November, 2018: Iain M Banks’, ‘Consider Phlebas’. Not in Review.

So, I haven’t finished the book. Surprise, surprise, eh? But it’s not all bad news – and by no means it is a bad book (more on that later). I’ve had a busy month. I completed NaNoWriMo last month!

nanowrimo 2018 forth bridge
When taking part in NaNoWriMo you find yourself writing anywhere and everywhere so as to hit the word count. So here’s me on the train into work, writing on the Forth Bridge.

What is NaNoWriMo?

I think you’ll all know about this already, but NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you buckle down every day for a whole month and come out on November 30th with around 50,000 words, which is about the size of a large novella, perhaps a tiny novel. That’s a lot of words, you might think. It is a lot of words! It works out at about 1,500 a day for 30 days, and I can tell you now, it’s quite a challenge.

This is the second time I’ve completed NaNoWriMo, but, crucially, it’s the first time I’ve completed it whilst holding a full time job. I completed NaNo for the first time five years ago. I was fresh in the city, unemployed, so I had all the time in the world (between job applications and networking, of course). There was time enough to linger over the words, to think of wonderful, awe-inspiring descriptions, to walk around the house and contemplate the sizes and shapes of things; what kind of hook nose should character B have? How frustrated should character C be at character A and how do I put that across in words? When you’re working full time and banging out 1,500 words in the evening, you don’t have the time to contemplate these things. The quality of the writing quickly dips.

nanowrimo 2018 night writing
Then there’s evening writing, performed when tired, at the end of the day, after a long shift at work.

But it’s a numbers game. It’s about ritual, habit, and willpower. It’s about knuckling down and getting the words done even if you’ve had a shit day at work – and, interestingly, I found myself really falling into the world despite the rush. I’d come home and plug in my h’phones, fire up iAwriter (my program of choice), kick a non invasive playlist into my ears and some days I’d be away. The words would just come.

I felt most at ease in the middle of the month. I had a grip on my characters by that point, and they had direction. I knew where they were going and I just had to get them there. I could live in the words then, and then the words started to pull me under. I had trouble sleeping – kept thinking about all the obstacles my poor creatures were about to face, I found myself rethinking aspects of what I’d written, and I realised mistakes and things I needed to fix. Some days My mind would refuse to ease. I’d climb out of bed at 1am and type another 1,000 words…


So I haven’t had much time for reading as of late. I’ve breezed through the first half of the book in any case, from half an hours reading in the morning to a ten minute session whilst stirring pasta. I’ve been telling folk at work how happy it makes me, coming back to a science fiction book. Please don’t get me wrong, the other books I have read this year that have not been of this genre have been fantastic, but science fiction is like a big ole’ hug from a good friend. For me, it’s just exactly what I want, and it makes me so happy that there are a fuckton of books in this series, and more science fiction on the horizon.

Oh man, I’m gushing, aren’t I?

I’ll likely finish the book soon and will write a review stat. It’ll be outside my semi-regular dates, but who cares. I nailed NaNoWriMo this year. Ain’t nothing going to get me down.


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