It’s been seven days of crazed literary abandon so far – except that it hasn’t.

My memories of National Novel Writing Month involve late-night typing marathons, commiserating over lack of inspiration or poor word counts online, and vast amounts of coffee. The same has usually been true of fiction projects in more recent years. The words have to be forced out of me.

This time things seem to be a bit different. So far, after the first week, I’m at 10,586 words1 and there has been no drama whatsoever.

The story is coming along nicely, and is surprising me in several ways. Doing a decent amount of planning beforehand definitely helped but I am ‘discovering’ a lot of it for myself as I write. This process of discovery and creation is a huge part of why I enjoy writing fiction so much.

I have been setting aside two hours per day for writing. Outside that period, I don’t touch or think about the draft2. This is how I always used to approach fiction years ago, and I’d forgotten how well it worked. So long as you actually get the words down during the two-hour slot, it doesn’t gnaw away at you during the rest of your day, and you can get other stuff done.

Writing the book by hand really helps me focus. It knocks the socks off any ‘distraction-free’ app, but more importantly it’s much slower than typing, which means I compose in my head rather than on the page. This has a subtle but distinct effect on the style. Estimating word count manually is annoying but even that helps me review my work at the end of every session.

The only real downside is that I’m getting through a heck of a lot of ink cartridges, which is making me worry about single-use plastics. I’m probably going to get a converter to allow my pen to be refilled from an ink bottle3.

Staying off social media has been a good move. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure it has freed up time, aided my focus, and just cut out a huge amount of irrelevancy.

Overall, things are going well, and so far at least it’s proving easier than I anticipated – but that could be because I’m still in an area of the book I’ve planned out to an extent (I can never plan a novel beyond about the 50% mark before I start writing it). We’ll see how things go for the rest of the month!


  1. This is about 1,100 words behind where I should be ideally, because so far I’ve had one entire day with no writing whatsoever. 1,100 words is easy to catch up, though. I plan to be slightly ahead by next weekend. 
  2. I continue to take a dictation machine with me on my morning walks, and this is a great way of planning ahead and fleshing out ideas, but I don’t think about the actual first draft outside my two-hour writing slot. 
  3. For the curious: I use a bog-standard Lamy Safari fountain pen with a fine nib. It’s been my pen of choice for several years, and I use it for more or less everything.