The Highs and Highs of 2012

It seems that the first rule of blogging is to have some form of review of the year, whether that be a summary of a top five, ten or twelve books; Mr Cameron’s three least finest moments or the ten greatest refereeing moments of the past 365 days.  While I could certainly manage the five least interesting games of football (Oldham Athletic played in all of them) or the ten top clangers dropped by Michael Gove regarding the education of our youth, I’d making a conscious decision to give ME some time here, because all in all, 2012 has been a pretty great year. Especially seeing what a complete Titanic 2011 was.  The following are in no particular order except of that in which I think of them:

  • I did NaNoWriMo.                                                                                                                ImageAfter several years of procrastinating upon the idea, I sat down and wrote a novel in 30 days.  Or rather, 60,000 words of a novel.  A novel which is almost completed. I’ve been writing since I was 10, back in the days of Mr Clegg’s Junior 4 class.  School stories were written in journals, detailing the doings of characters called names like Carlotta and Jo, blatantly nicked from the books of Enid Blyton and Elinor M Brent-Dyer.  I disliked the said Mr Clegg, and he didn’t like me much either, to the extent where he refused to give me the journals back.  I moved on and carried on writing.  2013 will see the self-publication of a novel – not the first I’ve completed by any stretch – but the first I’ve wanted the world at large (or maybe a few more people than those I know) to see.  Authors such as Mel Sherratt have made me realised that there’s a lot to be said for self-belief, and will-be authors Keith B Walters and David Bastinani kept me sane during NaNo and proved that writing isn’t a lonely occupation.
  • I ran. A lot.                                                                                                                                Image Woodbank parkrun was somewhat of a saviour last year.  It made me focus on Saturday mornings as a get up and do something time, rather than a lie in bed and wallow in self-pity. I hadn’t managed more than a quick hoof to get into the Radley shop on the first day of the sale until my first parkrun, now it’s part of my staple diet.  I also managed to run 5k under 30 minutes several times, and completed four 10k ‘races’.  I love parkrun, it’s ‘all in’ motto and the people I’ve met through it, because they’ve all been amazing. Runners have a sense of humour – they have to.  Running down a grim street at seven o’clock in the morning when it’s peeing it down, trust me, you have to laugh.  So next time you drive passed some neon coloured, red faced, slightly sweaty runner, don’t pity them, or think they’re mad, they’re actually enjoying it and they’ll be a damn sight fitter than most!
  • I bought a house.                                                                                                                       Image                This should probably be the top thing, and when I look back at 2012 in several years time, it probably will be.  How momentous a thing it is grows each time I think about it, but at the time it was a means to a very long end.  It doesn’t just mean that I have several rooms to decorate however I please, but that I can call my own shots.  It’s changed a lot of dynamics for the better, and I’m not just referring to the dynamics of the Next Home department which has certainly benefitted.  Big thanks to my grandparents who stumped up the deposit – at least you know where your money has gone and that I didn’t buy that flash car and go on those expensively wasteful holidays like I threatened.
  • I discovered Reginald Hill.                                                                                                         ImageCrime fiction has been my genre of choice since I read Cruel and Unusual at the tender age of 14.  Thankfully, I didn’t have nightmares about decomposing, mutilated bodies – school was a hell of a lot scarier – and I became a fan of Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Karin Slaughter and many more, but I never read Reginald Hill.  In all honesty, the TV series put me off and I decided it was too mainstream.  However, I came across On Beulah Height and fell in love.  Love became slightly obsessional and I devoured the rest of the Dalziel and Pascoe series.  The plotting, structure, characterisation and humour were masterful and playful at the same time.  Hill never seemed to become consumed by his own writing.  I enjoyed it, as he appeared to enjoy writing.  The series has opened my eyes on how not to become formulaic and that as a writer, there’s always room for imagination in how you present not just how you plot.
  • I met more people than ever and made so many friends as well as renewingold acquaintances, through running, Kettlercise, work, football, yoga and Twitter.  I like my own company, but I have spent time with people this year whose company I have also enjoyed.

There’s been a lot more: a holiday in Parga, Greece; going to Harrogate for the Theakstons’ Crime Writing Festival; getting a promotion at work; acquiring a new kitten and Oldham Athletic managing to avoid relegation.  I’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone who’s been involved in my year, one way or another.

Unless you’re that bloody interfering bloke from the 10k race yesterday who told me some runners had gone a different way and completely put me off finishing as quick as I could because I was worried about getting lost.  Grrrr.

Happy New Year, one and all.

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It’s not a competition, is it?

Not winning was never on the agenda, which is why I avoided all competitive sports like you would a rabid dog.

Actually, I’d be more likely to approach a rabid dog to help it than take part in anything that involved the possibility of not winning. (The one exception to this was joining my school’s mixed hockey team. This was nothing to do with the opportunities of slamming my hockey stick against the rather burly forward’s shins, but our rather handsome goalkeeper. That, however, is another epic story.)

I have a competitive streak which can be as wide as the Mersey basin. But only, only if there is the chance of winning. A strong chance. Almost a certainty.

So National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo or #nanowrimo on Twitter gave me the opportunity to exercise my typing skills and crack on with this novel I’ve not stuck myself into yet. It’s been there for six years, or rather the characters have. Six years ago I finished a rather overwritten 120,000 words in a mere three and a half months, but could never bring myself to edit it. It was a fairly painful, if short labour, but it gave me my main man, my Daniel. Since then he has been my brain child, a parasite that drains a little piece of my real life every time he chooses to raise his pretty little head and say hi. But I’ve never stuck myself back into his world until now. I’ve written fanfiction, case fics, most of which have been baby epics and have allowed me to release the demons of my imagination but I studiously avoided The Novel. Why? It might not win. There’s no stats page while writing an original novel; there are no reviewers begging for the next instalment, so how would I stroke my competitive streak? Where was the chocolate coated carrot on the end of the silver plated stick?
The answer lay in a tweet around the end of October, with the sparkling hashtag ‘nanowrimo’. I’d started NaNoWriMo last year, but due to circumstances beyond my control – i.e., family slash relationship issues – my head was not in the correct gear. This year I found it was. I had no plan, but I knew how it started, I had an idea who would die and I’ve known the ending for about four years. The middle would have to write itself.

So, the story began. I bored my Twitter followers with my word count; conversed with other Twitterati about theirs and met some rather interested folk along the way. There were a few races and the page on my NaNoWriMo account which listed my ‘writing buddies’ leant me that competitively sharp edge. I would finish the 50,000 words before most others. I would complete.

And I did. I am now 60,000 words through the labour of We Were Never Alone. By the end of November I’m hoping to have reached 72,000. And if there’s still someone to compete against in the friendliest of ways, I’ll have finished mid December. In fact, we have a new hashtag – NaNoFiMo; National Novel Finishing Month, just to make sure that the job really does get done.

Then I can do what I’m strangely most looking forward to: the second draft. All of those vomited words can be polished into something that resembles a good story. I can tidy up the inconsistencies, give Daniel a little more oomph and make sure that the scene at the back of the pub does not find its way into the list of the Worst Ever Sex Scenes. (Of course, that last bit is dependent on the book ever finding its way into the public domain.)

NaNoWriMo gave me motivation. It got me going – fast enough so I couldn’t get bored. I’m even planning for the second and third instalments and this is from a lass who only plans shopping trips!

Anyone up for NaNoWriMo in April?