A writing update.

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!


5 thoughts on “A writing update.

  1. If there’s one thing that I don’t think there a set set of rules for its writing a novel. Write every day or write with breaks; write at a desk or write freely on a laptop; plan or not plan. The only rule that matters I think is “get to the end,” as its so easy not to.

    I’m just writing the first long piece of fiction for about 5 years, after a few aborted attempts, and I’ve deliberately changed my mode of operating (writing a little each day where I can, writing in different places – thank heavens for Dropbox!). Planning never works for me – other than in a structural sense – the last long thing I finished was a novella (27000 words, took a year, so that’s about right!) but I had the structure from the first line, nothing else. I think if I get too tied up in plot – getting from A to B it crucifies my writing style, for some reason.

    Anyway, this seems to be going along nicely, its got a distinctive voice (which I’ve tended to avoid for a while) for a start and that seems to help, and although I know where I’m going I’m meeting strangers along the way which seems to be about right really. Nearly 20k, and I can see this first section being as longer than that novella was. The 2nd section frightens me a little so I won’t call it a novel until I’m into that…. good luck, and get a desk!

  2. Who am I to suggest anything?
    I wrote a play under a three week deadline. It had already been cast, and was set to go up in a theatre festival. (in Canada we spell theatre this way) Now that is pressure, it works for me.

    All I know is for me, I work best alone, cut off from everyone, to plan the story, outline the chapters, have the tale continually at the forefront of my mind. Nothing else can matter. I am the story. Around, about, and under the story. It becomes my life. As a survivor, I write.

    Too bad my “longish” novels haven’t survived my edits and drafts.

    You can do whatever it takes to keep you writing. My only bit of advice is to make it your first priority every day. No need to get hung up on getting that computer so well set up that a precious day of writing is lost.

    Time is something we all have. We just don’t know how much.

  3. I’ve never had a problem with doing the writing. What saps the motivation is the inability to get anything read. It makes each successive piece of writing seem like a losing lottery ticket.

  4. I finished the first draft of my novel last summer. Gave myself a break then made a scene-by-scene plan for the redraft, including a few additional bits and bobs. The redrafting has been *really* slow and I recently had an idea which changed the whole thing slightly, so i had to re-do my plan a little bit. Currently working on the first scene, which I’m finding very difficult, as obviously I want it to be amazing, attention-grabbing stuff, but nothing I’m doing seems to be working. I never imagined the whole process would be this long and be quite so labour intensive, but maybe that’s just the way I work. And discipline is always an issue…

  5. I am no expert, by any means so take this with a grain of salt…

    Personally, I am a lazy bastard so I need structure. I need to write three pages a day or the novel goes nowhere. I know that most of what I write will be chucked out in the next draft, but it doesn’t matter. Someone (Stephen King?) said don’t be afraid to write a bunch of shit in the first draft, just get it down.

    I also write my daily pages with pen and paper… No wifi issues, no twitter distractions and especially NO DELETE KEY… over-tinkering on the first draft kills my mojo, I can spend days stressing over some insignificant thing if I write it on a computer. I leave notes to myself in the margin and keep plugging on.

    After a couple weeks, I have a big pile of paper so it actually looks like I’ve done something. Which spurs me on to keep going. 100 pages on a computer screen doesn’t give me the same satisfaction as a big wadge of paper. Plus three pages a day is really quite an easy target. THEN when I transfer to a computer, I’m forced to do a COMPLETE rewrite which is much needed.

    Also, it’s very easy to be discouraged by other people who say “Zombies? Vampires? Oh, you can’t do that, that is way overdone…” I ignore any comments that have to do with trends (even if they come from awesome writers) and listen only to the ones that deal with story and character. I don’t give a shit if my story is similar to ones that have been done before (Seriously, whose isn’t?) If the story is good and the characters are well rounded, nothing else matters in my humble opinion.

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