Nanowrimo – Report Card #1

1st Nov 2010

Nanowrimo – Report Card #1

It’s that time of year again… November. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 1 month, 50 000 words. Time to get out the pen / typewriter / laptop / quill (surely someone must?) and write that masterpiece!

The lovely Jo (of Jo and The Novelist) has not only signed herself up for Nanowrimo, but has agreed to submit a weekly report card during November – it’s just like being at school but with less lumpy custard and more gold stars.

She’ll be letting us know how she’s getting on, how ideas are progressing (or not) and whether Space Pirates makes it on to the page. Ready, steady, GO!

Week One

The first rule of Nanowrimo is, you do not write any of your novel before the 1st of November. The second rule of Nanowrimo is, you can plan your novel in advance. I have been struggling with both of these rules. But I’m not supposed to talk about it. No, wait… That’s another club I’m in.

How do you plan for Nanowrimo?  Don’t ask me – I’m literally all out of ideas.

A lot of writers like to plan their novels in advance, and that’s pretty much encouraged in Nanowrimo to make the actual writing process a whole lot easier. But I am not one of those people. For one thing, as an aspiring writer I am inherently disorganised. Planning correlates almost directly to being organised.

That’s why in this, my first report card, I can confirm that I have officially not, in any way shape or form, planned my Nanowrimo novel. At the time of drafting this report (Thursday) I still had no idea for the project.

At the time of typing this up (Sunday) I am still without an idea for the project. I have, however, gained the third massive hangover of the week. I think a ‘Congratulations’ is in order.

The truth is, my inability to plan a novel is not entirely down to me being disorganised. We all write differently; some writers are planners. Some writers do lots of research, some make many notes on their main characters, some visit places they’re going to write about.

Some writers know their story so well that they know almost exactly what to expect in their novel; they know the opening chapter, the closing chapter, all climactic events – when they are going to occur, the subplots, and the name of the protagonist’s second cousin.

Some writers could be planning their Nano project months in advance. Others prefer to merely put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and simply start writing. As you may have guessed, I fall in the latter group. I like to get straight in there and start writing and see what comes out.

If me and an idea hit it off, then I’ll stick with it and keep writing. If we don’t, then I guess I’ll ditch it and go in search of something new. What can I say? I’m kind of an ideas slut.

Speaking of ideas, I’ve struggled to be inspired by anything at all recently, and maybe that’s because I’m holding back from writing anything in case I like it and want to use it but can’t because that’s cheating.

Earlier this week, I took myself to a coffee shop to see if I could work out some kind of compromise with my supposedly creative mind; write a bit, plan a bit, try to get some idea for what I’ll be working with for the next month.

I am not going to lie to you, it was hard. I got upset, there were some tears, we both said some things we regret. Eventually, all I came up with was three half-baked ideas – none of which I’m feeling particularly enthusiastic about. And that doesn’t include my idea for a story about Space Pirates, which is really more of a concept than an actual idea (I’m thinking Star Wars meets Monkey Island).But I might save that one for a screenplay. Hollywood are going to love me. Lucasarts? Maybe not so much.

Later in the week my brother told me that he’d had an amazing dream, which was so intense, he thought it was worth writing about, and may even participate in Nanowrimo himself. “And then immediately after having that thought, I totally forgot what it was,” he said. “I guess I could always fall back on a dream I do remember, in which Terry Wogan was interviewing me alongside All Saints on the radio, and everyone laughed at my jokes… Then again, maybe not.”

It was at this point that I asked him, if he wasn’t going to use the idea, if he would mind if I did. And that’s all I’ve got, people; two and a half boring ideas I don’t like, a concept for a screenplay about Space Pirates, and a novel which involves being interviewed by Terry Wogan – which wasn’t even my idea.

It’s perhaps a good thing that I am not organised, otherwise the literary world would probably be in a lot of trouble.

How do you write? Do you plan every plot detail and character trait? What’s the name of your protagonist’s second cousin? Or like me, do you prefer to jump in at the deep end and just start writing and see where the words take you?

Guest Post: Jo (Jo and The Novelist)


  • Conor Neill says:

    I think there is how we think great writers write, and actually how great writers write… Carmine Gallo, author of “The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs” says that structure comes later… he doesn’t start with the chapter list all clear in his head… it comes later. I like to think I am not a poor, disorganised writer; but an honest writer. In any case, Steven King says “it is all about word production”. Produce words = you are a writer. Produce many words = better. It is the edit that cuts out the bad words.

  • Siany says:

    Heck, if the book reads half as well as the style of this post, you’re halfway there. Loved reading this.

  • Alex Herod says:

    Seconded! Love this post Jo. I still may attempt a mini nano (nano-nano as we discussed – still in need of a suitable hand gesture to accompany the phrase). Can’t wait to hear how it progesses… and please do write Space Pirates. Whenever. Hollywood WOULD love you 🙂

  • Jo and the Novelist says:

    Hey, thanks all! Sorry for the delayed response, have been having copious internet troubles all day.

    Weirdly, I have no idea what a Space Pirate actually is. For whatever reason, I feel like the words ‘Space’ and ‘Pirate’ should be together. It kind of works…

  • Steven Chapman says:

    Space Pirates sounds like a winner, but only if you can work in the line “A rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle…what possible use could that have?” without LucasArts suing your ass.

    I haven’t planned for this years nano at all but good stuff seems to be dribbling out of my pen onto paper (when I say pen I mean keyboard, and when I say paper I mean screen…and when I say dribbling I mean OOOOOOZINGGGG!!).

  • Think I’m going to brave NanoWrimo this year! It might just give me the kick I need to get into my novel.