Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Q: How long does it take to write a novel?

A: Moustache!

That’s right... It’s November.

OK... It’s actually only October 30th, but on Friday it will be November, and half the population of the planet will be trying to write a novel while the other half tries to grow a moustache. Naturally, there will be a subset of people who will attempt to do both of those things simultaneously this November... and not all of them will be men.

November's activities… Not for amateurs!
I’m not entirely convinced that attempting to do either one of those things is necessarily a good thing, and trying to do either one with any degree of success in thirty days is, frankly, asking for trouble. For those mad fools who think that they can do both... well, I can only marvel at their courage and wish them luck, because they’re going to need it.

As someone who writes full-time and calls it a job, I marvel at anyone who chooses to write part-time around a full-time job while they get their writing career up and running. It’s damned hard work, and utterly admirable. It’s for the young and enthusiastic, for those who have no responsibilities, a huge reserve of energy and a very thick skin.

Frankly, I’m not sure what to think about the thousands of people who take on NanoWrimo every year for fun!

Writing is many things, and one of those many things is its own reward... when it’s going well. Writing sucks in the writer and spits out his half-digested remains. Writing is an all-consuming way of life. Writing is more than a pass-time, more than a hobby, more than the sum of its parts. Writing is a compulsion, a driving force, a necessity. 

Writing is power.

NanoWrimo is much talked about and praised and enjoyed and endured by thousands of people, some of whom are writers, some of whom take it hugely seriously and many of whom spend every waking hour that isn’t devoted to their day job tapping away at a keyboard. They spend their leisure time and time that they could be spending with their partners and families holed up in the dingy corners of lonely rooms, trying to fulfill their dreams.

It is anathema to me. 

I am disciplined. I have to be. I am commissioned to work on certain projects that I schedule throughout the year, and I deliver them to deadlines. It is my job. I do not understand how it is possible, though, for a person to write fifty thousand words in thirty days when it is not his job. It would be like me trying to run a marathon one Sunday morning without training for several months first. I couldn’t do it, and if I did somehow manage to do it, the results wouldn’t be very pretty.

The husband and I have given up a great deal over the years in order to do what we love to do, but there was always a light shining in the distance. There was always a reason to do it, a career to be had, a living to earn.

NanoWrimo doesn’t seem to me to offer a beacon. It doesn’t seem to me to offer hope. The winners are simply those who manage to write their fifty thousand words. I wonder if it’s enough. For some of you it might well be, and good luck to you. Creativity is a wonderful thing and I wouldn’t deny anyone the pleasure or the power of writing.

However, if you’re going to write, may I suggest that you have the courage of your convictions? If you’re going to write, may I suggest that you submit your work for competitions and to agents and publishers? 

Put yourself out there!

Right now, Angry Robot Books has an open submissions window for all things SF, F and WTF (Yes, you did read that right!). Take a look over here at the guidelines.

Also right now, Mslexia is accepting submissions for new poetry under the heading Troubled Minds. Look out for a new short story competition from the magazine in the Dec/Jan/Feb issue, and for the regular novel writing competition.

Hell... There must be dozens of competitions out there for writers, and lots of them must be worth taking a look at. While you’re at it, pick up a current copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to check out agents that might take an interest in your work, and read Carole Blake’s From Pitch to Publication.

There might just be a more productive way for you to spend November than growing that moustache or even than banging out 50 thousand words of fiction...

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