THE BLOG

A Novel Written by Lunchtime?

01/02/2013 16:38 GMT | Updated 01/04/2013 10:12 BST

We're a generation drunk on the need for speed.

Just observe the growth in speed-related events. Speed dating has been joined by speed networking. There are speed presentations - the Japanese Pecha Kucha with 20 slides in 20 seconds; a wet dream for attention deficit junkies.

This month's Wired magazine has a feature on Zhang Yue, of China's Broad Sustainable Building. His firm offers a nice line in 30 story skyscrapers, erected in only 15 days. If they knocked it down tomorrow, even Rome could be rebuilt in a day. Or a couple of weeks.

The fast-track even now applies to sport. At the London 2012 Olympics, much was made of Helen Glover's astonishing success in the rowing, from obscurity to a gold medal in just four years. What took her so long? .

Gordon E. Moore's famous computing law - which sees processing power roughly doubling every two years - has pervaded every area of our lives. Nothing worthwhile is worth waiting for, which is a dreadful shame, and which brings me to The 30 hour novel and National Novel Writing Week or NaNoWriWee - which should win an award in it's own right for most annoying acronym of all time.

NaNoWriWee is the brainchild of the folks at Kernel magazine and a spin off from National Novel Writing month - NaNoWriMo - the US festival that encourages attempts to knock out a novel in 30 days. In their defence, the folks at Kernel admit that 'nothing of serious literary merit' is likely to come of out of this. And they acknowledge the need for relaxation or reflection in writing. So why bother? It started out as joke, apparently and I suspect it will end up as nothing more than that.

Anything that focuses the mind and forces wannabe authors to sit down and type something, anything, has to be applauded. Dickens was spot-on when he wrote "procrastination is the thief of time, collar him." Thinking about it, he would have loved NanoWriWee, but for the rest of us, a novel in 30 hours, how is this possible?

It isn't. Any successful author will tell you a manuscript needs time to breathe. It's the biggest learning for newbie writers - Ernest Hemingway's timeless advice that there's no such thing as writing, only rewriting. The words don't flow perfectly the first time. They land on the page in an ugly clunky mess, before the idea reveals itself, often weeks or months later, in the same way that a sculptor chips away a block of stone. The analogies with art are endless.

Malcolm Gladwell's was right about his 10,000 hours - the compelling idea that it takes that long, or thereabouts, to master anything worthwhile. Have we really evolved to a stage where we hope to master everything overnight?

Where does all of this come from? Life expectancy may now be longer than ever, yet we seem desperate to cram more in. But perhaps we need to re-discover the pleasure in the natural order, to embrace the old-fashioned idea that if something is worth doing well, then it's going to take time. Lots of uncomfortable, unfashionable, waiting for something magical to happen, time.

A novel is no exception. Great writing, a story worth telling, needs to be laid down like a decent wine. A manuscript should to sit in a drawer or on a computer desktop folder for a while before it's ready to be brought back to life. Those wonderful words that you crafted for Chapter One, can look a whole lot different a few weeks later. The key ingredient that can't be rushed in writing, is perspective.

With all of this in mind I propose NaNoWriYe. Take a year - take longer if you need to. By all means speed-write some words. But then have the confidence to walk away, live some life and do something different. Then come back to them with fresh eyes and new understanding.

Like so many things in life, great writing always looks different in the morning.

David Prever's debut novel, The Blood Banker, can be found on Amazon

www.DavidPrever.com