James Wallis levels with you

Cold Open

My wife looked up over breakfast this morning and asked if I knew about NaNoWriMo, the annual National Novel Writing Month, a month during which—as the name suggests—you write a novel. Yes, yes, I said, I do. Then she said she’s going to take part, and would I like to as well? Which may have been phrased as a question, but wasn’t one.

For those who know my book output, speed-writing is not something I’m new to. Four of my books were each produced in under a month, five if you count the 2009 test-run of the Paige Turner project (my high-speed system that allows five writers to create a 100,000-word novel from first concept to a manuscript that’s ready for print in ten days, and if I told you which writers were involved in the test you might drown in your salivation to read it. Man, that was a fun time). But I’m out of practice with fiction right now, the only piece of conventional narrative I’ve done in the last year is a short for The New Hero anthology that Robin Laws is editing for Stone Skin Press. And it’d be good to get back into the groove.

And a challenge is a challenge. So yes, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. I’m going to do it cold. I’ll sit down tomorrow (it starts tomorrow) with no idea of what I’m going to write: no outline, no structure, no characters, no setting, not even a genre. I’ll have my usual pile of inspiration-generators to hand (Once Upon a Time, Rory’s Story Cubes, Oblique Strategies, a Tarot deck, BBC4, my four-year-old’s imagination) but other than that I’ll be in freefall.

Well, sort of. I have two things in place. One: my wife at my back. Two: a title. Whatever it turns out to be, it’ll be called ‘Cold Open’.

Updates to follow.

Categorised as: fiction | narrative


  1. Simon Rogers says:

    I’ll watch this with interest. It seems like an extraordinary number of words to produce.

    • admin says:

      It’s only an extraordinary amount of words if one is breaking up the month with long weekends away and fifth wedding anniversaries and such.

      Oh wait.

  2. russell says:

    You’ve inspired me. I’m going to do it too.

  3. The rules of NaNoWriMo specify a target/minimum length of 50,000 words. Achievable, but challenging. My wife did it last year with no prep; this year she’s done a lot of prep and intends to write a series of four short chapter-books for kids. Good luck and godspeed, James and Cat!

  4. Last year I made it through 2 1/2 short chapter books for kids. This year, I plan to finish #3 and continue on. Of course, I have no plot and have done no prep. Yowsa! So your post was quite encouraging. My 2009 NaNo project was a nonfiction book that was published this year, Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). I’m on a blog tour for that and writing and, yes, we have a wedding anniversary in there sometime, too. As well as the American Thanksgiving. Happy Nanoing!

  5. giac0m0 says:

    I was looking at the ‘expansion’ set of story cubes for Rory only yesturday and marvelling at how much fun they would be. Even more so with the original set and levelling a number of each die.

    Have you seen these:

    Good luck on your through-put!

  6. Sounds cool.

    I tried NaNoWriMo last year, hit the target, but never got the total verified because the book was a commission and I didn’t want to risk it being available somewhere else before it saw print.

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