Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

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It’s that time of the year again. NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. I’m starting to wonder what to write for this annual attempt to concentrate the mind and get a first draft finished.

In case you don’t know, the idea of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Check it out at



I’ve actually managed to complete the challenge twice, in 2014, while I was off work with a shoulder injury, I wrote Ribbonworld (60,000 words written in the month). In 2016, I extended Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café to novel length, from the original short story (67,000 words written in the month). I had 2015 off, I was busy retiring from my day job.


My trouble this year is that I have so many ideas on the go that I can’t yet commit to one of them. Since I’ve started writing full-time, my stock of works in progress is increasing faster than I can finish them. Ideas beget ideas; for sequels, prequels and spin-off stories. A backstory that I invented as a way of enhancing my universes will take on a life of its own and demand more exposition.

So what could I do for NaNo this year? Here are a few notes about my current works in progress.


The Lost Princess. Part three of the Balcom series. (Ribbonworld and Jungle Green) Miles and Layla finally solve the secrets of the shadowy group who have dogged their lives.


Miles Goram, journalist. Part zero of the Balcom series. Why Miles Goram went to jail and ended up on Reevis at the start of Ribbonworld.


The Orbital Livestock Company, a short story that wants to be extended into a full novel. Mystery and mayhem on a dairy farm in space.


Promise Me. Part three of the Dave Travise series, the sequel to Myra and Freefall. All the questions are answered…for now. Maybe.


Life…and Other Dreams. My alternative reality idea. Do your dreams feel so lifelike because they aren’t dreams? Perhaps what you think is your life might really be the dream. Accused of murder in one reality, our hero is stuck in the other, where his life is falling apart. Which one is real, which one would you choose?


Andorra Pett and her Sister. Another of Andorra’s adventures. Following Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café and Andorra Pett on Mars. “When a sister hates you, then it really is the end of the world.” Unless she’s blundered into more trouble than she can handle on her own and needs Andorra to rescue her, then all bets are off!.


Andorra Pett takes a break. And another one, surely nothing can happen when Andorra and her partner take a luxury holiday…, can it? Crazed environmentalists wouldn’t hijack the “Solar Breeze” and threaten to fly it into the Sun, leaving Andorra as the only person to save the day…, would they?


Survive 2. The sequel to Survive (Obvs) No spoilers here as Survive isn’t out yet, but you can expect more conspiracy and adventure out on the wild frontier!


Steampunk, unnamed. Part three of my Norlandian series. (The Rocks of Aserol and A New Life in Ventis). Horis and Grace are still trying to lead a quieter life; will they manage it at last?


Jack. A boy in a sort of Victorian England is introduced to a strange collection of individuals, what are they up to and where does he fit into their plans?


As you can see, I’m not short of options; I have made a pretty good start on all of the above stories (5-15k words). And I actually want to write them all, it’s really only a question of time, I can only do so much in one day before life gets in the way. The trouble is, they crowd my mind and I get confused about who’s doing what and where. I have to keep taking notes and remembering where I’ve left them.

It’s really strange but, as I’ve said before, the story won’t allow itself to be written if it’s not ready to come out. I can always tell if I’m going to be able to work on an idea for a story as it just flows and I can’t stop typing. I find it impossible to type much until my subconscious or wherever the work is coming from is ready to produce it. When I’m in the zone, however, it appears with very little in the way of plotting on my part.

I write it as you would read it, in order, almost fully formed. It’s almost as if I’m watching a film in my head; all I have to do is type what I see. I can rewind and slow the action down to get it all on the page. I can even pause the playback to focus on the details. What I’m unable to do is fast forward or skip to the end, so the way the story finishes is as much a surprise to me as it is to the reader. And very often, the characters will say or do things that I only learn about when reading it back.

For that reason, I don’t really know which one of the above has the most chance of being completed in the month. Or even which one I’ll work on today. It’s always possible that I’ll have another idea which will take over and that will be the one that I end up writing. But I suspect

But I suspect that when we get to the start of the challenge, something will turn up.

If you’re contemplating NaNo this year, or you have a favourite from the list above that you’d like to see finished; let me know in the comments below.

Why not have a go at NaNo? Even if you don’t manage to finish, the results might surprise you.


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