In November, Guardian writer Tim Jonze joined half a million others taking part in National Novel Writing Month. Could he get to the end – and would it be any good?

The story goes that Peter Cook was at a party in the 1980s when a friend came up to him and declared that he was writing a novel. “Oh really?” the comedian replied. “Neither am I.” Many of us think we have a novel inside us, if only we had the time to write it without work, childcare and Wikipedia articles about the world’s most unusual deaths getting in the way. Some of us even give it a go: painstakingly crafting 600 words or so, before tweaking it repeatedly, fiddling with the font for a bit and then throwing the laptop out of the window.

That person was me. I could never get beyond a few hundred words because whenever I read back the faux-literary waffle I’d put on the page I’d think, “Well, that’s clearly not as good as Cormac McCarthy,” and give up. Earlier this year I took a sabbatical from work and decided to use that time to write a novel, seriously this time. I was amazed by how much I got done: I cleared out the cellar, sorted the garden and watched two seasons of Succession. But the novel never got beyond the planning stage. Clearly, I needed a kick up the arse.

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