My book started two years ago with a couple of lines scribbled on the back of my lecture notes on Middle Kingdom Egypt. I’m always having story ideas, but for some reason this one stuck with me. I spent the rest of the day musing over what would happen in this tale. Who would be in it? Why would they be in it? What colour would their hair be? You know, the really important things.

By the time I was off the bus and through my front door that evening, I had a very rough outline of a story that could become a book. And by very rough, I really do mean VERY rough. It was more of: there’s a beginning and there’s an end.

I had started a few ‘novels’ before but had never finished them, so this time I decided to do some more research on how to actually write a book. This is how I found my way to a number of writers’ help sites, my personal favourite at the time being “Helping Writers Become Authors” (https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/). Weiland, and her other contributors, gave me a lot of tips on how to really build up my novel. It was actually through them that I heard about NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes up the month of November and is a challenge to any and all budding writers to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of the month. That equates to roughly 1,667 words per day. Yes, that is a lot. Like, really a lot. But, there is a wonderful community of writers, that are keen to talk about writing and reading, and offer support or motivation to anyone who wants it.

So, I signed up for this crazy challenge. I had no real plan for my book, but I figured I had a beginning, I knew where I wanted the story to go and I had so much motivation and excitement I surely could not fail.

Let’s just say, I didn’t get very far. I had hoped that my enthusiasm would be all I needed, that the story would just write itself if I just gave it the time. My total by the end of the month was 4371 words. And no, I haven’t missed the ‘0’ off the end of that number.

I learnt during that month a few very important things about myself. One, I am truly spectacular at procrastination. Two, I need a rigid timetable, and alarms to make me stick to it, or I will indulge in said procrastination. And three, I can’t pants.

‘Pants’ is when you don’t really plan your story, you just sort of figure out what’s going to happen next just before you get to it. For me, I fizzle out if I try doing that.

Realising this, I spent the next year carrying my notebook around with me practically everywhere and writing down every little thought that came to me about my story. By the time NaNo 2015 came around, I was well armed with character profiles, a fairly detailed outline, and a timetable that was planned right down to the five minutes.

And guess what? 

I made the 50,000!

I ended up with a good chunk of my novel done, and an even better idea of what was going to happen in the story. I had also discovered some really helpful things to allow me to write and to keep me going if I thought I was stuck.

But that is a story for another time x