Why NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is almost here. They have a new website, some amazing inspirational talks, and there's already enough chatter - from bloggers and writers and readers - to know that 2014's going to be another stellar year. I haven't blogged for a while (writing, y'know), but wanted to emerge briefly to ask one simple question: Why NaNoWriMo?

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo is the name of a challenge / community event held every November that encourages everyone, everywhere to write a novel of 50,000 words in a single month. It sounds hard, and it is, but the community during November, and the support provided by so much of the writing world, makes it a special thing. NaNowriMo has its detractors as well as its uber-fans, but, at the end of the day, it's basically a lot of people having fun, making things, and learning how to be better writers.

I've written about NaNoWriMo before, for sites like Writers' & Artists (and on this blog, actually), and I'd encourage you to scour the Internet for inspiration, advice, and news. There's a lot out there, and a lot of it is very good. As for me, I just want to offer three reasons to give it a try.

NaNoWriMo: Why Take Part?

1. It's as good a time as any to tell your story. When Benjamin Cook began his (very good) Becoming Youtube series, he used the first video to encourage viewers to make their own videos, arguing (more or less) that 'if you're looking for an excuse to begin, maybe this is it.' I think there's a parallel here. So many people want to write, but they don't have the time, or the support, or the inclination to begin. NaNoWriMo is a call to arms, in a way. You want to write a book? it says, Well come on then, let's go.

2. You won't be alone, even when you're alone. In his Nobel acceptance speech, Hemingway suggested that 'Writing, at best, is a lonely life.' There's a lot of truth to that, and it's probably one of the reasons people don't finish the books they start. It's November. It's cold. You're sitting alone at a computer. Motivation lags, fizzles, and fades. Why bother? What's the point? That's where NaNoWriMo's community helps so much. Forums, videos, local groups, hashtags - NaNoWriMo gives you an instant and understanding writing family, all doing the same thing, and happy to pull you along.

3. It's fun. It is. I promise. 50,000 words is a lot to write in a single month, especially when normal life gets in the way, but some words is better than no words. Yes, there'll be distractions, but a month really isn't that long, and at the end you'll have ... something. Neil Gaiman once wrote:

People in your world get sick or die. You fall in love, or out of love. You move house. Your aunt comes to stay. You agreed to give a talk half-way around the world five years ago, and suddenly you realise that that talk is due now. Your last book comes out and the critics vociferously hated it and now you simply don't feel like writing another. Your cat learns to levitate and the matter must be properly documented and investigated. There are deer in the apple orchard. A thunderstorm fries your hard disk and fries the backup drive as well... 
And life is a good thing for a writer. It's where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.
It's worth thinking about. You can find a balance, and the words will come. They will. I promise.

What NaNoWriMo Isn't

NaNoWriMo has no dark side, but there are some things to bear in mind if you're going to take the plunge. For instance:

It's not about stress and guilt. Didn't get any words done for a day, or a week, or at all? It's fine. It's not a race and it's not a test.

It's not about beating other people and it's not about beating yourself up. Words written in haste are often ... bad. Editing comes after, and rewriting, and changing the story so it stops fighting back. 50,000 words doesn't make a book. 50,000 good words, in the right order, makes a book.

Actually, on that topic - it's not about writing 50,000 words. Well, I mean, it is, in a way, but I never did. My book, started as a NaNoWriMo and, now published, is still short of 50,000 (by about 7,000 words, I think). Word length isn't the be all and end all. Writing is. Telling a story - that's what matters. Making art and stretching yourself and learning and teaching and taking part in a Thing That Is Good. That, more than anything, is the NaNoWriMo spirit. It's special, and it's mad, and at the end of the day, the world has more stories in it.

So, bring on November. Happy writing, all.


INK - The Sixth Eren Tale

Super proud to share the newest Eren Tale - INK.

Eren Tales - a series of twelve short stories and photographs inspired by and working alongside Eren - is now halfway done. The first six tales - Shaman, Nightmare, Teeth, Mountain, Bridge and Ink - have been incredible fun to write and produce, and working with Brandon to make sure the tales and the artwork come together has been inspiring / fun / eye opening. Ink has a special place in my heart as the Eren Tale that comes out the same month as Eren was finally published. In fact, Ink ties directly into the book - but I won't give that away. To read all the tales, just head over to the website www.erentales.com.


Eren's Book Launch and My Very Bookish Week

Man. It has been a crazy, happy, busy, never-to-be-repeated week. Sometimes it's amazing how much can happen in seven days, and believe me, this week has seen a lot. Last Thursday, my book came out. It was a truly spectacular feeling, a mix of relief and mild terror, and I celebrated by not working and generally being on Twitter. On Saturday we had Eren's launch party, and on Sunday I went to Brooklyn Book Festival. This post is a recap and a celebration of my very bookish week.

Book Meets World

Because Eren came out in the UK, but I'm living in the U.S., we didn't do a full bookshop launch. Instead, we threw open my parents-in-law's house and turned the place into an Eren-esque world. My wife, Ashley, did a stunning job decorating the rooms, and along with the food and the (much) wine, I did my first ever public reading (passable) and got to see the first ever reading by someone who knew what they were doing (my sister-in-lawish and drama teacher, Steph. It was marvelous). There was so much more, too - Raffle! Cheese! Helium balloons that make you talk funny! Proper magic all round.

The Story Jar, one of the illustrations from the book
The five Eren Tales published so far, with Brandon's five photos

Booklyn in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Book Festival's a huge deal. Last year was our first time going, and seeing speakers like Lois Lowry, Patrick Ness, and Lev Grossman made it more than worth it. Add to that the almost overwhelming number of publishers, presses, authors, literary companies, artists, and generally booky people who set up shop, and BKBF is worth checking out. Tired from the party the day before, we were - admitedly - a little less enthused that 2013, but listening to the new cast recording of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere made the drive a lot easier (even if Manhattan and Brooklyn driving made the whole thing a lot scarier). Highlights of this year include listening to RL Stine (yes, of Goosebumps fame), seeing Lev Grossman again (whose latest I am avoiding buying because my birthday is coming up, but ... argh) and the exciting addition of spicy Jamaican food that was amazing and made me and my wife tear up while listening to a poetry session.

What else did we do? We won free audiobooks (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Stardust, thank you very much) and chatted to One Story and PEN America, and generally had a good time. Behold:

It Continues

Every day this week someone has put up a review or a giveaway or a sample of Eren as part of the blog tour. Well, that's not slowing down, with posts scheduled across the web for another few weeks. Please do check out the sites that have agreed to take part. I explained all about it HERE and you can keep track of who's doing what using the tour banner.

And ... I think that's it. If you've read Eren, THANK YOU, and I would love to hear what you think, either on Goodreads or elsewhere. For those who want to check the book out, links are below. Thank you again to all who've made this a spectacular week. Here's to many more.

Eren is available now.


Eren is Released Today in the UK!

I've wanted to write this post for a long time - and now, finally, I get to. My debut novel, Eren, is published today in the UK. It's out in hardback and ebook form, with paperback to come in six months or so.

Wow. In a lot of ways this post is the culmination of everything this blog was meant to do. When I first posted (In March 2012) it was about the shame of writing, and in that first post I said:

"This blog is going to follow me, I hope, and chart the journey from being shy and a little embarrassed about my book to getting it out and published."

Well, we're here. I still cannot quite believe it. Eren's a book - a real book - and you can buy it in shops. You can read it and share it and love it and hate it. Who knows what people will make of this strange, long-time-coming story? I hope it touches some people. I'm sure it will annoy plenty of others.

There are a lot of people to thank. My agent and my editor, the whole team at Corsair, and all the family and friends who've given feedback, given support, put up with rants and complaints and oddness, etc, etc. I've learned that a book is no more the work of one person than a house the work of one builder. I am so bleeding excited about what's to come. More books - oh, gosh, yes - and then, who knows?

I've already got the U.S. release of Eren to look forward to in (maybe) June 2015, and now there may be an audiobook to boot, and a lot more fun to be had. It's mental.

So ... yes. Eren's out there. What more can I say? Thank you, thank you, thank you. If you want to buy it, here are some links. Other than that - I'm off to party, have some fun, and get on with writing the next flippin' book.

Love to all,



The Very Official Eren Blog Tour

My rather snazzy UK publisher has organised a blog tour to celebrate Eren coming out next week. This will be no small thing: It is a month-long, all expenses paid, fireworks and dragons, full-fat, go-on-have-another-piece-of-cake extravaganza, taking up thirty-two blogs, many words, and (hopefully) much fun. There will be some giveaways, some things that I have written, but mostly honest, real-world reviews. The bloggers who agreed to be part of the tour did so because they were asked and they want to - and that means that, I expect, some of them will point out problems with Eren, or have questions about how I wrote it, or think it's a bit silly. I hope some of them like the book as well - but it's still going to be a bit nerve-wracking seeing the posts go up.

To all the bloggers: Thank you. People who love books, who dedicate time to reading and writing and sharing and shining lights on debut writers like me make up an increasingly vital part of a complex industry. That you would read Eren, and share thoughts and critiques, is incredible, and I hope this never stops. The more people who talk about books, the better books will become.

So, here's the tour schedule. Over the next few weeks I might turn up in other places, too, but you can use this as a guide to the Very Official Eren Tour organised by Constable & Robinson. The first post goes up in a couple of days - argh! What will it say? Will they be nice?

Let's all sit back and find out.