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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 30
Words Written: 50,132
Words Remaining:

I dunnit.Oh yes indeed. As losers such as myself are fond of saying, "I'm a winner". After a day of intensive beavering, my novel's been officially validated, and what's more I've got the certificate to prove it, which I've downloaded, printed out, and will be handing out at Christmas, along with a copy of my novel, to numerous people who don't want it but will be forced to accept it (and that means you, Melee). Hurrah!

The 50,000 word target may have been reached (god only knows how), but the novel's not actually finished, so it'll be another week before I'm able to accept the inevitable bids from publishers, but if you're so inclined you can read the first ten chapters here. That's if I've posted them all by the time you read this. Which I won't have done. So don't bother frankly.

Anyhoo I'm limiting it to ten chapters for reasons of self-control, which is a shame really, because I feel the novel doesn't reach its high point until chapter 13 when Mirkin says:

"It’s high time to rattle and roll,
The scenario’s out of control,
It's just not my day,
I’m running away,
From six postmen, a slut, and a troll."

And the clairvoyant bear doesn't put in an appearance until chapter 15. So I may be forced to reconsider. But for now I'm sticking with ten.

Anyhoo, yesterday's parcel did indeed turn out to be my Christmas present, and what's more I was allowed (forced?) to open it there and then. It turned out to be a new digital camera, which is exciting in the extreme, not least because it suggests Lisa must have come into some money without telling me. But it's lovely, and I'm very grateful. Even if Lisa won't let me post a photo of her here.

Christmas over, we went to the Beautiful South concert in the evening, which was very good. That's if you're the sort of person who enjoys being sat next to the only nutter in the building for two hours. And I don't mean Lisa.

My suspicions were first aroused when the woman seated to my left, who appeared to be on her own (I wonder why?), started doing some intricate hand movements to the support act, 'A Girl Called Eddy', who played nothing but bluesy down-tempo folk music to which it was impossible to dance. Lisa and I decided she must be a personal friend of Eddy, thus explaining her enthusiasm for the music, and chose not to let it bother us.

At least not until the support act was over, when Ms Nutter decided to engage me in conversation. It was a little difficult to follow the precise thread of the woman's statement, since every other word began with 'f' and ended with 'king', but she helpfully added some two-fingered gestures at the point where she lamented the lack of respect given to Beautiful South fans, so those combined with the frequent expletives gave me the gist of her opinion on those who criticise her. She also informed me that her 17 year old daughter was sitting four rows behind us, and that she thought the support band were 'f'ing brilliant. We discussed at length the article in that evening's Brighton Argus, then, as the lights went down, my new friend warned me that she'd come here to enjoy herself and might therefore get a bit excited.

Thank god for the warning. As the Beautiful South struck up their first chord, my seated neighbour began a dance routine which consisted of bouncing up and down in her seat, waving her arms around, pointing a lot, and turning around to gesticulate at her daughter (who was presumeably hiding her face and claiming not to know the woman four rows in front).

Interestingly, this lady had a large bruise on the side of her face, which I had thought was a sign of domestic violence, but soon realised must have been self-inflicted at a previous concert. Personally I was leaning as far into Lisa as possible to avoid serious injury myself, as the flailing arms threatened to either blind me or leave me with major internal injuries. Lisa wasn't helping much by dissolving into fits of laughter every two minutes. Personally I was too scared to laugh.

After an hour of being the only person in the whole seated area doing anything more than toe-tapping, Ms Nutter heard the opening bars of 'Perfect 10', whereupon she turned to me, said "Oh f**k it, I've had enough of this f***ing b*ll*cks" and got to her feet, where she attempted a recreation of Ricky Gervais' classic dance from The Office.

I began to fear for my life, but fortunately a member of security arrived at this point and led her away by the arm. We didn't see her again after that, but I'm sure her daughter was thrilled. There's nothing better when you're 17 than seeing your mother dragged off by security at a pop concert.

Monday, November 29, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 29
Words Written: 42,445
Words Remaining:

It's the penultimate day of NaNoWriMo (which is why I'm so obviously close to finishing my novel - 7,555 words in 24 hours - piece o' cake), but far more important than that, it's also mine and Lisa's 6 month anniversary. Half a year. Which means I've now spent approximately 1.6% of my life with Lisa. She's spent slightly less than that with me, but that's because she was born in a different decade.

I believe the 1/2 year anniversary is polystyrene, which would explain the parcel which arrived this afternoon, and which I've been banned from touching before Lisa returns from work. So naturally I've given it a good shake and held it up to the light, and I feel confident it's my Christmas present. So I'll be insisting on having that later, on the grounds that it's almost December.

This evening The Beautiful South are playing at the Brighton Centre in honour of our anniversary (presumeably), so we'll be going along to that. I hear that Fatboy Slim's going too, so I plan to corner him and Zoe in the interval and ask them the secret of their happy relationship. I might take my laptop too and write a chapter of my novel during the songs I don't know.

It's been a fab six months anyway. I think I struck lucky for the first time in my life.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 28
Words Written: 41,168
Words Remaining:

Obviously when it comes to 30-day novelling, the time to take a weekend off is two days before the end, when you've still got 9,000 words to write. But I still feel strangely confident. Possibly because if I look like falling short of the target come Tuesday night, I plan to cheat and include all the words I've written on my blog this month to push me over the 50,000 word finish line.

But anyhoo, I put the novel aside yesterday to make my way down to Brighton Marina, where Lisa and I successfully met the friend from London who had failed to make it past the wreckage of stricken lorries on the M25 two weeks ago. It was worth the wait, as we had a nice lunch, during which the friend and I decided that Lisa and I should take up ballroom dancing in the new year. I quite like the look of the Jive on Strictly Come Dancing. I've been inspired by Aled Jones. And according to this friend (who travels the world dancing with dodgy men), it's a good way to lose weight.

So with that in mind, I ordered the toffee cheesecake and then went back to Lisa's flat for chocolate eclairs.

Today I've been reunited with my two playmates from Friday, who sadly failed to assist me with a chapter of my novel. I did however manage to play a game in which Tweety Pie joined forces with Clifford the Big Red Dog to form an axis of evil which succeeded in defeating the mother from The Incredibles (who came free with a Happy Meal). We then watched Fungus the Bogeyman whilst stuffing ourselves with fruit pastilles. It beats being a writer any day.

Friday, November 26, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 26
Words Written: 40,929
Words Remaining:

In a shock of gargantuan proportions, I've actually managed to do a bit of writing today, whilst simultaneously providing quality daycare for Lisa's two nephews, one of whom spent the afternoon attempting to distract me by eating Lisa's make-up, so that I'd leave my laptop unattended, enabling him to rush over to the sofa and attempt the mass deletion of my novel. He's clearly a budding literary critic. I got my own back however, by writing him into chapter eighteen as a variety act called 'The Human Dustbin'.

A couple of hours later and big brother returned from school, allowing me to pass a few relaxing hours chasing him with a cuddly hamster and attempting to do colouring-in with nothing but a biro, before the brothers realised they could join forces and both ride me around the living room.

Lisa's role in all of this was to disappear off to see 'Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason' as part of a girls' night out, on which I was not allowed to go for reasons of gender discrimination. So she's out on a Friday night enjoying herself, while I'm at home with the children. Just a little glimpse of the future there methinks.

As for last night, we successfully sat through the first public showing of Lorraine's holiday video, whilst stuffing ourselves with trifle and quiche. I ate twice as much as everyone else in an attempt to recreate the authentic feeling of queasiness I'd be likely to experience on a cruise, and came away feeling more than a little fat, prompting Lisa to propose a wager of £5 this morning that she can lose half a stone quicker than I can lose a stone. The bet's on, so watch this space.

Oh, and I must just say a thank you to Lorraine for my holiday gift - a diver's watch, bought on the cruise ship. Which beats a stick of rock any day. Though personally it wouldn't fill me with confidence to know that the crew of the ship are flogging waterproof watches. I'd be making for the lifeboats immediately.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 25
Words Written: 39,069
Words Remaining:

Ah yes, a grand total of 249 words in two days signals the fact that I'm back in Brighton. And what's more I'm about to be reunited with Oscar, the white haired chap that Lisa and I managed to keep alive for 11 days last month, despite not being 100% sure which part of his body we were meant to be rubbing suntan cream into.

In addition we're being treated (some would use that word loosely, but not me) to a viewing of Lorraine's holiday video from the cruise she took while I was greasing her cat's ears and answering her phone to dodgy men. Apparently the video includes footage of Lorraine swimming with dolphins, but knowing Lorraine as I do, and taking into account the fact that the cruise set off from Florida, I'm assuming it's the Miami Dolphins football team, and probably features more oiled muscles than fins.

While I'm here, can I just put in a request for someone to explain the new Norwich Union car insurance advert to me? Having become sick to death with the one where Craig Cash (of Royle Family fame) tells us that Norwich Union quoted him happy, which was handy because he then "ran into an old friend in town", doing a certain amount of damage, Mr 'Anything For' Cash is now back with a new advert. However, in this one he's even happier because he announces that he's just been given two months free cover for having 4 years no claims bonus.

So how does that work then? Was the previous advert set four years earlier? Or is Craig blatantly lying about his claims record to the happy quoting fools at Norwich Union? I'm very confused.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 23
Words Written: 38,820
Words Remaining:

My NaNoWriMo t-shirt arrived today. Yes, when it comes to writing 50,000 word novels in a month, I've been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Obviously I look fab in it, but unfortunately I can't post a picture of myself wearing said item on account of the fact that 30-day novelling has turned me into an unsightly sloth. I'm stuffed full of bagels, I haven't been exposed to natural light since last Tuesday, and my beard's longer than the hair on my head.

So I'm fat, pale and hairy, and frankly you don't want to see it.

But here's an accurate representation of my t-shirt on a slimmer, less stressed person...

My friend wrote a 50,000 word novel, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

I'd also like to use this opportunity to criticise the entire UK mail order industry. I ordered my shirt online on Thursday night, from the suppliers in America, and was offered four delivery options. Being a skinflint with a lot of patience, I naturally rejected such fancy notions as air mail, overnight couriers, or first class, and went for the cheapest option, which mentioned the word "Economy" and cost about £3.

That was Thursday night, and my t-shirt made it here from Ohio for 7am the following Tuesday. Why can't we do that in this country?

Anyhoo, I started work at 11am this morning, and by 4:30pm I'd successfully written 400 words. Yes, you're right, it is impressive. Clearly producing 6,800 words in two days had drained me a tad. Although I did manage to negate the evil effects of yesterday's triple six by naming the southern grasslands in my novel The Lords Prairie.

But a quick phonecall to Lisa's aunt this evening, whose idea of a joke it was to tell me that Lisa was out with her boyfriend at the time (they're nothing but trouble that family), perked me up sufficiently to make it to 2,150 odd words for the day.

To write 50,000 words in 30 days I'm supposed to average 1,667 words a day. Which means by the end of day 23 I should be on 38,341 words. And that, dear reader, means I'm currently 479 words ahead of schedule.

Which is handy, because it means by this time tomorrow I'll only be 1,188 behind.

Monday, November 22, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 22
Words Written: 36,666
Words Remaining:

I admit I was slightly unsettled when I stopped writing at 9pm, clicked the word count button, and saw quite so many sixes. I expect it's payback for all my references to the YMCA in my novel (that's the Young Mountaineers Cheese Association, if you're wondering).

Obviously I had to stop on the dot of 9pm as the new series of 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' is on and it's important to get your priorities right, though I was slightly confused when I mis-heard the word 'elements' at the start of the show and thought Ant said the celebs "have had to live with the elephants". Mind you, they are gonna have to raise the stakes for the next series, so you never know.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 21
Words Written: 34,008
Words Remaining:

I was reading the blog of a fellow NaNoWriMo participant this morning. Scott, a 31 year old software engineer from Seattle, who likes soccer and hiking, happened to mention that on Wednesday 10th November, having been at work all day, he got home late, sat down at 8pm feeling exhausted, and wrote 1600 words of his novel in 41 minutes.

I hate Scott from Seattle.

I'm not even sure I can type that fast.

But it did inspire me to my most productive novelling day so far, writing 4,000 words, which is about an hour and a half's work for Scott. Though his novel probably features fewer clairvoyant bears and runaway yetis.

I'm still slightly behind schedule, but my aim is to be right back on track by this time on Tuesday, so that I can head down to Brighton for the rest of the month, safe in the knowledge that I can blame any subsequent failure on Lisa.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 20
Words Written: 29,887
Words Remaining:

I'm proud to say I didn't watch a single minute of Children in Need last night. I'm even prouder to say it was because I was busy writing my novel (and talking to Lisa on the phone, but that doesn't sound so impressive). I can't watch Children in Need without being reminded of Friday, 24th November 1988, when I broke my ankle and was forced to lie on the sofa in agony watching seven hours of tedious fundraising. I'm not sure if the agony was due to the ankle or the TV coverage. And before you ask, no I didn't break my ankle doing a sponsored parachute jump for Children in Need. I was actually walking out of a Home Economics lesson at the time (strange but true). If it had happened ten years later I'd have felt obliged to sue the school for not gritting the path, and made my fortune. So many missed opportunities...

Anyhoo, I don't really need to make my fortune from frivolous law suits when there are frivolous TV shows I can bet on instead. Not content with winning £13 on the horses this afternoon (well one horse -I'm choosy with my gambling) I made more than twice that on a mare of a different kind by shamelessly betting on which dodgy musical act would be voted off the X Factor tonight.

Which is handy, because it's paid for me to go and see those self same dodgy musical acts perform live. Yes, it's true - Lisa and I have tickets for the X Factor tour at The Brighton Centre in February. Told you I was shameless.

Friday, November 19, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 19
Words Written: 26,818
Words Remaining:

Moral dilemma of the day:

Is it acceptable for someone to use my writing as part of a high school language course without telling me?

And more to the point, without giving me large wadges of cash?

Well ok, forget the cash, I'm not in this for the money. If I was, I'd have got out years ago. But I digress...

I've just checked my website referral stats to find that I'm suddenly receiving numerous hits from the Emporia High School in Emporia (the clue was in the title), which is in Kansas, corn capital of the US.

It turns out that if you're a member of Ms Cutrell's Language Arts class, then your homework assignment this week is to read through my micro fiction.

And they say educational standards are slipping.

If George W Bush had received this kind of quality education in English literature, the world might not be in the state it's in now. But with Ms Cutrell's fine selection of source material, I'm sure the country can only go from strength to strength. And I'm taking full credit for the improvement.

Right across America (well, Emporia) eager young minds are thirsting for knowledge, reaching out to be educated... and then arriving at my website to read stories about wardrobes, pigs, and cross-dressing blondes. It's entirely possible I could be inspiring a whole new generation here. Though quite what I'm inspiring them to do, I'm not sure. But it's an honour all the same.

Now stop reading this, and go and do your homework before your father gets home.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 18
Words Written: 26,235
Words Remaining:

I was slightly miffed today to receive the news that after careful consideration, the Sussex Playwrights Club have decided, on balance, that they'd prefer not to hand over great wadges of cash for the right to stage my last play.

But fortunately I still have my gambling addiction to fall back on, and anyone who read this post a couple of weeks ago would, like me, have lumped on Patches in the 3:00 at Wincanton this afternoon. He was barely out of hospital after a breathing operation (I'm not calling them wind operations any more), but he made it off the recovery ward in time to show up at the racecourse and romp to victory as expected. It was a triumph, not just for me, but also for anyone trying to give up smoking. (Thanks go to Lisa for that bad joke).

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 17
Words Written: 25,361
Words Remaining:

I've successfully passed the halfway point of my novel, which is a psychological shot in the arm, not just for me, but for everyone who's bored with me talking about it. And what's more I still had time to slag off Ben Folds on the phone to my pal Helen, who bought me the concert tickets for my birthday. She said she hopes Ben doesn't die before June. I said if he does, I want tickets to his funeral. That was about as sympathetic as it got.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 16
Words Written: 22,686
Words Remaining:

I wrote 1,906 words this morning. Not of my novel, obviously - this is me we're talking about - but rather in numerous e-mails about the health of Ben Folds (formerly of Ben Folds Five fame, now of very little fame at all), who has decided (outrageously, in my opinion) to cancel his Cambridge concert next week, for which I've had tickets since JULY, due to him feeling a bit under the weather.

Not as under the weather as I felt when I heard the news late last night, I can assure you.

So the fact that Lisa and I have organised our entire month around our attendance of this concert, with Lisa booking time off work many weeks in advance, and me leaving Brighton yesterday a day early, safe in the knowledge that I'll be back there on Sunday to pick her up for this musical extravaganza, means NOTHING to the short balding piano player, who is apparently suffering from exhaustion.

Driving down to Brighton and back, then to Cambridge and back, then back down to Brighton, all in the space of four days, is clearly less tiring than sitting at a piano and warbling a bit.

Not that I'm bitter at all.

Oh, by the way, did I say the concert has been cancelled? It hasn't. It's been postponed. Marvellous. Postponed until the middle of June 2005.

But hey, at least we've still got tickets to go and see Paul Weller in Brighton next Thursday.

Well, we would have if he hadn't gone and cancelled too, claiming to be suffering from laryngitis. What is it with these malingering popstars??? Haven't they heard of vitamin C???

Monday, November 15, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 15
Words Written: 21,862
Words Remaining:

It's interesting the number of words I can write by 4pm providing Lisa's been at work since 8:30am. Statisticians would say there's a correlation there. Anyhoo, having met Lisa for lunch at the dodgy pub which doesn't sell Bacardi, but which is now claiming to sell 69 different varieties of rum (eh?), we're meeting in half an hour to go for dinner at an establishment known as 'Pinocchios'. Lisa should fit right in, as she's still trying to claim that the only reason she didn't beat me in 'The Great British Pop Quiz' on Saturday night was because she made an honest mistake on the T-Rex question and accidentally chose 'drum' when she knew all along that 'gong' was the right answer. I'll be watching her nose with interest tonight.

Oh, and yes, I know that I'm now officially half way through NaNoWriMo, and therefore should have written 25,000 words, but I'm pretending I haven't noticed.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 14
Words Written: 20,208
Words Remaining:

What you really need when you're running an hour late for a lunch date is a phone call cancelling the whole thing. And as unlikely as it sounds, that's what we got, thanks to a tanker which decided to have a lie down on the M25, shutting it completely for the day. Did I mention that the friend we were due to meet was coming all the way from London? Oh, well she was. Until the tanker incident anyway. But she had a nice day out on the M25 in the sunshine, so it wasn't a wasted effort for her.

Lisa and I, meanwhile, took the unexpected opportunity to go and visit another friend and her newborn baby. Our 1pm lunch date cancelled, we realised we now had plenty of time to get ready, so having told the friend we'd be there at 2:30pm, we duly made it there for 3:25pm.

We followed that up with a visit to Lisa's uncle and aunt. The aunt was foolish enough to ask about my writing, so I gave her the rundown on my novel. She won't be making that mistake again. In the end she had to give me an apple turnover to shut me up. But it was very nice, so it made all those hours of writing worthwhile.

And yes, you're right, I HAVE had a successful day's novelling - 150 odd words (literally). That's a 1500% increase on yesterday. I'm picking up the pace like nobody's business.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 13
Words Written: 20,054
Words Remaining:

If you think it's not possible to have only written 10 words in two days, you'd be wrong. But they're 10 words which move the plot forward substantially. Well ok, they're not. I basically reworded one sentence. But hey, if I write 10 words EVERY day, I'll be finished by the end of November... um... 2012.

Today we're meeting a friend for lunch at Brighton Marina, and our plan (since yesterday) has been to leave the flat at midday. I'm not saying we won't make it, but... well frankly we won't make it. Neither of us have had a shower yet, Lisa's making a bacon sandwich, I'm writing a blog post, and we're meant to be out of the door in ten minutes.

It's just another kerrazy fun-filled weekend in Brighton. Oh, and I'm out of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 11
Words Written: 20,044
Words Remaining:

Twenty thousand words down and the quality threshold is lowering, but methinks a weekend away will revitalise my creative output. Or possibly just put me irretrievably behind schedule. Either way, I'm off in the morning, with a laptop under my arm, and the remotest chance of having written anything by Monday.

And boy do I need a break.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 10
Words Written: 17,518
Words Remaining:

(No, I haven't written any more words in the 24 minutes since that last post. Get off my case).

I'm probably breaching copyright here, but I just wanted to post the latest entry in the Daily Q & A section from the NaNoWriMo site, on account of it being amusing in the extreme. Well, I thought so.

"Q: Marki Shalloe, two plays have been produced based on novels you wrote for NaNoWriMo. How did this happen? And what advice would you give other novelists who want to write for theater?

A: A good playwright biographs her characters, maps out her scenes, and knows exactly where her plot is going. But we’re talking about me, who does nothing but drink copious amounts of whiskey and tear out pictures in Vogue just in case I ever get wardrobe money. I panic at deadlines, which makes me a natural for NaNo.

I joined NaNo because two friends offered to mess up my Significant Hair if I did not. I am from Georgia, originally Alabama, and we take our ‘dos very seriously, therefore, I NaNo’d. And to my surprise, I found it was a great way to force me to do the pre-work a diligent and serious playwright (i.e., not me) would do.

How did the whole off-off-WAY-off Broadway thing come about? I was lucky enough to have written a couple of plays before this, one about pirates and one about self-abuse. It turns out that people really like pirates and self-abuse so I became popular and invited to all the really good parties, if I brought the liquor. At one of these I was approached by Process Theatre, which is a lovely and brave place that does stuff like “Steel Magnolias” with an all-male cast, so it was a natural fit.

“How quickly can you have us some new stuff?” they asked, and I replied: “Why, I have something almost ready.” I had, of course, no play at all. But I did have “Four Glasses”, my original Nanovel about a female alcoholic who is bitter and unable to connect with people and is not an autobiography shut up. They bit, and it was produced last year. I brought whiskey and pizza to rehearsals, so was a shoo-in for production in 2005. “What do you have ready?” they asked, and I answered that I had this terrific new play called “The Suicide Manual”, which was my 2004 Nanovel and not a play at all, only they didn’t pick up on that because of the whiskey. “The Suicide Manual” is being produced next March. It makes fun of Virginia Woolf, Freud, Auntie Em, and is very, very cruel to Sylvia Plath, none of which I could have done without the support of hundreds of NaNos naively doing my research via the forums.

Moral: If you want your Nanovel to become a play, remember that the play doesn’t actually have to be written for you to sell it. Punch up the dialogue and don’t panic—you know your characters by now and all you have to do is remember they can’t move off a 12 x 12 space. Find theatres open to new work and whisper that you have something very new, which won The National Novel Writer’s Prize in 2004. Only don’t use pirates or self-abuse. Those are mine."
NaNoWriMo Day: 10
Words Written: 17,518
Words Remaining:

I'm now exactly one third of the way through NaNoWriMo, so if we multiply my current word total by three to see how I'm getting on, we get... um... where's my calculator... ok... we get... 52,554. Blimey, I'm ahead of schedule, who'd have thought it. But that does include the most criminal pun I've ever committed to paper (well, Microsoft Word), which came to me this evening during a break from the goose tobogganing scene. I couldn't possibly repeat it here for fear of arrest, but for future reference it occurs in chapter nine, just after the bit about eating your siblings.

As a de-stressing activity today, I've also attacked my cat with a pair of scissors.

Touch me again and you die.

It's a bit like topiary, and I think I have a definite flair for it, but it's very much a work in progress, so don't judge me too harshly.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 9
Words Written: 15,269
Words Remaining:

Well I did watch 'The Curse of Noel Edmonds' last night (and very informative it was too. He's more than just an annoying tit in a beard. He also gave the world Mike Smith), after which I went to bed, where I lay awake for some time considering the advice of Chris 'NaNoWriMo' Baty, and promptly decided to abandon my plans to send my main character to the pub, in favour of having him kidnapped by a giant goose. Which made sense at the time, I swear.

It was clearly a stroke of some genius, and I immediately got up from my bed and wrote another 400 words in my pyjamas, which sounds like the kind of lifestyle rarely seen outside an episode of Wife Swap.

Happily, this decision enabled me to make numerous references to Mirkin's goose being cooked, going on a wild goose chase, looking for Mother Goose, and comments such as "have a gander at this goose". Though I'd like to point out that I've limited myself to just one use of the phrase "goose juice". It's a writer's job to exercise self-control, and I didn't want to go overboard.

So all in all, the novel's going well.

Monday, November 08, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 8
Words Written: 12,943
Words Remaining:

Ooops. I may have successfully passed the 'quarter of a novel' point, but I'm grinding to a halt fast (if that's possible). And that's despite getting the weekly pep-talk e-mail from Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo this morning. In it he says:

"Week Two is when you'll likely begin having some second thoughts about your participation in NaNoWriMo. It's the point when the effects of sleep-deprivation, mind-wearying creative output, and a shortage of leisure time will combine to create the infamous Week Two Wall.

You'll know you've hit the Wall when you start thinking that the whole endeavor is futile. When you start worrying that you don't have the time or imagination to pull it off, and you come to see your story as an unmitigated disaster that should be put out of its misery before the thing gets old enough to remember where you live."

Yup, that about sums it up. My only bone of contention is that I hit the Week Two Wall on day six, but I think that just proves I'm ahead of my time.

Chris also said...

"Let's set exciting crises in motion, and willfully place our protagonists in harm's way. Let's allow our characters to embarrass themselves, and let them make the kinds of dangerous miscalculations that form the heart of any juicy narrative."

... which bothered me slightly as I'd just decided that my next chapter would pretty much comprise of my main character going to the pub.

But still, the fact that I'm already behind schedule, and I'm booked up for the rest of the month attending Ben Folds and Beautiful South concerts, and being introduced to more of Lisa's friends, whilst fitting in the world premiere of Lorraine's holiday video, I'm sure means NOTHING, and won't interfere with my ability to knock out another 37,000 words in 22 days.

Start praying for flying pigs.

I could go and write another couple of hundred words now, but there's a programme on Channel 5 tonight called 'The Curse of Noel Edmonds', and frankly one has to get one's priorities right.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 7
Words Written: 11,872
Words Remaining:

Week one of NaNoWriMo is at an end, and if you think I'm probably sick of it by now, you'd be right. But worry not, I have diverting local news to clear the creative palate and allow me to start afresh on Monday morning (hopefully with fewer references to giant hippos roaming the Aero Plains)...

Ok. Well as mentioned here before, there are currently proposals being made for a new Haylink housing development in Shotley Gate, causing consternation amongst local residents, most of whom are busy trying to extend their back gardens so they can flog their houses to rich Londoners. But I digress. The latest exciting news on this subject is that the results of a traffic survey on the B1456 have now been published, in an attempt to prove the detrimental effect of the development on the "area of outstanding natural beauty we live in". And what's more, they're referring to Woolverstone there. I know, I couldn't believe it either.

The survey has been carried out by BBC newsman and part-time scarecrow maker, Laurie Mayer, who is chairman of the Woolverstone Residents Association. Here's a gratuitous picture of Laurie in his slippers:

Nice slippers.

No, it's not a picture of Adolf Hitler and Tim Brooke-Taylor enjoying a picnic together, though I can see why you might think that.

Anyhoo, Laurie has limited himself to just one use of the phrase "imagine the terror" (I wish I was making that up, but I'm not), and claims that if the 325 new houses are built, there could be an extra 3,429 vehicle trips being made past his house every day. Though quite how each new household is supposed to manage more than ten trips through Woolverstone per day, I've no idea. I expect they'll have to draw up some kind of rota.

Laurie (whose name unfortunately sounds like a big truck) says, "Try having a conversation with one of us in the front garden of any of the cottages along the main road. Noise levels already make this difficult."

No, it's the electric fences which make that difficult, and the knowledge that most of the residents own shotguns.* But thanks for the offer all the same.

Fortunately for Laurie, I'm here to set his mind at rest, for I happen to know that his projections ("imagine the terror") are fundamentally flawed. The Woolverstone statistics are based on the number of cars which passed at a given time on October 8th, and they're taking this as typical of an average day. Well it just so happens that I was passing at the specified time, on my way to Brighton, and my car has been included in the official figures. I even waved to Laurie as I passed. Well ok, I didn't. But I did admire his slippers.

The fact is that my trips to Brighton are not daily occurrences (thank god), so Laurie and the rest of the Woolverstone Residents Association can sleep easy in their beds - the situation ("imagine the terror") is not as bad as they feared.

*not strictly true, but it sounds good.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 6
Words Written: 10,251
Words Remaining:

The novel proved a real struggle today, right up until 6:45pm when I saw G4 performing 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' on The X Factor. The shock of a classical choral ensemble doing Britney Spears did more to perk me up than a dozen mugs of strong tea had done throughout the day, and I promptly knocked out another 700 words before the Strictly Come Dancing result.

In addition I was able to prove the worth of one of my most closely guarded racing secrets this afternoon. So closely guarded, in fact, that I thought I'd reveal it on this blog. About a year ago, I saw the retired racehorse trainer Jenny Pitman being interviewed on lunchtime TV, during which she mentioned in passing that during her career, every horse she'd ever trained which had undergone a wind operation, had won its very next race.

Which is the kind of information to treasure. Especially as it seems to work. With jumpers, anyway (by which I mean National Hunt horses, not woolly pullies). Today was the first run of the season from Royal Auclair, who'd undergone a wind operation in the summer, so I abandoned my usual cautious each-way bet, and backed him to win. Which he did comfortably, netting me £30. Marvellous. I've always loved that Jenny Pitman.

Friday, November 05, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 5
Words Written: 8,328
Words Remaining:

Remember, remember the 5th of November. I forget why. But for me it will be memorable as the day I hauled my clunking behemoth of a novel kicking and screaming back onto the right track. According to the figures projected by my (frankly overcomplicated) spreadsheet, I'm now on course to finish on November 30th. Though I haven't yet factored in the effect of tomorrow's horse racing coverage on my output. I could be back to December 6th by the time they cross that finish line at Doncaster.

Of equal excitement today was the arrival of Christmas present number 14, which I'd ordered online on Wednesday afternoon. It means I now have only one remaining yuletide gift to buy. I couldn't possibly reveal the name of the sole person I haven't bothered to shop for yet, but it begins with L and has fewer than 5 letters. With my current busy schedule, the individual in question will be lucky to get a satsuma.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 4
Words Written: 5,422
Words Remaining:

A slight improvement, but I'm still behind schedule, a fact I blame entirely on my sister, who had the audacity to get herself trapped inside a burning garden shed last night, requiring me to rescue her.

Well ok, it was only a dream, but the point is it stopped me getting a good night's sleep, which prevented me from writing to my full capacity today. So I really can't be blamed for the fact that my 'NaNoWriMo Report Card' (an Excel spreadsheet which I'm using to track my progress) claims I won't be finished until December 6th.

I'm sure I can write those 4,000 words tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 3
Words Written: 3,791
Words Remaining:

It's interesting the way my word count has remained suspiciously similar (some would even say identical) to yesterday's. It's ALMOST as though I've done no writing whatsoever today, which I'm sure can't be true for such a dedicated novelist as myself. It's probably a statistical anomaly.

But the good news is that I've won £22 from my shameless gambling on George Dubya to win the election. Although by saying that, I'm inadvertantly revealing that I put on more than the fiver Lisa thinks I put on. But hey, it was like betting on the stupidity of the American public. You don't get much closer to a dead cert than that.

I'm now back in the fair city of Shotley Gate, having arrived home at 1:20am last night and no doubt woken my neighbours by struggling up and down my steps with endless bags of Christmas presents. And having survived until mid-afternoon with no milk, I'm now in the happy position of being able to make a cup of tea. I've also been reunited with my cat Chloe, who I'm sure understands that I had no choice but to abandon her for a week and a half. Oscar needed looking after, and his owner had cable TV and a dishwasher.

Right, I'm just about unpacked now, so it's an early night for me, after which I'll only have to write the odd 4,000 words tomorrow to get back on track. Piece of cake.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 2
Words Written: 3,791
Words Remaining:

Despite venturing halfway into chapter three of my magnum opus today, I still found time to mingle with celebrities in Brighton town centre. Well, celebrities' trousers. Whilst browsing the menswear section of the Marie Curie Cancer Shop, I was intrigued to overhear the sales assistant trying to flog a pair of trousers to an unsuspecting customer on the grounds that Jimmy Somerville had personally popped in and donated them earlier that day.

The man clearly wouldn't have bought them otherwise, but despite openly stating his opinion that the trousers wouldn't have fit Mr Somerville, who he maintained was "quite small", the man was happy to believe that he had in his hands a genuine bit of brown corduroy belonging to the high-pitched popster, so he confidently handed over his money, and left satisfied.

Which is just as well, coz with my track record of buying trousers which don't fit me, I'd have snapped them up in an instant.

Monday, November 01, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day: 1
Words Written: 1,845
Words Remaining:

The novel's underway, and but far more important than that is the news that I'm up to 13 out of 15 Christmas presents, following my discovery of a shop called 'Kissing Frogs' in Brighton town centre. Obviously I should've been at home writing, but I saw the chance to buy some more yuletide tat, and I seized it with both hands (the opportunity, not the tat. Well actually I seized the tat as well).

I've also greased Oscar's extremities for the last time, as Lorraine returns home from her jaunt around the world's hurricane zones tomorrow morning. Which means Lisa and I have but a few hours to make the house look as though we've been taking care of it for the last ten days. I also have to find a way of fitting all my Christmas presents in the car whilst managing to leave room for Lisa. Though frankly if it comes down to a choice between the plastic novelty pap and the girlfriend, Lisa will be getting the bus to work.

I'd better get packing - we leave in 12 hours, and there's still a packet of teacakes in the kitchen. Lorraine and I may have become quite close over the past few weeks, but I'm not leaving those behind.