It’s almost NaNoWriMo time! If you’ve never heard of it before, that’s National Novel Writing Month. The aim is to write 50,000 words during November, which will hopefully form the first draft of your novel.
I’ve gone down the rabbit hole which is the internet and emerged, bleary-eyed and cramped, with my top tips for NaNoWriMo. I hope you find them useful!
After so much reading about NaNoWriMo I almost feel inspired to have a go myself, but not quite inspired enough to actually have a go. After reading tales from the coalface – people who work 60-hour weeks and look after kids and pets and elderly relatives and pursue other hobbies and still find time to hit the 50,000-word target – I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a wuss. One thing I do have, however, is this:
I bought it on impulse earlier in the year and the pages are still virgin. If I can at least write in that every day during November, I’ll consider my writerly itch scratched.
On the shore of a different creative sea, I’ve started sketching out this year’s Christmas card. It involves a lot of snow, and I’ve run out of masking fluid, so I’m wondering whether I can get away with a blank piece of paper (it’s a very snowy scene).
I already wrote a summary of my experiences at the Cheltenham Literature Festival; now I’ve gone into a bit more detail over at the Help For Writers blog.
I didn’t mention my coughing fit in the middle of the Simon Armitage event. The woman next to me looked very disapproving indeed and offered me a cough sweet (I’d already had three, but perhaps they were too rustly for her comfort).
During the Alexander McCall Smith event I was sitting on the left hand side of a lady with her left arm in a sling. I spent the whole hour trying to sit as still as possible for fear of knocking it.
I found the audiences very genteel. Hardly anyone seemed to take photos or use their phone during the events – which was nice in a way, but made me feel very conspicuous. I always keep my phone on silent in events and turn the flash off, but I’m surprised there weren’t more people live-tweeting – at the beginning and end of events, at the very least. (I try to be polite and considerate and restrict my phone-fiddling to the first and last couple of minutes. I’m not a total philistine.) There was much less activity than I expected on the #CheltLitFest hashtag. Maybe I should be thankful for small mercies, but I don’t think it has to be an either-or between highbrow literature and social media – I enjoy both!
In Cheltenham itself I recommend the Queens Hotel, which is right next to the literature festival and has a great bar with very friendly staff and loads of different gins, as well as amazing wallpaper designed by Pugin in the stairwell. At the time of booking it was the same price as the usual ordinary chain hotels!
Last week I went to the local Society for Editors & Proofreaders meet-up. It’s only the second time I’ve attended; everyone seems very friendly and keen to talk shop. There was a debate about whether eggs Benedict need a capital ‘B’ and, if not, whether eggs New York should therefore take lower case. I was surprised that people talk so much about work at these meet-ups, but having just read the last sentence back to myself, perhaps I’m not all that surprised. Every now and then you need people to talk to about capitalisation and apostrophes!
At the weekend I went to the thirtieth meeting of the W. E. Johns Appreciation Society. For those of you who don’t know Captain W. E. Johns, he was the author of well over a hundred ‘Biggles’ books. Many people don’t know that he also wrote other series – not only the ‘Worrals’, ‘Gimlet’ and ‘Steeley’ books for young people, but a science fiction series, romance novels for adults, and nonfiction books on aviation and gardening.
I’m too young to be part of the ‘Biggles generation’ – the biggest W. E. Johns fans tend to be around the age of my parents or older – but my parents enjoyed the books and read them to me, and I became a fan in turn. I also find the geekiness of the true Biggles fans fascinating, and on Saturday, among other topics I enjoyed talks about Tierra del Fuego (the scene for Biggles at World’s End) and the role played by an obscure Leicestershire aerodrome – now disused – in the war effort (it was an important ferrying base).
I spent the last two weekends at the Cheltenham Literature Festival – it was the first time I’d attended the festival or indeed been to Cheltenham, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
I’ve written a blog post for Help For Writers, based on one of the events I attended, in which I’ve focused on ‘top tips’ for writing for children. I’m planning more blog posts over at Help For Writers about my experiences at the festival, so watch this space!
Cheltenham has lots of horse chestnut trees, and at this time of the year the pavements are thick with conker mulch. Conkers are a great metaphor for my book ideas – seductively beautiful and shiny straight out of the shell, but a few hours later they look dry and wrinkled… That, my friends, is why I’ve never written a novel.
One of my favourite events was ‘Come to the Cabaret’, featuring singer Mary Carewe and pianist Philip Mayer. As well as performing for us, Mary imparted plenty of information about the Berlin cabaret scene during the interwar period, and I left feeling as though I’d learned something. Not to mention the gorgeous food!
On the literary scene, my biggest fangirl moment was meeting Simon Armitage and getting a copy of his book, Walking Away, signed by him. I loved his dry sense of humour as he talked about his journey along the South West Coast Path.
Barrington Stoke’s event, ‘Removing the Barriers to Reading’, was an eye-opener, particularly if you have a child in your life who doesn’t enjoy reading or who isn’t particularly good at it – whether that’s because of dyslexia, other medical issues or simply that it’s not their thing.
I also had the pleasure of seeing and listening to Martha Lane Fox, John Torode (of Masterchef fame), and Alexander McCall Smith. I also thoroughly enjoyed readings by debut novelists Claire Fuller and Sarah Leipciger.
More posts about the festival to come; there’s just too much to write about all at once! You can also read something of a blow-by-blow account over at the Help For Writers Twitter feed.
On a personal note, my journey down for the second weekend of the festival was quite eventful. On the train my reserved seat was next to a man who had fallen asleep over his can of lager; it turned out he’d missed his stop (sorry I didn’t wake you up!), and on the way to the hotel I narrowly missed witnessing a nasty-looking moped accident (I hope it was ‘only’ a broken arm and nothing worse). My life is normally pretty mundane so this was all quite a drama!