If it’s nearly November, it must be time to think up a plot for the new novel I’m going to write during National Novel Writing Month. Fortunately, and uncharacteristically, I did at some point in the last few months realise that November would come along as it usually does to fill the gap between Hallowe’en and St Andrew’s Day, on which there will no doubt be compulsory and pointless celebrations from next year onwards if the Scots
are mad / stupid / irrational enough take a communal decision to vote for independence. But I’ve been trying not to think about that, so I won’t write about it either.
I’ve already got a scenario in mind for my novel and even a sort of outline of the first chapter. I’ve also got an Excel file where I started to list the characters and their attributes before getting bored with the spreadsheet and depressed by the sparseness of the entries on it. The characters are not new to me, as the novel I’m about to write will be the 7th in the series, and yet I know almost nothing useful about them.
For example, all I know about my main male character’s appearance is that he looks vaguely like one of my second cousins; in the case of my heroine I deliberately gave her dark red spiky hair to make sure I remembered at least something about her; and the number of minor characters about whom I know less than nothing grows as the series lengthens. This doesn’t really matter much in itself – I don’t go in for lengthy descriptions about anything – but occasionally I realise the readers might want something more specific so that they can picture the characters, and I suddenly give them piercing blue eyes, an interesting moustache or an ex-wife who does something dramatic. These are the things I really should have been keeping track of all along. So my depression is partly the result of my last-minute realisation that I’ll actually have to re-read my own novels in order to find out these things!
I’ve done my best to clear my calendar for November. Obviously this doesn’t entirely make sense when I have to go to work most days, and especially when someone more senior in the organisation has decided we must finish a particular project by Christmas. I can’t see any way of avoiding the task of helping with pantomime props either. The inexorable approach of the panto season is another thing I’m trying not to think about. However, more by luck than by judgement I have managed to have too many days’ holiday left to take this year, so I will be taking a whole week off work in mid-November. This isn’t entirely a good NaNoWriMo strategy, as I am perfectly capable of throwing my daily word count out of the window for the first part of the month in the probably mistaken belief that I will catch up during my week’s holiday. I will need to exercise extreme will-power to avoid this trap.