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On completing the first draft of my novel

It’s weird. I expected to feel elated at this stage. After a year of solid work (and 3 years of twists and turns) I’ve finished the first draft of my novel.

Great, right?

Well, yeah, except I feel like I’ve written a pile of shit.

99,000 words worth of shit, to be precise.

Instead of feeling excited about this achievement, I feel tortured by self doubt. Now that I’ve finished something I can see exactly what I have. There’s no hiding from it.

Of course, this is just a first draft. It will get better.

But I think it’s interesting how negative I’ve been feeling since finishing the first draft. I should be happy for fuck’s sake!


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Writing: the compulsion that won’t quit

If you write, chances are you will always write. The urge to write is unlikely to subside. Writing is, for most writers, part of their identity. The act of writing – of creating stories – doesn’t stop. The completion of one story just means the beginning of another.

A friend once said, “It will be great when you’ve finished writing.” I pointed out that I would never really be finished writing, and that when I had finished writing my current story, I would start writing my next.

 

 


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Novel update 25/10/13

My First Novel logo

After a few hiccups and interruptions – mainly to do with a holiday and then my son starting at a new school – I’m back into the writing habit.

Here’s my progress pie chart, which shows I’ve now passed the 50k word mark, which is more than 60% of my estimated total. Fuck yeah!

BNY

I’m still thrilled to have found a writing habit that feels sustainable. Long may it continue!


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Paperback writer – my theme tune

We’ve been listening to a Beatles compilation in the car. My son loves the songs (who doesn’t?) and it’s a nice counterbalance to Gangnam Style, which is the only other music he appreciates.

Anyway, I’m especially enjoying Paperback Writer, and am adopting it as my official Theme Tune:

 


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My novel writing habit

My First Novel logo

 

You may have noticed that I’m writing a novel. In my spare time. That’s the spare time I have left after running a business, taking care of my son, doing the school run, cooking dinner, keeping fit and all the other things that modern life entails.

So this is my novel writing habit, and how I go about writing:

Some months ago I decided to write regularly, because otherwise I struggle to remember what the hell is happening in my story. Unfortunately the only ‘free’ ┬átime I have is in the morning, before the start of my family’s morning routine. To have an hour of writing time each day I have to wake at 5:25. Yes, that’s quite early, but it’s not really that bad – once you get used to it. In fact, once you get used to it, it’s lovely. Having an oasis of time in which to write without interruption is a phenomenal luxury.

On getting up early to write

Several months ago I decided to wake up early, before my family, so I could spend one hour writing. But for several weeks I would set my alarm for 5:25, only to slap the alarm off, spend a few minutes debating whether I could face getting up so early, and then drift off to sleep.

In spite of my intentions, and my strong desire to write, I couldn’t overcome my sleepy inertia. I might spend half the day thinking about my characters, and the next scene I had to write, and how to make my writing better, but at half past five in the morning all I cared about was staying under the duvet and sleeping. My day brain was being outfoxed by my night brain. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that my night brain is a lazy bastard and not the sort of brain I want to associate with.

After a few weeks of failed attempts, I spoke to my wife about my problem. I’m lucky (!) enough to be married to a psychologist, and she’s very good at getting you to assess what’s important to you. My wife helped me to realise just how important writing is to me, and she made me feel embarrassed for letting a little thing like sleep stand in my way. She also recorded me an alarm message in which she calmly encourages me to wake up and write, and reminds me of my goal. It might sound silly but it worked! My wife’s voice cut through my sleepy brain and got me hopping out of bed (quietly!).

And once I’d woken once at 5:25 it was easy to do it again.

In fact, I’ve done it every weekday morning since then (I started in mid April 2013).

Momentum + will power = you on fire

I recently heard will power described as a muscle. That comparison makes a lot of sense to me. There have been times in my life when I’ve struggled to summon will power, and other times when I have an abundance of self-control. But one thing I’ve noticed is that building up will power usually starts with something small. As soon as I make some small change, or a decision, or whatever it might be, then my will power muscle grows a little, and then the next choice becomes easier. And with each act of resistance or control I become stronger at sticking to my plans.

So if you are struggling to stick to your plans, try creative ways to get yourself to do it just once. The first time is the hardest. After that, your will power muscle will grow stronger, and you’ll find it easier to do precisely what you want to do.

Writing little but often

It would be great to be able to write for hours every day, but I just don’t have that luxury. Instead I spend one hour every weekday, doing nothing but writing. And while one hour isn’t much time, it’s enough for me to write 500 words. Writing for just one hour has benefits:

– I don’t get bored of writing.

– I don’t get distracted by the Internet.

– I don’t get frustrated by the difficulty of writing.

When I do occasionally have longer stretches of time to write I often procrastinate terribly. With just one hour to write I refuse to be distracted by anything.

Plotting

My novel is already plotted out. I’ve also made a fairly comprehensive list of the scenes, though these may well change. I want my novel to get people thinking, but primarily I want it to be entertaining. So the story needs to be emotionally engaging, inducing the reader to care about my characters. I would personally find it very challenging to manage the plot and keep the reader involved without planning the story first.

Writing freely, without plotting first, is great fun, but it rarely produces the most engaging stories. Certainly not when I write.

Research

I’ve been researching components of my story for a long time, so I can now just sit down and write. There are still lots of questions I need to answer though, but I simply mark gaps in my knowledge in square brackets within the prose, so I can return to them later. If I stopped writing every time I had a question about continuity or location or history then I would probably write 100 words each day instead of 500.

So that’s my novel writing habit. What’s yours?

 


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Track your novel writing progress with this spreadsheet

Writing a novel can be a slow, uneventful and thankless task. Anything that helps you get through the lonely journey to the end and overcome the vicious emptiness of the blank page and the mocking metronome of the cursor – well, anything that helps is to be embraced.

One little gem which is helping me plod onward is a spreadsheet which converts my word count into a pie chart.

So instead of just seeing the number of words I’ve written, I can see my unwritten words shrink as the days pass.

This tool is freely available thanks to the generosity of science-fiction writer E.G. Cosh, who I once met at WriteClub.

Pop over to her website to download your copy of the Novel Progress Tracker.


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The loneliness of the long-form writer

Writing is clearly something that most people do alone, but I do wish writing a novel was less solitary.

I wish I could write with people around me, but I know they would only distract me.

I wish I could talk about my story, but I know the chatter would only distract me.

I wish I could share my work in progress, but I know any feedback would only distract me.

It seems that when you get to the editing and review stage writing becomes more sociable, and you can happily discuss your work with family, fans and critics. Until then, I’ll continue alone.


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Novel update 31/05/13

My First Novel logo

 

I’m still writing. And, as someone who has often struggled to find the time, enthusiasm and energy to write, that’s something I’m delighted to report.

My novel progress tracker tells me I’m roughly 25% of the way towards my 80,000 word goal.

It may seem silly to focus on numbers when you’re writing a story, but seeing the finish line slowly emerge is surprisingly important – particularly when you’re engaged in such a solitary pursuit. Writing is always a lonely act, a challenge that only you can accomplish, so anything that can spur the motivation is welcomed.

I’ve written roughly 500 words each day during this week (Mon-Fri). It’s quite slow progress, but it is progress. I’ll continue writing steadily and eventually write to the end.

And then the adventures with editing / publishing / promotion can begin.

In the meantime I’m reading depressing blog posts about the realities of the publishing world (and trying to STAY POSITIVE):

Escape from Stockholm: and Epic Publishing Saga

Survivorship bias: why 90% of the advice about writing is bullshit right now

 


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Writing a novel: progress report

my-1st-novel

I’m writing a novel.

I don’t expect you to be excited about that. Some days, it seems like everyone is writing a novel.

But back to my own novel… I started writing it ages ago, after being hit with inspiration while waiting for the tube. My inspiration came days after the start of NaNoWriMo in November 2011, and while that month encouraged me to make a solid start on the book, I was still working on it nearly one year later. I eventually finished a novella, and began trying to decide what to do with it. This all coincided with my re-discovery of sequential art, or comics, so I began thinking about turning my story into a graphic novel.

While dallying with various publishing modes and learning how to write comic book scripts, I had the good fortune to read a few books about writing, which helped me to see the flaws in my novella. Eventually, the flaws in my novella outweighed the strengths. My novella died completely when I realised that the story was only half-told; I had much more to write.

So I’ve started again, and have written roughly 13,000 18,000 words of the new and improved novel.

Join me on My Learning Journey

Right now, I’m learning a lot about writing. And I intend to share that learning here, with you.

I’ll talk about the books I read in another post.

I’ll also talk about the inspiration I’ve been getting from other writers online, and the writing routine that I’ve established.

I’ll discuss the barriers I hit and the elements of writing that I struggle with.

I’ll also provide monthly progress updates so you can see how the book progresses. I’m writing this novel in my spare time – so progress will be slow and steady.

I’ll tell you all about how I choose an editor and my first readers. And I’ll discuss the process of choosing and working with an artist to create an amazing cover.

I’m currently planning on self-publishing using Amazon’s Kindle service, so I’ll let you know how I get on with that too.

Thanks for stopping by.

Leif

 


next page

On completing the first draft of my novel

It’s weird. I expected to feel elated at this stage....
article post

Writing: the compulsion that won’t quit

If you write, chances are you will always write. The urge to...
article post

Novel update 25/10/13

After a few hiccups and interruptions – mainly to do...
article post

Paperback writer – my theme tune

We’ve been listening to a Beatles compilation in the...
article post

My novel writing habit

  You may have noticed that I’m writing a novel....
article post

Track your novel writing progress with this spreadsheet

Writing a novel can be a slow, uneventful and thankless task....
article post

The loneliness of the long-form writer

Writing is clearly something that most people do alone, but I...
article post

Novel update 31/05/13

  I’m still writing. And, as someone who has...
article post

Writing a novel: progress report

I’m writing a novel. I don’t expect you to be...
article post