‘You write a book in a month, a whole book!’

‘It takes years to write a book, Sam. You have to plan, research, write thoughtfully, precisely and then edit remorselessly.’

‘No listen, you put down 50,000 words, a complete story but the quality doesn’t matter. So many people think that they have a novel inside them and never even start with the writing. This lets you see where your ideas go when you give them free rein. You can do the edits and rewrites later.’

‘Sam if you want to do this fine, but I’m too busy to give a month to typing 50,000 words of crap.’

Sam stared into her coffee. She had been so sure that Clare would join her in this. Clare was always talking about writing, about all the ideas she had and the books she would publish. She kept an old typewriter in the tastefully decorated room she laughingly called her cell. She used it to type out motivational quotes which she pinned to the walls alongside story ideas. Framed photographs of authors sat on shelves alongside carefully chosen books. She always carried a notebook and pen. These would sit by her cappuccino while Clare observed the customers in their favourite, down town coffee shop, occasionally jotting down details to write about later.

Sam pulled herself together and smiled at her friend.

‘Okay, well I’m going to give it a try anyway.’

‘You have too much time on your hands, you should socialise more.’

‘Now you sound like my mother. I want to do this, to see if I can. Look, I’d better be getting back. Enjoy the dinner with David.’

Clare was right, Sam did have a lot of time on her hands, but she was comfortable with how she filled her days. For the next month she would devote a couple of hours each morning and evening to writing, just to see if she could do it. She wasn’t as clever as Clare, but neither was she trying to write the next best seller. She would do this for herself.


‘So did you sign up for the writing thing?’

‘Yes! Oh Clare, I didn’t know it would give me such a buzz. I’m on 78,000 words and still have a week to go. I know how it is going to end, but I need to build on the back stories of a couple of characters to show why I included them. The plot lines didn’t quite…’

‘Yeah right. That dinner I went to? David’s colleagues seem really friendly. We’re going to a garden party at one of their houses this weekend. They were very interested when I told them I am a writer.’

‘Have you been writing too then?’

‘You know I am still at the planning stage. I don’t have time to sit down and write words that will just be thrown away, although you don’t plan to publish do you? I mean, you said yourself it would be crap.’

Sam stirred her coffee. She was sure that Clare didn’t mean to put her down, she was probably being too sensitive as usual.


Three days before the end of the month Sam submitted her story to the on line site, 102,436 words. She grinned as the video of a group of people cheering appeared on her screen, and happily printed off her winner’s certificate. It had been fun and surprisingly fulfilling. She may even go back and edit her story, or maybe she would use the ideas to write something else.

Clare was as disparaging as ever about her efforts.

‘Do you know anything about creative writing, about the importance of dialogue, structure, hooks? Do you know how to engage the reader, to add depth, suspense, action? Can you write quality, descriptive narrative so that the reader can picture the scene?’

‘Clare I just write down whatever comes into my head, then read it back and rewrite it until I am doing no more than taking out a comma and then putting it back in. I don’t really plan.’

Clare looked at her pityingly over the rim of her coffee cup. ‘That is not how you write quality fiction.’

Clare was probably right, she did not know the rules and was unlikely ever to publish in book form any of the many words she now had swirling around in her head. She accepted that some would never consider her a proper writer, but Sam was never the same again.


nano postcard


21 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo

  1. Clare is not a supportive friend. Jealousy isn’t very becoming! I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but it’s mainly because I can’t dedicate the time – especially in November (kids/family/holidays= me going nuts) but I applaud anyone who gives it a shot 🙂

  2. Lovely story. I swear there are a dozen Clares all around you who would keep trying oto stop you from doing something. I’m glad Sam went ahead and did it anyway 🙂

  3. Great write! So, out here, are we Clares or Sams? Perfectionists or Freestylers? Jealous or Detatched? Ambitious or Impressionable? 😉 And “a mix of the two” is not a valid answer! XD

    • Most of the writers that I have had the pleasure to encounter, both on line and in the outernet, have been hugely supportive. I know just a couple of ‘old school’ creatives who look down on bloggers and the self published. They seem to have a very high estimation of their own talents, which are considerable but not perhaps as exclusive as they like to think.

      I have also come across a few who think there are fiction writing techniques that everyone should employ, perhaps they are right? Personally I think practice, and listening to what readers think matter at least as much as any ‘formula’. I want to be a life long learner and value all feedback hugely, but I write the way I do because that is my voice.

      Clare is a figment of my imagination, the personification of thoughtless comments from those who measure value in recognition, number of readers or in monetary terms rather than personal satisfaction. I still feel awkward describing myself as a writer, but the more I write the closer I get to that goal.

  4. God, Clare was annoying! Thankfully, I haven’t come across any Clares in my writing experience, but I’ve met plenty of them in other parts of my life. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time 🙂 These were believable characters and the story was very well crafted. Nicely done!

  5. Great job capturing the self-doubt and the joy that comes with leaping into something. I hope someone calls Clare on her “writing” someday. Loved your take on the prompts, Jackie! 🙂

  6. yay! Sam was never the same again in a good way! As an editor, I switch back and forth between Sam and Clare constantly. It’s difficult sometimes to relax those rules you have and just write for the fun of it. Your story captures that struggle perfectly. Go Sam!

  7. Oh, I was best friends with a Clare once. I pitched a story idea to her and she destroyed it, scene by bloody scene. She just couldn’t see how it would work, “realistically.” But it’s fiction, I said! I never did write the story but I did cut off the friendship. Who needs the negativity? Nice job conveying all that envy that comes out of some people when you’re just wanting to have fun.

  8. Loved it! Not sure how I missed this over the summer. So glad I got another chance to read it. Are you gearing-up for NaNoWriMo again?

    Great piece!

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