The Phantom Pen

By October 7, 2016 Blog, The Phantom Pen

I’ve pledged to do it …

How many times have you read a novel, tossed it aside in disgust and muttered “I could do much better than that”? So why don’t you? Because it’s not as easy as it looks? Because you don’t have time? Because you don’t have a good plot line? Guilty on all three counts. But the other night, while waiting for the pie to cook, I came across an article, in a newsletter from The Write Life, “NaNoWriMo and beyond”. Following the link is probably the most exciting thing I’ve done in years….

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and I’ve now joined hundreds of thousands of others who have signed up to write a novel in November – 50,000 words in 30 days. The website welcomes the aspiring novelist to its super-helpful and inspiring community, where we all have one thing in common – to write a novel in a month. There are a few of us newbies in there swimming amongst an awesome collection of seasoned writers who do this every year. I’ve joined the London Region and diaried the events (launch parties, write-ins etc.) and over the next few days, I’ll be dropping by some of the forums (fora?) of which there are many. There’s one for every genre, every age group and every type of crisis that the budding novelist might encounter on the journey. It all sounds like a lot of fun and, who knows, there might even be a Daphne du Maurier lurking within my inner being, even if just in my dreams.

Thinking Out Loud

So now I need to start thinking, get into practice and make some decisions if I’m going to produce Harry Potter Meets the Girl on the Train to Hogwarts by the end of November. Although it’s not within the spirit of the project to start penning the novel before the starting pistol has fired, there is no restriction on the amount of planning and plotting that can be carried out in the run up to November 1st, so the kitchen table is now strewn with ideas, prompts and doodles, but plot, character and setting are all still conspicuous by their absence.

We Love Badges!

As I Brownie, I was fanatical about collecting badges so I’m delighted to see that I can collect NaNoWriMo badges on the journey. To earn most of the badges you do have to do something, like write 5,000 words, but there’s a nice selection of badges you can award yourself, before you start writing, to adorn your dashboard. For example, publishing this blog post (and sharing it via social media) will entitle me to a Tell the World badge; once I’ve got my writing soundtrack list on my iPod, I can wear the Novel Maestro badge (although that’s going to be a toughie). The next badge will be one of Pantser, Planner or Planster determined by the author’s anticipated degree of preparedness come the 1st November. A bit of research tells me that the jury is still out on this. Steven King recommends that the aspiring novelist should just start writing. Others, however, warn that this approach will invariably mean that great chunks of the manuscript are deleted at the finishing line, since they transpire to be irrelevant – or even worse, should be deleted but aren’t. I suspect I’m going to be a Plantser and combine good planning with spontaneity, but for now, I’ve settled for the Caffeine Abuse badge and fear I’ll be adding a few more of these before I type “The End”. I just hope my novel experience will not simply be one great plan that struggles to convert to reality.

The Public Spotlight

I find myself surprised that I love the idea that this is a public project. I’m hoping it’s going to be easier to meet the deadline if I’m being spurred on by the NaNoWriMo community and my chums. It’s also going to be more difficult to abandon halfway through – the shame of not finishing would just be too much.

So to help me meet my deadlines, I’m going to serialise my novel in weekly chunks. If you’d like to follow the novel’s progress and watch it emerge from its cocoon, sign up (via the widget on the sidebar) to receive my enews The Phantom Pen.

Yeah Write

Athletes train and musicians rehearse, what do writers do?   I’ve signed up to a fabulous site called Yeah Write, which issues weekly writing challenges. I can get a few of those under my belt before November and have a go at this weekend’s Super Challenge, where participants are given the brief on Friday and have to submit a story by Sunday.  More on the success, or otherwise, of that will follow after the weekend …