Sunday 1st November 2015 signifies the start of a new journey for me. I'll be taking part in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - for the first time, alongside over 300,000 other aspiring authors around the world. The aim is to write 50,000 words of a novel within 30 days.
I was persuaded to sign up for NaNoWriMo last December by bestselling crime fiction author Elizabeth Haynes - this year will be her 10th NaNoWriMo. You can read more about her thoughts and experiences on her blog.
My ultimate dream since childhood has been to write fiction. At university, I obtained a BSc in Biomedical Science, with plans to follow on with a PhD in Forensics and then maybe write crime novels one day. But in the final year of my BSc., I was sidetracked by the idea of a career in journalism. I went on to complete an MSc. in Science Communication, before working for consumer and pharmacy magazines, writing about health. Over the last 20 years, I have also edited health books, magazines and websites. My non-fiction book on children's allergies was first published in 2009.
Last December, I set up a book reviews blog to share my love of reading with anyone who's interested in books (and is prepared to listen). On there, I review fiction and interview authors. I'm often found tweeting about books and reading too.
But reading novels isn't enough for me. I still want to write a novel of my own.
As a health journalist and editor, I'm used to writing and editing on a daily basis. Yet I have struggled to fit fiction writing into my life, alongside family and work. I'm now hoping that this will change - that making a commitment to NaNoWriMo 2015 is my chance to get myself into a daily writing routine.
I have started writing several novels over the years, including a historical fiction novel, which is loosely based on the story of a great-uncle of mine during WW2. I'm still only around 30,000 words in, and it's become a chore.
Over the last year, I have been in contact with many authors (in the real and virtual worlds) - some established, some debut, some still looking to get published. I have asked many of them for advice on writing a first draft. The responses have included:
"Most first drafts are terrible, but don't let that put you off!"
"Never give up. No matter if you believe the last 2,000 words you wrote are rubbish - leave them for 24 hours and then go back and read through. A few changes can make a world of difference."
"Write now, edit later."
"What you write at first will not be very good. If you think it is, you're doing it wrong. Keep going, persevere, and eventually something will work out. Don't try to be clever. Just write the story."
"Just get it out without judgement. You can worry about whether it's any good or not, and change it as many times as you like, once the words are on the page."
So it seems that what I really need to do is blitz my first draft. And over the next few weeks (maybe months), I plan to do just that - with no editing along the way and very little research until it's finished. The editing and more research will come later, once I have written the story from beginning to end. I have a book idea buzzing around my head. I'm now desperate to bring the story and characters to life.
I can't put my life on hold completely over the next few weeks. But I can certainly commit myself to at least two hours writing time every day, preferably first thing in the morning before my work beckons.
I have no idea if I'll achieve 50,000 words in 30 days. But I will certainly do my best. What's important to me is getting into a writing routine. Making fiction writing a priority in my life, yet still managing to achieve all my work deadlines. I plan to keep up that writing routine long after NaNoWriMo ends.
So I'm heading into November with my laptop ready. And I'll see everyone on the other side - hopefully with around 50,000 words to show for it.