Monday, 1 November 2010

On Not Writing

The Wonderspouse is a writer. Although he doesn’t (yet) make enough money from writing to keep me in the style to which I’m sure I could become accustomed, and therefore also has a day job, he does call himself a writer.

As a result of his writing activities, I often find myself surrounded by writers, both in the flesh and on the internet. I am quite often asked what sort of thing I write, and I explain that I’m not a writer, I’m a musician and maths student, and, like the Wonderspouse, I make ends meet with a succession of random day jobs.

The Wonderspouse then points out that I’m the one with a commercially published book, that I’ve also been known to produce a pome from time to time, that I write daily on my blipfoto journal and that I have a blog (er, this one!). However, as I point out, I haven’t actually MADE UP any writing since I did my O-levels at the age of 15!

Even then, I was not expected to succeed with words. My mother promised me a reward for my O-levels if I got 6 A grades out of the 8 subjects I was taking – it was taken as read that I wouldn’t get top grades for either English Language or English Literature. I’m still convinced that the fact I did actually get A grades for those subjects was the result of a mix-up at the exam board!

Then I went into science and, ultimately, music. Of course, I did a lot of writing as part of my degree, but all of it factual, with zillions of references, and in the particular style that academic writing demands. I wrote essays about Mendelssohn, Scriabin and so on, and edited a 60,000 word monograph by Hans Keller for my special project, but I didn’t actually create anything new.

I’m not even a particularly well-read sort of person where literature is concerned. I read a lot of books and I frequently have around ten different ones on the go at the same time, but many of them are factual books – I love reading about history, science, warfare and so on. I also read a lot of biographies, and when I do stray into fiction it’s usually the sort of “throwaway” detective novel that most people would buy at an airport and leave in the hotel room at the end of the holiday.

In short, I am not a writer, I have almost no background in literature, and I haven’t made up a story for very very many years. So, you ask, what’s this blog post actually about then?

It’s about a thing called NaNoWriMo, which I saw on twitter hashtags quite a lot around this time last year and which has started appearing again. At first I assumed it was about something rather small, and for a long time I thought the “No” bit was short for November. It always seemed to be something that writers were interested in, and, since I’m not a writer, I always ignored it.

This year things have changed. I finally asked the Wonderspouse what on earth the whole business was about and he explained patiently to me what it was. It actually stands for National Novel Writing Month and the idea is that those taking part, er, write a novel in a month! Kind of obvious when you think about it!

Coincidentally, the start of this year’s NaNoWriMo coincides with the start of my own new beginning. I left my last random day job a few months ago and am currently “between jobs” while completing my recovery from my last major episode of depression. I’m not quite up to going back to work yet, but I’m no longer so ill that all I can do is lie on the sofa and sleep.

So it’s time I started doing some more constructive things again. Obviously, I am returning to daily viola practice as well as playing the piano and flumpophone on a regular basis. I’ve also registered for next year’s Open University maths courses and today I shall do my first serious session of study since I got ill. There are also jobs to be done round the house and I’m also going back to serious exercise and trying to eat less food too. If I can’t manage these things at home, there’s no way I’ll have the stamina to survive a day in the workplace when I find a new job.

But on top of returning to the old things, it’s rather nice to have something shiny and new. So I’m going to give this NaNoWriMo a go! I believe the goal is to produce a 50,000 word novel by the end of November – the concept of having to write MORE words feels rather alien to me since all the writing I’ve done in my adult life has been about saying what I want to say in FEWER words. Of course, we all know that to produce a 50,000 word book we should write three times that many and then keep every third word (or something like that)! If we took that instruction literally some very strange books could be created – unless the first draft was EXTREMELY clever!

Anyway, it’s time to start. I can’t imagine what I write will be any good whatsoever, but it gives me a challenge and maybe it’ll be a bit of fun along the way. All my ideas so far are extremely mundane or extremely crazy. I suspect the end result will be rather bizarre! However, the Wonderspouse tells me it doesn’t matter since it’s fiction it doesn’t have to be true and I don’t have to reference everything I write! Furthermore, since I’m not actually a writer, and am not really “writing”, just giving a new project a go, there shouldn’t be any pressure!

If you’re also attempting to write a novel this month, then do feel free to “buddy” me on the NaNoWriMo site – since I don’t have enough imagination to think of another username, I’m known as ViolaMaths on there too!

Off we go!


  1. Good luck! I don't know if I would dare do this if I lived with another writer. I am far too competitive! But I am giving it a go and I dont feel competitive with all the other writers also doing it. I respect them all and appreciate them going through it too.

    I am trying to ignore the 50,000 words at the moment and concentrate on getting into the swing of the writing.

  2. Wow, how exciting! Hope you enjoy it, bet it will be a fantastic experience. Good luck! :)

  3. Good luck ! You're a great girl....and you explained the mystery #hashtag ! Today I learnt abt Movember...but got no takers for my "Lovember" idea.
    BTW my son [a schizophrenic]is a published poet.

  4. How did it go?? I signed up and managed 20K words before collapsing in a small puddle. Janex

  5. Aw, thank you so much for the comments!

    I didn't manage to finish 50,000 words, but did write 8,000 that I'd never have written if I hadn't given it a go.

    The writing is still ongoing though, even though the month is finished - I shall complete the novel, which is entitled "The Bedmakers" and assigned the genre "Fantasy", but it may take a little while!