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Page Two of Ring Them Bells: A Novel in a Month

I did write the odd thousand words, because the count went up, but slowly, one note explaining 'went to IKEA, bought lots of candles and ritzy bedding — very late back — so no work' and another telling me, 'now almost 10,000 behind but have organised Christmas.' This, a reference to our dithering about what to do this year, and, rather than criss crossing the country accepting invitations, thereby pleasing everybody but exhausting ourselves, we decided to please ourselves and booked into a rather posh hotel in Barcelona with a view of the Cathedral. That took a bit of time.

By mid month I was annoyed with myself, more than a bit tired and also irritable, which isn't me at all. My notes read like a list of lame excuses as to why I could not, would not, sit down and write something. It wasn't as if anyone need ever see it. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get us to apply ourselves to the task, and let our imagination fly. Perhaps, whispered a voice, I did not have an imagination?

The 18th and 19th were not good days, with hardly a word written. And the organisation did not leave us on our own. On the contrary, we kept getting the most tremendous help, and from busy professionals.

Tom Robbins, Naomi Novik, Deanna Raybourn, Sara Gruen, Garth Nix, Julianna Baggott, Neil Gaiman all came to our aid.

I wondered what of one of my favourites women writers and speakers, the legendary Maeve Binchy would say? I know her slightly and we have corresponded over the years. I keep cards from her on the desk, where they act as inspiration when the going gets rough. Maeve is a woman who writes great big thumping 900 page novels, one blockbuster after the other. They get made into films. Oprah chooses them. All I had so far was a woman on a plane. Meeting a man. Wow, how original is that?

I had a bit of a brainwave, the result of which ended up propelling me right to the end of the month.

I Googled the Irish National Broadcasting Network knowing I would find Maeve in the archives, and sure enough I found a Podcast, a forty five minute interview with the great lady. Yes, I'm getting to grips with all this fantastic technology. To hear her words was just what I needed.

The brisk tones for starters — she was a school teacher in the early days. The description of her working schedule today got me sitting up straight. Finally, one sentence made me do three things, because she could have been speaking directly to me, pointing an accusing finger as she said it. The short sentence made me wince, gave me courage, and, there and then, no more excuses.

Like a ton of bricks Maeve's simple words 'don't get it right, get it written!' galvanised me into action, lifted me over that hump. I took the project and, with a completely different attitude, made up a schedule to run with, before all was lost. On the twentieth of November, fired with new enthusiasm, but with only ten days to go, I took an A4 blank sheet, divided the days into writing chunks and, not willing to allow interruptions, I ducked out of three lunch invitations, unplugged the phone and got stuck in. I would have to write at least three thousand words every day in order to make the total, to be a winner.

Amazingly my story moved along, and at six-fifteen on the evening of thirtieth of November, I had done 50,049 words. And I had absolutely loved the work of getting there. I know I did the great slog myself, but I'm thanking Maeve and her words for hauling me through to the end. She is generous with advice, a wonderful character; the world is just a better place with her in it. Incidentally, lest I sound prejudiced towards a fellow Irish senior woman, the late David Westheimer was also a great fan of Maeve and I often re-read his account of their lunch some years ago.

As to my November novel project, I do feel encouraged to take it up again, edit it, add to it, and send it off to a professional agent. While I do normally write non-fiction, I have, as I'm sure anyone who writes has, masses of 'creative' stuff on file and in drawers, that will never, (thankfully!) see the light. But this one, somehow, feels different, as if it could possibly come to something?

I now, to progress, have to write another 50,000 words to being the work up to average novel length, and curiously, this is not at all as daunting as it would have been at the beginning of November. I know now, that at least, with proper application, I can at least get it written, and perhaps with professional guidance, I will, in Maeve's words ' get it right'.

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