EIGHT years ago this November my life changed.
Well, let me backtrack a few more months. Six months previous to that, on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, I met my now wife Leslie, and that is when my life really changed. It was at a dark and dingy bar in Daegu, South Korea, where the green beer was flowing and a raucous time was had by all. Fond memories indeed. But it was in those initial weeks of knowing Leslie that the first stirrings of a career in writing were felt. In fact, it was on our first date that I learned she herself was a writer, and wanting to impress her I told her I was a writer too. Well, I’d been scribbling in a Word document for a year or two about a memoir I was planning. Anyway, she asked me, “Oh yeah… well what have you written?” I stumbled, unable to make up anything on the spot, and admitted that, in truth, I had written nothing of note. She replied with, “Well, why don’t you write a novel then?” I think I just chuckled in shame and ordered more beers.
But Leslie soon introduced me to NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, and I was intrigued. NaNoWriMo is an online program that encourages writers to not only start a project, but to actually finish it. The premise is simple. A week before November starts (It’s always in November) you begin thinking about ideas for your novel. You can take notes, but you’re not supposed to begin the actual writing. Then, on November 1st it’s all systems go. The daily target is 1,666 words, and after 30 days you’ll have, in theory, 50,00 words. The Great Gatsby was 50,000 words, so it’s an excellent target.
You can sign up to NaNoWriMo here: NANOWRIMO 2017
Here are some previous posts I wrote about NaNoWriMo, and if you have any questions or would like some advice, send me an email or respond in the comments. Or, just click these links:
And come November 1st, I set out to write my very first novel. I had the seeds of an idea, something along the lines of a disillusioned kid in a dreary autumn in England. What I ended up with was definitely that, but it was also so much more. What started off as just a very rough first draft, after several rounds of editing and almost 3 years later, my debut novel, I Have Lived Today, was published. And not only that, it has actually done quite well considering I’ve had zero money for marketing and I’ve moved on to writing my Kane action series.
But the point of the story is this (well, one of them) … when I turned up at that bar, appropriately called Travellers, to meet some friends after my late teaching shift had finished, if someone there that night would have told me that not only would I have met the love of my life and my future wife, but that she would then inspire me to become a novelist, editor and travel writer, and a photographer, and that we’d end up living in many more countries and even buy a house together in Mexico… well I’d have thought those green beers and Irish leprechauns had cast some crazy disillusioning spell over them.
But what do you know? Six and a half years later I am indeed married to Leslie (yes, she’s still the love of my life) I am a writer, and although it’s still early days in terms of calling it a career, my book sales, combined with my sideline of editing and proofreading work and occasional travel writing, I am scratching a living. We do own a house in Mexico, and at time of writing we’re living in Bali with plans to spend much of next year in Edinburgh. One thing’s for sure… life is never dull.
Back to that first book. It’s quite a dark story, a coming-of-age tale about a poor, long suffering kid in 1960’s England. The feedback I’ve received from readers… almost 200, 5* reviews on Amazon, was overwhelmingly positive, and although in my opinion the book has many flaws… it was a debut with no writing education, after all… it is a book I am still very, very proud of. And it all started because of NaNoWriMo. So if you’re reading this but have often wondered about writing a novel yourself, wonder no more. This November, take part in NaNoWriMo yourself. It’s free, there are zero obligations, and it is very inspiring when you meet your daily targets and that story starts to come together. Who cares if it’s crap? Who cares if it never sees the light of day? Who cares if you never write another word?
I don’t. And nor should you. It’s just a great feeling to accomplish something like that.
Good luck, and if you have any questions or need advice about getting started with NaNoWriMo, send me a message and I promise to respond.
If you’re interested in checking out that debut, I Have Lived Today, you can find it on all Amazon online stores in eBook and paperback. Here are a couple of links: