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Creative Writing, humour

Write on


On Saturday I signed up for NaNoWriMo. On Sunday I wished I hadn’t. I haven’t written a full length romantic novel for nearly 20 years, and I’ve begun to think that I should try to write another one, simply to see if I can still do it.

I always tell my students to plan; to think about their characters, to have some idea of what is going to happen. Did I do this? No. I did not. I just woke up with a vague idea of my hero and heroine meeting in a car park (yes, really) and charged straight into it. First page, great; second page, okay; third page, blank.

I hadn’t realised, at first, that when you take part in the National Novel Writing Month, you:

  • actually sign up to a website;
  • enter your target length;
  • are given daily target of words to complete.

And get this; there’s a little window where, every day, you log in how many words you’ve done.


So there I was on the morning of November 1, thinking that I was just going to coast along in a dreamy sort of way, writing an unspecified amount every day (so, nothing, then, ed) until I contacted Tara Sparling and she put me right on the details. (Now there’s a girl who is on fire –well, not literally, you understand, because that would be somewhat inconvenient, but she has a great idea and she is, as they say in Ireland, away on a hack with it).

A few hours later (she must have hypnotised me, guv) I found the website, signed in, put in 50,000 words as my target and the NaNoWriMo computer helpfully told me that my average of words per day should be 1,167. On Saturday I wrote 867 words. Yesterday I deleted quite a lot of those, and wrote 871 more. At this rate, the computer has informed me, I will complete my magnum opus on January 26 (what year, ed?).

Trouble is I have no idea what my characters are going to do next. They’re just sitting there, like dummies in a car, and there’s no oomph. I’d like to shoot both of them, but I’m not writing a murder mystery. It’s all very well having a target average and a deadline, but since my characters are so wooden that they’re giving my brain splinters, it might be time to rethink my strategy.

It’s odd to think of writing in such a clinical way, but when I used to write full time I sat down every morning and aimed to write 2,000 words, even if half of it was rubbish and I had to scrub it. Overall I still achieved something, to the point where I ended up with a complete book. And then I had children, and stuff happened, and writing romantic novels rather fell by the wayside.

I’ve signed up with NaNoWriMo because I need to get that discipline back. I’m determined to get to the end of another book by November 30. So, I’m going to be ruthless. I’m leaving my frustrating pair of no-hopers outside a Hollywood motel, with their fuzzy backgrounds and unplanned future and I’m going straight to Plan B. I’m going to resurrect my plans for a book I began to draft this summer, which lapsed because summer and a lack of self confidence got in the way.

I really think I might make it to the end of this one. I have a cunning plan, you know.

Pictures via Creative Commons, via:



About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


40 thoughts on “Write on

  1. I did NaNoWriMo for several years with the best of intentions and fell flat onto my keyboard. I’ve been an aspiring novelist since my teenage years and figured NaNoWriMo would motivate me to finally achieve a first draft. I’ve never completed the first chapter and for the past few years I ignored the event altogether.

    Enjoy the journey! I found I’m a better reader who aspires to write than the other way around.

    Posted by Mistine | November 8, 2014, 1:13 am
  2. You can always start with the old “They bumped their cars into each other and the rest is history, once they got past learning that their father’s had been to the same school, chased after the same girl and now hated each other. etc etc etc. Blimy. How many words is that eh eh . Oh you’ve stopped reading already

    Posted by Peter Wells aka Countingducks | November 6, 2014, 6:08 pm
    • Yes but that scenario is the one that always leads to them discovering that they are long lost brother and sister, which is a bit dodgy in a romantic novel, esp if they find out after chapter 6

      Posted by elainecanham | November 6, 2014, 6:48 pm
  3. Finally I got round to it. http://barsetshirediaries.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/very-inspiring-blogger-award/
    Thank you again. xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Posted by davidprosser | November 5, 2014, 5:29 pm
  4. Yes, they definitely advise not to edit. The idea is that you produce a draft not a perfect novel by the end of it but every writer will do it his or her own way. It’s my first year too and there are a variety of things like local groups that meet to write together, etc…It might not be everywhere, but yes, you can sign from anywhere…
    I’m OlgaNM7 if you want to buddy up, Elaine or anybody else…:)

    Posted by olganm | November 4, 2014, 8:13 pm
  5. Shoot them, both of them, and turn it into a horror novel/murder mystery. Spend the rest of your novel working backwards to figure out why it is that they were killed.
    I want royalties.

    Posted by naptimethoughts | November 4, 2014, 3:15 pm
  6. Come on Elaine — you can do it! I’m off to a very slow start (but i’m a horribly slow novel writer), but we’ll both get there. Just Wrimo-mo-mo!

    Posted by teagan geneviene | November 4, 2014, 11:50 am
    • Got to 4,000 and something today (1,000 behind the target) and I’ve scribbled some stuff to write about tomorrow. In case my mind goes blank. Do you want to buddy up? Email me if you like and we can swap details.

      Posted by elainecanham | November 4, 2014, 1:03 pm
  7. You go girl! Plan B is very very often better than Plan A. So go and rip the bejesus out of that other book this month.

    However, just to set you straight, 2 things you must bear in mind…
    1) absolutely no editing is allowed this month, let alone deletion, ya bold thing! Once it’s in there it stays in there til December 1st.
    2) NaNoWriMo is the bestest cure for confidence issues. You just don’t have the time. Now get thee and kill it 🙂

    Posted by Tara Sparling | November 3, 2014, 7:06 pm
    • Is that your rule about the no editing, or theirs? Because the editing thing, is really how I write.

      Posted by elainecanham | November 3, 2014, 8:18 pm
    • It’s a guideline from them, but I must say I think it’s brilliant. If I’m allowed to edit, I never ever get to the end of a story, even if had a rough outline. It’s brutal, but that’s the whole point, because people like me never finish otherwise.

      Posted by Tara Sparling | November 3, 2014, 9:15 pm
    • I always start by reading what I’ve written and then I just go on from there. It’s not what you’re supposed to do, but it’s how I am most comfortable. The more I read and alter what I’ve written the better I get to know my characters, and the more easy it is to think, ooh, they could do that..

      Posted by elainecanham | November 3, 2014, 9:25 pm
    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that approach. It’s just going back to change something major or delete a large portion that trips me up . During November, if a major plot hole or glaring idiot factor rears its ugly head, I’m going to have to ignore it and plough on, even if it’s in a different furrow.

      Posted by Tara Sparling | November 3, 2014, 9:30 pm
    • I see what you mean…ok, if I realise I’ve done something terrible I won’t spend ages trying to fix it. But the plots for romances are reasonably straightforward, so it’s not too taxing. You’ve got a cast of thousands and a much bigger hill to climb.

      Posted by elainecanham | November 3, 2014, 9:34 pm
    • I do??? NOOOOooooooooooooooooooo!

      *Starts 27-day long panic

      Posted by Tara Sparling | November 3, 2014, 9:39 pm
    • You could always kill a few off. Hide them in the pantry or something.

      Posted by elainecanham | November 3, 2014, 10:22 pm
    • Oh, all right then.
      Hang on. I was supposed to write in a PANTRY?

      Posted by Tara Sparling | November 3, 2014, 10:42 pm
    • Thank God for that :0

      Posted by Tara Sparling | November 3, 2014, 11:13 pm
  8. I signed up but have not written ONE word! I blame it on starting on a weekend, when I have stuff to do around the house. Now to write a zillion words today to make up for it!!!

    Posted by sueannporter1 | November 3, 2014, 6:07 pm
  9. I hope your cunning plan works!

    Posted by davidprosser | November 3, 2014, 3:22 pm
  10. I thought that the national bit of nanowrimo meant it was for americans! I shall start typing out the phone book. I can add a plot later.

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | November 3, 2014, 1:32 pm
    • I always thought it was exclusively American too. but it seems to have spread a bit, such is the power of the internet. It asks you what time zone you’re in, and smoke didn’t come out of the back of the computer when I ticked GMT 0. (Now there’s a title for a thriller…)

      Posted by elainecanham | November 3, 2014, 1:35 pm
    • “Smoke didn’t come out of the back of the computer when I ticked GMT 0” is too long a title for the cover. You’d have to put ELAINE CANHAM in small letters.

      Posted by Bruce Goodman | November 3, 2014, 6:41 pm
    • Ha ha! You know what I mean, Mr Pedant. It would be GMT ZERO in big red letters, and a bullet hole underneath, with maybe a droplet of blood. And my name in bloody enormous letters. Or possible the title in black on a hazy picture of somebody who looks like Daniel Craig with a smoking gun. And my name in bloody enormous letters.
      And, it would imperative to ensure that the typesetter didn’t have an off day and make it G&T ZERO instead.

      Posted by elainecanham | November 3, 2014, 6:46 pm
  11. Make one of the romantic characters an android but unbeknownst yet to the other. Wow! That’s a first for me, using the word “unbeknownst”. And the spell-check didn’t even indicate I spelled it wrong.

    Posted by lbwoodgate | November 3, 2014, 1:16 pm
    • Maybe that’s because its the correct spelling 🙂 Tell you what, you sign up for NaNoWriMo and do the romantic android thing!
      ‘Do you think I’m a machine?’ she whispered
      ‘No, but I am,’ he replied, loosening his bolts…

      Posted by elainecanham | November 3, 2014, 1:26 pm
    • “Tell you what, you sign up for NaNoWriMo and do the romantic android thing!”

      No, no. I want to play the part of muse. Be sure to give me proper credit in your Forward. 🙂

      Posted by lbwoodgate | November 3, 2014, 1:37 pm
    • You’re on.

      Posted by elainecanham | November 3, 2014, 1:40 pm

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