Saturday 5 October 2013

Nanowrimo 2013

Although I said I wouldn't do Nanowrimo again, I have found myself re-activating my account and setting up an account for 'Quest in the Big City', the second of the four books that make up 'Odes to the Big City'. I envisage those books being bound in one volume.

The main reason for this is because I enjoy the forums on Nanowrimo, it is fascinating to read what everyone else is writing and how everyone else goes about the process. I also found that the pressure to write enough to 'win' was a good incentive to my naturally indolent personality. 

Since last Nanowrimo I have been trying to flog my beloved novel 'Death of a Dreamonger' beefing up the first book of 'Odes', 'Into the Big City' and researching for the other books. Whereas 'Into...' was primarily a fish-out-of-water comedy about the country buffoon moving to London; 'Quest...' borrows more from early gothic novels and the second book of Don Quixote. Here is the blurb I came up with for Nano.

It is the 1750s and Sidney has settled comfortably into his new London life. There he churns out reports, reviews and spurious encyclopaedia entries for the less-than-respectacle book trade while finding time to write the poems he hopes will make his name.

Until, one dark night, he is visited by doubt in the form of a dream. From then on he can't write a single word and the unwelcome attentions of his bookseller cause him to be still more anxious. 

Luckily, he is told that a man in Bedlam who might be Merlin knows of a magic quill which will give him the power to write impeccably, all he has to do is find the previous owner, dig him up and take the quill.

What he doesn't know is that the whole quest is the invention of some bored lords and that interfering with the business of the resurrection men is a dangerous thing to do.

The three main things I have had to research for this book are; Newgate prison (the escape of which is the main subplot), Bedlam (where the quest begins) and the lives of the resurrection men. 

A little while ago, my sister and I went to see.

I remember at the time it seemed a small exhibition for the price but there are various parts of it that have lingered with me since and inspired the inclusion of the bodysnatchers in this book.

One of the first things we saw in the exhibition was a plaster cast of a flayed Chelsea pensioner mounted on a cross to solve a bet at the Royal Academy of Arts. The bet was about how the muscles really looked on a crucified person, as opposed to artist's depictions of them and the pensioner was an executed murderer who was nailed to a cross then covered in plaster. It was a dramatic way to begin.

The exhibition covered the practice of bodysnatching, showing a lead-lined, locked coffin found in St Bride's. It then told the story of London's own Burke and Hare; told us the story of the word 'burking', killing a person to sell the body and also included a book bound in Burke's own skin. I think when I would die, I would like my writings bound in my skin, would give them something to talk about on winter nights.

It will be hard to write about the resurrection men without the bodies of Burke and Hare to come up, despite the fact that bodysnatching was not itself a crime, it's something I need to think about as I write.

See how I am doing at

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