So, National Novel Writing Month ended at midnight last night, and if you’ve been taking part, I hope you made it to 50,000 words without going completely bonkers.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to write a novel to a deadline but have two months in which to complete it, there’s a very interesting post which I’d point you towards. It’s called How to write a novel in two months, and is by a chap called Jeff Vandermeer (who, I see, has written Booklife, which I’ve seen positively reviewed elsewhere).

I think it’s a solid article, with some good advice, and the one thing which I thought was particularly of note was point (7), wherein he says:

“Don’t animate what doesn’t need to be animated. This might just apply to any novel, but it’s especially true when you’re under the gun deadline-wise. There’s a lodge in my novel and separate rooms for all of the guests, along with one common room. There’re maybe two scenes in the separate rooms and lots in the common room. So I spent my time detailing the common room and really didn’t describe the other parts of the lodge at all. There was really no point.”

I think this is very astute – I’ve certainly known novels I’ve been generally enjoying but have struggled to complete because every time a character walks into a room we get a half-page description of the furniture or whatever; in fact, now I think about it, I gave up on a thriller I was reading some years ago because a row of cars parked outside a building was described in terms of the makes – three Renaults, a Ford, etc – and it not only slowed things down but, as I’m a non-petrolhead, it didn’t give me enough information to be able to populate the scene in my mind, and in fact there was probably no need to do so in that level of detail.

What I like about Jeff V’s use of the word ‘animate’, though, is that it suggests a writer can choose just to leave some things as background, like the flats in a stage play, whilst others should be active in some way. In the book I’m currently working on, I have a military base, and there are certain places within it which are plot-related – the medical rooms, the sleeping quarters, and the like – but others are only really relevant insofar as they’re potential places for the killer to hide, but they’re not of great interest (and thus probably not worthy of going into detail about) in their own right. So I’ll try to avoid ‘animating’ these locations more than is at all necessary.

Anyway, that’s what I took away from reading the article – hope you find something similarly useful in it.