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28 October 2008

I’m in two minds about whether to join NaNoWriMo this year.

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel-Writing Month, and the aim to to write a 50 000 word novel in the month of November. There are no prizes other than knowing you’ve completed it, but the aim is to get people who’ve been promising themselves that they would write a book one day to actually get on with it and write one. I took part a couple of years ago, and tried to get some others to join me, with a particular purpose in mind. I’m a fan of the novels of Charles Williams, who wrote seven novels in the 1930s and 1940s. The genre of the novels has been described as “supernatural thrillers”, which is not quite accurate, as that could include horror novels like Dracula and many ghost stories. “Theological thrillers” might be a more accurate description of Charles Williams’s novels. The novels are:

  • The place of the lion – the principalities and powers get loose
  • The greater trumps – the Tarot cards and the great dance
  • War in heaven – the Holy Graal/Grail
  • Many dimensions – the stone of Suleiman
  • All Hallows Eve – there were two dead girls
  • Descent into hell – substitution and coinherence
  • Shadows of ecstasy – a new religious movement seeks to take over the world

They are listed in my order of preference, but many have different preferences. Some have recommended All Hallows Eve as a must read for Halloween, so for those who observe that celebration, that’s something to be borne in mind. The problem with Charles Williams’s novels is that there are only seven of them. I’ve read each of them several times, but there are very few other books in the same genre. C.S. Lewis’s That hideous strength has sometimes been described as Lewis’s attempt to write a Charles Williams novel (both Lewis and Williams were members of the Inklings, a literary group in Oxford who read their work to each other). A couple of Madeleine l’Engle’s books come close, and some of Phil Rickman’s earlier books (his more recent ones are drifting off into the whodunit genre). So the only way to get more books in the Charles Williams genre is to get people to write them, and NaNoWriMo seems to be a good opportunity. As I did two years ago, I challenge Charles Williams fans to enter NaNoWriMo and try to write a novel of at least 50000 words during November, in the genre of Charles Williams’s novels. I’m not suggesting fanfic (which entails taking the characters of other writers and writing new adventures for them), but rather something in the same genre of theological thrillers. To be able to do that, one would need to be familiar with some or all of Williams’s novels, and preferably C.S. Lewis’s That hideous strength as well. If I know at least three other people are taking up this challenge, then perhaps I’ll enter NaNoWriMo this year. If anyone does feel like taking it up, then there is even a neo-Inklings forum for discussing it. As the original Inklings did in Oxford, we can do it as cyber-Inklings in the NeoInklings Forum. That means it doesn’t matter where you are in the world — you can have a virtual Inklings and “read” your work to others who are interested in the works of the original Inklings, and get their comments and criticisms. For those who are already fans of Charles Williams, there is a forum for discussing his works, the coinherence-l mailing list. There is also more information about Williams and his works on the Web of Exchange web site.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 October 2008 3:23 pm

    Please do it! I would love to read it – perhaps you could do a ‘daily chapter’ blog posting, get some feedback and insights as you go, and then put it all together at the end for publication?

    I wish I had the time! I have another project on the stove at the moment… It is going too slow to take on anything that could slow it down even more.

    Rich blessing from wine country,


  2. 28 October 2008 3:23 pm

    I’ve never read any of the Williams novels, but I always tell myself I’m going to. (I also tell myself sometimes that I want to write a novel, but I’m never quite sure what it’s about.) Do you have a reading recommendation for a first time out with Williams?

  3. 28 October 2008 4:14 pm


    If you’re really interested, I could send you the one I wrote for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, on condition that you give me a crit.

    Fr Andrew,

    You can do both!

    I recommend that you start with one of the first three on my list (War in heaven is usually regarded as the “entry level” one).

    And join NaNoWriMo and write something every day. The emphasis is on quantity, not quality — the idea is to write at least 50000 words in a month. You can polish it later.

  4. 28 October 2008 5:30 pm

    I would, ‘cept I’ve already committed Novel Number Seven to writing a sequel to Novel Number Five.

  5. 28 October 2008 7:09 pm

    Quite tempted to join NaNoWriMo — perhaps unofficially — and I came up with a rather good idea (non-Charles-Williams-related, sorry) this morning…

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