In Life: Offers of Therapy

I published my most recent short story on New Year’s Eve: a gothic tale about an imagined meeting between Claire Claremont and Charlotte Brontë, called Stealing Charlotte’s Heart.

Within minutes of hitting ‘publish’, I was contacted by a London-based psychotherapist. This gave me pause.

I had enjoyed writing the story about a meeting that never happened, but theoretically could have. The two women were so different, but had so much in common — namely their life-long obsession with the poet Byron.

I could see it unfolding in my mind in widescreen technicolor, like a Hammer Horror film.

I thought New Year’s Eve would be a good time to upload the story onto my website. It would be good to see it there, all ready for the first day of 2020.

Now I’m not so sure…

Hello NaNo, my old friend…

I haven’t uploaded a single word onto the NaNoWriMo website this year. Does that make me a failure? Well, yes and no.

This year’s attempt went exactly as it has every year since 2012. An October spent pleasurably planning to take part, resolutions to actually plan, a couple of abortive attempts at a plot outline, and frantic writing in the first week of November only to get distracted, busy, before finally giving up at the end of the second week.

Technically, it is impossible to fail National Novel Writing Month.The project was set up in 1999 to challenge novice writers to embark on a novel, not to shame the ones who fail to produce 50,000 words in 30 days.


And of the millions of people who have taken part in NaNoWriMo since then, there are some, like me, who don’t write anything at all. After all, writing 1,667 words every day for a month is actually really, really difficult. I am in awe of the successful NaNoWriMos who hit their 50,000 word target.

Despite my lack of success, I love NaNoWriMo. I love the forums, the encouragement that participants so generously provide to those who are flagging, the hopes and the dreams of all would-be writers. I love the fact that during November there are people all over the world who are writing and dreaming, celebrating success, or — like me — stuck in the ‘research’ phase.

While ‘researching’ by watching the first three series of E.R. and eating your own body weight in chocolate biscuits is a perfectly acceptable way to spend a month, it doesn’t actually look that different from any other month. Next year, I really must try harder to get out of the ‘research’ phase and into the ‘actively putting words on paper’ phase.

Bring on National Novel Writing Month 2020!