Monthly Archives: October 2013

Writing in the Sand about Getting Ready for National Novel Writing Month …


So, what is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo and what’s it all about? Well, basically it’s a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel, or 50,000 words of a novel, in just 30 days.

The rules? There aren’t many. You can’t start writing before November 1st, although, of course, you can plan out what you want to write, if you choose to. You can write your novel in whatever genre/point of view/language you want. You can show your work to people, or you can keep it to yourself, although NaNo’s code of conduct requests no sharing of anything explicit – no frightening the horses! It doesn’t have to be polished – it doesn’t even have to be good. It just has to be 50,000 words or over, by midnight, November 30th. Everyone who completes and has their word count verified by then is a winner.

And the prize? Well, out of the 50,100 words I finished with last year, I ended up with a decent 40,000. That’s half a novel to me. How long would it normally have taken me to write that much? A lot more than 30 days, I can tell you!

IMG_1132-Edit-Edit copyAprilwithlaptopblogpicfinalThe brainchild of a clever chap called Chris Baty, NaNo began in 1999, in San Francisco, with just 21 people taking part. By 2012, there were over 341,000 participants. Goodness only knows how many there’ll be, this year.

Last year I asked myself if I could do it. My debut manuscript was doing the rounds of agents and I was happily nipping back and forth between several works in progress, but, without the discipline of a deadline, not finishing any of them. Maybe having to concentrate on one novel and one novel only for a month would be a good thing. And so last year was my very first NaNo.

Having been an expat for over half my life, early November has always been the starting point for getting the Christmas cards written and ready to be posted off around the world. I’d sit with a pile of cards and a look of concentration on my face, as I tried to keep my spidery handwriting as legible as possible. But with an average of 1,667 words per day to write, (which doesn’t sound too much, when you think how many published authors aim for a 2,000 daily word count), that went right out the window. The cards got posted in December and arrived too late! So this year I’ve decided to be prepared and write my Christmas cards in October. I won’t send them just yet, but at least they’ll be ready. Thinking about that made me wonder what preparations others made for NaNo.

Sally Quilford, has been doing NaNo a lot longer. Author Sally, who until recently wrote a monthly column in Writers’ Forum magazine, as well as an ever-growing number of novels, pocket novels and short stories for both anthologies and magazines, decribes NaNo as the month she can stop trying to be a serious writer and have fun with some real “seat of your pants” writing.

A very busy lady, Sally’s preparation for NaNo is about getting into the right state of mind – knowing that whatever you write in the “Mad month of November” is not likely to be publishable, BUT that doesn’t mean it can’t become publishable. And Sally should know, as Midnight Train, one of her My Weekly Pocket Novels, which is now due to be published by large print publisher Ulverscroft,  began life as a NaNo. As did two other novels – Mary Daniels’ End Game, and her sci-fi romance, The Thirteenth Passenger, both of which she self published on Amazon Kindle.

Morgen Bailey, my blog fairy godmother and another very busy lady, is doing NaNo for the 6th time this year.  Some years she’s planned ahead, some years she hasn’t. But like a lot of NaNowers has found that what you plan to write, often takes off on its own tangents and you end up writing something quite different anyway.

So this year (apart from the Christmas cards!) I’m going to take some tips from Sally and Morgen – I’m going to turn off my inner editor, that nagging voice that whispers things like “Too many adjectives!” or “You’re repeating yourself!” and I’m going to have fun with it and just get those words out there.

Check in to next week’s blog to see how we’ve done in the opening days and find out about Plot Ninjas and how they like to leap out at us! For now, I must get back to those cards …


NaNo image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.


April Hardy, writing in the sand about …

The Exeter Novel Prize.

Back in May, I was in London for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s summer party. Checking in to the New Cavendish Club is, for me, part and parcel of the whole event. I love bumping into other RNA members before the party and checking out each others’ shoes!

This year, I found myself gate-crashing the Devon chapter’s afternoon tea – not on purpose – honest! There I met Margaret James, Sophie Duffy and Cathie Hartigan of Exeter Writers and co-founders of CreativeWritingMatters.

We got chatting about the New Writers’ Scheme, of which I’m a member, and writing competitions. That was how I got to hear about the Exeter Novel Prize.

photo (3)

L-R April Hardy, Sarah Tranter, Sarah Newson, Anne Bennett, Sophie King, Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James, Sophie Duffy, Linda Mitchelmore, a lady I can’t recognise, Mandy James. Seated Gilli Allan

Most writing competitions have restrictions. Many are only open to either published or unpublished writers. Then there is the writer’s age, sex and, of course the genre. But Margaret, Sophie and Cathie wanted to create a competition which would be an opportunity for as many novelists as possible.
So, with the exception of children’s books, the ENP is open to all genres.
Entries of up to 10,000 words, including a synopsis of not more than 500 words can be emailed from anywhere – very handy if you live halfway round the world! Details of how to enter can be found at

But you’ll need to get a move on …
The competition, which will be judged by Broo Doherty of Wade and Doherty Literary Agency, Wapping, closes midnight, 31st October.
Good luck!

Oh, and if you know who the lady I couldn’t recognise in the photo is, please let me know, so I can add her name!

And with November being National Novel Writing Month, the next post or two will feature the trials and tribulations of Challenge NaNoWriMo. Write a novel in 30 days? Why not – there’s nothing in the rules about it being perfect!