I struggle with writing novels. Truth be told, since I began to write seriously, and consider myself a ‘proper writer’ I have started four novels. Of those, I finished one, gave up on two, and am now 27,000 words into the fourth. (An aside, my first novel, about a talking corpse fighting Nazi’s/the Stasi in Cold War Berlin will never, never get an outing anywhere).
My reasons for not finishing the middle two I could say are varied. One, a time travel/multiversal novel set in a call centre wound up being too similar to a comic book series (The Infinite Vacation should you wish to check it out, it’s very good), the other, an Agatha Christie homage set on an island for future “Celebrity wannabes” went out of fashion whilst I was writing the damned thing. I could say that that’s why I never finished them. I could happily drag these reasons out. They weren’t very well written. The characters weren’t interesting. The plots were dull. But you know what, those things can be fixed. That’s what redrafts are for.
The main reason I didn’t finish writing the novels? Because I didn’t push myself to write. Because I didn’t take it seriously. Because I didn’t plan.
27,000 words is not that impressive. Not when I’ve been writing this particular novel for the best part of the year. It’s not even a third into the thing. My target is to have a completed first draft by the end of the year. (Another aside, this may come across as a rather more self-indulgent blog post than usual, I’m writing this to keep my motivation up. It seems to be working). I don’t think smaller goals work for me – if I give myself weekly word counts, I tend not to stick to them. I don’t go in for “I’ll finish this chapter tonight,” because I know I won’t. But to get to the end of something, to finish it (albeit for now) – that I think I can get my head around.
I’m being dead professional about all of this too. I’m getting a new computer, I’m going to install Scrivener, I have a writing studio (although I need a desk…anyone got a desk?) and I’m going to treat writing, at least for a month or so, as a proper full time job (with coffee breaks and everything). I wonder if putting this kind of a structure in place in my writing life, and thinking about the novel as well as ploughing through it, will help me get to the end of a first draft that I’m happy with and proud to keep working on.
How about you? How do you plan? How is your novel coming along? Let me know in the comments!