The Accidental Novel

Its October, the leaves are falling, the witches are abroad, and I’ve opened the blog up to guest writers again. Yes its Indie October. Throughout October some old favorites among my guests will be returning along with some new voices. Today’s Guest Post is from Dr Tamara Clelford


If you’d told me two years ago I’d write a novel, I would have laughed.  Absolutely no way would I write a novel, no way could I write a novel.  Well, except it turns out, by accident.

I’ve always loved reading and I read a lot.  I have a set genre of books that I like: thrillers where you learn things, think Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Dick Francis etc.  But I have never enjoyed writing fiction, not even when I was in school.  I write a lot for work, but I write coding and technical reports all based in fact.  This is a far cry from enjoying writing fiction.  

I used to work in a gym and I remember a colleague saying she had at least one good book  waiting to come out.  I was in awe that someone I knew thought they would write a book, and that statement has stuck with me since.  Fast forward a few years and one of my good friends with spare time whilst working abroad wrote a book as part of NANOWRIMO, the National Novel Writing Month.  The seed planted about writing a book all those years ago in a gym in Sheffield had finally started to think about germinating after a conversation in a house in Bermuda.  

But it took a few more years for the seed to actually germinate.  In fact, it took an extended holiday in New Zealand and a strange story about a resurrected bird.  Whilst I walked along the shore front in Wanaka on the 31st of October I read a series of story tiles giving a timeline of the history of New Zealand.  One caught my attention:

 ‘1946 Dr Geoffrey Orbell proved takahē not extinct’.

Well, I knew they weren’t extinct as we had literally seen some on our trip.  So I googled the story behind this tile over the rest of my cup of coffee and my imagination ran wild.  I started to think: how great it would be if this takahē story was actually all a government conspiracy, they were never extinct just being used for something in the second world war, and what if their ‘use’ was actually still viable for an evil genius to exploit today?  

I had entered the plot of a Ludlum book, but this time a plot of my concoction.  I decided the protagonist was going to be a woman on holiday in New Zealand, she’s going to see some things going on and be able to recognise them for what they are because of her obsession with spy books.  She’ll then use her science skills to foil the evil master plan.  What do they say – write what you know and want to read.  All the books I read have male protagonists who save the day: why shouldn’t it be a woman, and why shouldn’t that woman be a Radio Frequency engineer on holiday?  In a 15 minute period I had a whole plot for a book sorted in my head, all whilst holding a conversation on a totally different topic with my husband.  On our way back to the flat I explained the plot I had come up with and said it would make a great book, I got an answer I wasn’t expecting ‘Well, you know what tomorrow is, don’t you?’.  

If you don’t know, NANOWRIMO takes place every November.  You register your book title on the website, update your word count each day, and ‘win’ if you write 50,000 words in November.  So, with only hours to spare I sorted out a title for my novel, riffing on the Ludlum titles, registered on the NANOWRIMO website, and the next day started writing my novel.  

I literally started at the beginning and just wrote what came to mind.  I enjoyed it.  No, I really enjoyed writing the book, seeing my ideas and characters come to life and I even enjoyed editing it.  With hindsight a plan might have been useful, as I had to go back and alter facts because of something I decided would happen later on in the novel.  As the novel takes place across New Zealand, timescales and geography have to be accurate.  

I ‘won’ NANOWRIMO, even though I battled jet lag and started working full time.  I hadn’t quite finished the book, but I finished it by the end of the year.  Then it fell dormant as I had no idea how to get it published.  I didn’t stop writing though: I started a blog, wrote articles for magazines and was able to fully enjoy the process.  

Help comes to your aid at the strangest places, in this case it was in Ten Forward in Scarborough Spa.  I have loved star trek since being a small child: I am and always will be a Trekkie. So come April, I was excited to go to Scarborough SciFi Convention again.  Alongside all the wonder of a SciFi Convention I ran into Sixth Element Publishing and realised this was the perfect company to help get my book published.  We discussed the new-to-me world of publishing and how to get my book to the point where it would be out there in the wide world for everyone to read.  I liked their approach to publishing and I liked their enthusiasm for books and the way they help new authors like me.  So, I dived in.  

Today that little seed has become a 5cm high shoot ready to blossom into a published book, all really by accident.  I have had my manuscript read through and a story telling mentoring session by Sixth Element, which has been incredibly useful and has made my book a much better read.  I’m in the process of making the last few alterations before moving onto final edit, production, proofreading and then book production!  What I have learnt in my accidental journey into writing a novel is that you don’t need a masterplan – you can just type words into a document and see where they take you.  I can enjoy writing for fun and like what I have written, even though the 14 year old me would snort with laughter at that statement.  If I can write a book and enjoy it there is definitely a good book inside of everyone waiting to come out!  

About Dr Tamara Clelford

Tamara is a star trek loving, pukeko obsessed, tap dancing, Queen listening, lord of low frequency and high-priestess of high frequency physics geek.  Having worked in a variety of technical roles, both normal and clandestine, she is now a consultant working on physics based problems and data science.  This latest incarnation has opened new doors to a wide variety of work and interests, like: an eclectic blog, writing a novel, encouraging people into physics, and teaching people how to code and do data science. 

Follow Tamara on social media: @SwamphenEnts

If you want to see her technical life or learn to code go to

This entry was posted in #amwriting, amediting, amreading, amwriting, fiction, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indieoctober, indiewriter, nanowrimo, novels, opinion, publication, reads, self-publishing, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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