out for the product of this beautiful week (working title ‘The Thing About Luke’) next May. And, in the meantime, remember to get your copy of Poor Choices, my latest novel.

Honestly, you won’t regret it.

Unless you do.

Developing that initial idea (pt. 1 – Story)

Ideas come at writers in different forms. A new character will hit you harder than the boyfriend of that cute blonde you’re checking out. A storyline will come faster than you the last time a woman touched your special friend. A new world will spread around you like the blood of that hooker you murdered “by accident”.

I’ve had thousands of ideas over the years, each fitting into one of the above categories. So let’s look at them one by one, and how you can build your novel/ series/ erotic comic book around them.

First up…

Story Getting an idea for a story out of nowhere is a bit of gem. People will tell you character drives story and those people are right, but you still need a story. In much the same way people drive cars, but what use is that if you don’t have one? I find it’s often hard to know what characters you need without the story in mind.

Still, it can be difficult to progress. You might have an idea for one scene, and your job is to expand this in each direction. Did you think up an ending? Well, how the bloody hell did you get there? A beginning? Where do you go from here? Or somewhere in the middle… Christ, now you have to go backwards and forwards.

Initial story ideas take thought but don’t let them mess you around. Play with them in your mind, write a few things down if it helps, test the story idea. Where does it begin, where does it end? This doesn’t have to be in any great detail, but you need to know if this story idea has strength enough to carry over an entire novel or even a short story.

Test that bitch and, if it keeps growing, if it makes sense, act on it. Drop characters into it, decide they’re shit, throw them away, and start again. Build up your world around it. If the story works, this won’t be too difficult.

And, if it doesn’t stand the test? If it won’t grow? If you get frustrated trying to put characters that make any sense into it? If that world won’t thrive?

Throw that fucker away!

Stories are like attractive flirts in a bar. If they’re hot enough, you’ll be desperate for the relationship to go places. The trouble is, sometimes it won’t, and you can spend years chasing down something that is never going to work until you end up so frustrated you turn into a violent alcoholic. I know I’ve been there.

Don’t let this be you. Take the story, let it excite you. Try to flesh it out, but if it doesn’t work, don’t let it kill you because another idea will come and, sooner or later, it’ll be a winner.

Just gotta be patient.

Next up… Character