NANOWRIMO to Novel, part I (is this a joke?)

Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes laughing


A novel in 30 days?  Oh…hahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahaha.

In my first blog, I talked about what a “professional enthusiast” was.  It’s someone who allows themselves to be consumed with the problem at hand, relishing the puzzle and the challenge with focus and abandon.  People might laugh at you. But you don’t care!  You are Sherlock on the case!

Now here’s a silly thing – draft a 50,000 word novel in thirty days?  Impossible, but the guys who invented NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) say it can be done.  And I assure you now that it can.  First step…fall in love. 

In December of 2011 I had just recovered from a rather significant illness.   Time to celebrate, to seize the day!  But seize it and do…what?   Cue the Mormon Tabernacle choir.  To write a novel, of course!  A  long held dream.  So for Christmas, I gave myself a gift…the gift  of time.GiftofTime  I would put writing FIRST in my day, every day, for a month. I’d write 1667 words a day and finish a first draft novel of 50,000 words in a month.   No matter what.  Guilt free because I thought of it as a gift.

But what to write?  I’m convinced many of our passions are born in childhood.  I do an age regression exercise with my students partly for that reason.     Leading up to Christmas,  found I myself once again in love with my childhood hero, Sherlock Holmes.   


EjaculatedI first fell in love with Sherlock in the fourth grade, when I took The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes out of our school library.  I devoured it cover to cover.  Shortly after, my mother was summoned to the principal’s office of Buri Buri Elementary school.  He pointed to a short story I had written and asked my mother,  “Where did your daughter learn this WORD?”  My mother took one look at what I’d written and laughed.  The next day I marched into class with my copy of  Conan Doyle and proved to the teacher that “ejaculate”didn’t mean what she thought it did.

HandsomeBrettI fell again for Sherlock in the early nineties when Jeremy Brett embodied the perfect Holmes of my imagination.  I have watched those shows countless times and never tire of them.  During that love affair, I actually decorated my home writing office to look like the Granada 221B Set.  Kind of an architectural Cosplay.  I started a Sherlockian story, a play, a book…but didn’t finish. I reread The Canon.   Lots of other writing, yes, but I couldn’t finish a Sherlock.  He was too important to me.

Flash forward.  Ignoring  plaintive moans from my family, I  dragged the entire crew to  Sherlock Holmes starring  Robert Downey Jr. only to delight in my hero all over again. (And so did they, told ya so!!!!)   DowneyHolmesI found Downey’s Holmes dashing, exciting, heroic, smart… and  loved Jude Law’s dangerous, sexy Watson as well.  I reread the Canon. 

BenSherlockThen along came Benedict Cumberbatch…and… Houston, we have lift off.   Something about that man.  His young Sherlock — that sulky, sarcastic, witty genius and his incredibly brave and tell-it-like-it-is best friend were calling me.

So it was to be Holmes, this crazy NaNoWriMo project. The minute I decided that,  I knew that I’d never pull  this off in thirty days.  Mysteries need pre-plotting! All that period research!  And maybe there was too much Sherlock out there.  It was doomed from the start, and because of that, I decided to do it.  Like taking ballet at age 45.  Just to see what WOULD happen. 

ART IN THE BLOOD began on Christmas Day, 2011.  That chilly morning, I got up before anyone else in the house, made a cup of coffee, pulled out my laptop and lit a fire.  My dog Watson curled up next to me.  I strode boldly into snowbound London of 1888.  Sherlock was there waiting — age 35,  handsome, rude, brilliant, hilarious…and on the side of the angels. 

My 1667 words were written before anyone had got up…..the best Christmas morning surprise, ever.  

My next blog…the nitty gritty of 1635 words a day.  Some tricks.  Some pitfalls.  Stuff that worked, and stuff that didn’t. 


Killer Sherlock fan video by Katrin Depp

What is NaNoWrimo

No Plot No Problem – the book


  1. Mary P.
    March 5, 2014

    What an inspiring post! And since I share your love for Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I can totally relate. AND since I’m trying to gain lift-off as a novelist, too…well, your words truly resonate. I think it is exactly as you say – we need to put our writing FIRST and then DO it. Of course that’s easier said than done when one also has to put in a full day at work to earn the rent, but many, many other authors have faced down that challenge and have won — since I’m a night owl, I can put my writing FIRST in the evening, before reading or TV or movies or any other distractions. Get that word count done – and really, by the time I get going, I tend to get lost in my created world and write more than the “required” count…
    As that dashing (and articulate) philosopher Robert Downey Jr. once said, “The power is the principle, and the principle is moving forward.” Just do it! Thanks for the insights, Bonnie. – Mary

  2. Claire Bloom
    March 15, 2014

    Loving this blog! I’m probably the laziest, most terrified and insecure writer in writingdom. But, you give me hope 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Luke
    March 15, 2014

    Great encouragement Bonnie! I’ve never done a NaNoWrimo, but one of my favourite Holmes stories (case of the crystal blue bottle) was conceived and birthed in one day due to massive time constraint. I think the pressure to write 50k can be a good thing and help you…the rush, the thrill of the chase! I think, if there is one thing to be learnt, there is never too much Holmes. 😀 I fell in love with the characters as a kid and was revived with the Downey Jr films which inspired me to take up the pen after re-reading the canon and start mine. Great blog Bonnie. Keep them coming!

  4. Penelope Richards
    March 15, 2014

    Well done – and inspiring as always. I considered doing NaNo this year but already have a couple of projects to finish first, think it’s only fair. But the general principal is hanging over my head. You’ve heard all the excuses- but I swear – the space I’m creating in which to work is nearly ready, the play I’m performing closes April 6, then to begin! Thanks for all your regular posts and this new blog.


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