The season of the novel is almost upon us.

I have a nostalgic fondness for NaNoWriMo. I successfully completed it only once, in 2006, and I didn’t write a novel as such, just the 50,000 words required to ‘win’ at National Novel Writing Month. 50K is a realistic goal, and at that time being kicked up the arse by a deadline was what I needed. The end result has yet to see publication, and would need a lot of work before it did, but I don’t consider any of those words wasted.

All that, of course, was back before I became a professional writer. I now look back with whimsey on having a month when one’s hobby could become an obsession. If I’m not obsessing about my writing every month then I’m not doing my job.

I have toyed with using the boost NaNoWriMo gives since but the timing has never worked out. For the last two years I’ve had novel delivery deadlines at the end of November, which means frantic revision, not hacking out first draft. Three years ago, when I was writing Guardians of Paradise, the timing almost worked: I was about a quarter of the way into the novel, and adding 50K in one month would have been useful. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against me, not least with the sudden urge to write a short story, which became a longer story until I put it firmly to one side – only to have it resurface later as the backstory for Queen of Nowhere. Storytelling’s like that. It doesn’t respect your schedules.

This year I intend to, if not do, at least engage with, the month of the novel. However, producing your actual 50K isn’t going to happen. This is partly because November is full of Other Stuff, some tedious but revenue generating, and some (like Novacon) time-consuming but fun. I also don’t believe I need to write 50K to get to the end of the story I’m telling. Mind you, I’ve been wrong before on such matters.

What I will be doing is feeding off the psychic energy of NaNoWriMo participants using this month to chivvy myself along, with a view to averaging 1000 words a day – even though there will be days when I won’t get any writing done at all. And at the end of the month, I hope to have a complete first draft. So for me, tomorrow is the start of Finish My Novel Month.

If any of you are doing the full NaNoWriMo yourselves, then I wish you what everyone embarking on this challenge needs: freely flowing ideas, an understanding family and easy access to the junk foods of your choice.

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