100 days to write a novel: Week 1

OK slightly less than a week really. But I did say I’d blog on Fridays…

5 days in and the wordcount is a little over 10,000 words. That sounds a lot but it’s worth pointing out that the beginning of the novel is the most well worked out part – with clear notes and even paragraphs I could lift straight from my longhand notes. It’ll no doubt slow down now, but it’s a good start. If the minimum wordcount is 70k and I’m doing 14 weeks of writing then 5k of words per week is the target.

My “process” – if it can be called such – for this novel has been to accumulate a lot of notes in Evernote as well as by hand in a journal. In fact two journals – somehow I ended up starting two notebooks, and have been thinking I should consolidate for ages, but it seems like displacement activitiy to transfer written notes from one notebook to another.

I wrote Seven Deadly Swords in Scrivener – it was a much more complicated structure than this one. I’ve started this novel in Word and plan to start at the beginning and write through (certainly what I’ve written so far is chronological). For this draft I’m not worrying too much about “style” and just making sure I get the plot down. This is a draft in 100 days deal. I will do several rounds of editing later – for e.g. description, character, style and line editing. Knowing that all first drafts are shit allows me to not worry too much about the words on the page as they’ll be tightened up later (which makes the weekly wordcount a bit of a false target). There is already a “vomit draft” which in some places runs to just bullet points and odd character sketches. This first draft is intended to be the lump of text that eventually will be polished into the actual novel.

I am “warming up” before each session by doing the Couch to 80K which is an excellent free resource. My soundtrack for this part of the book is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Maurice Jarre’s L’echelle de Jacob. I write for the length of the two albums (42 mins for Dark Side and 38 mins for L’echelle).

The Certainty of Dust Premise:

When a doomed singer crashes her motorbike, with her twin sister riding pillion, she undertakes a wager with a personification of death in order to save them both from oblivion

The first 10k is basically setting up this premise, the characters and the tone of the rest of the novel.


The first document I have on my latop labelled “The Certainty of Dust” – a basic overview of my idea for the novel – has the date 04/05/2017. So I have been (mostly avoiding) writing this for over two years. It’s the difficult second album syndrome. Seven Deadly Swords is the first novel I wrote (second published) and was me learning how to write a novel. Although, really, you learn how to write each novel by writing that novel.

When I sold A Tiding of Magpies to KGHH they took it on the condition that I also gave them a novel. They wanted to bring both books out in the same year. I didn’t have a full novel in  the drawer so Sick City Syndrome was written in a few months to hit that deadline (so if it feels a little undercooked that’s why, although I hope it doesn’t!) and I didn’t really have time to procrastinate. For The Certainty of Dust I’ve been given as much time as I need (benefits of being with a Small Press) – so I eventually needed to give myself this deadline of 100 days to stop the procrastination!

The big sticking point for me was being shortlisted for the BFA in 2017 which was amazing – for a first book (A Tiding of Magpies) but then suddenly it made me aware that people were reading the books and would have EXPECTATIONS on subsequent books and I could let them down by being a bad writer and that derailed the writing a bit. At the same time I spent 2017 editing and re-editing Seven Deadly Swords – as a first novel it had some structural and other issues (and I hadn’t made my life easy by having a 1000 year timeline!) so all my writing time was taken up with rewriting. You can see that although I got most things right it’s a flawed novel in reviews I think, like this one at Fantasy-Faction or this one at the BFS. So that weighed on my mind too and fed the procrastination. I *needed* to spend much more time developing the characters for this book etc.

Writing a novel is such a weird piece of creativity and it takes a lot of effort to move yourself out of the way.  More writing tonight then I am giving myself a weekend break as I’m ahead of the wordcount (so won’t always be doing so) – and this weekend I’m painting a wall in the garden, so some zen-time to let the subconscious chew on forthcoming chapters.

Happy Reading & Happy writing!

“Dreams are as likely to come from hell as heaven” – Fay Weldon




Published by suttope

Pete W Sutton is a writer and editor. His two short story collections – A Tiding of Magpies and The Museum for Forgetting – were shortlisted for Best Collection in the British Fantasy Awards in 2017 & 2022 respectively. His novel – Seven Deadly Swords – was published by Grimbold Books. He has edited several short story anthologies and is the editor for the British Fantasy Society Horizons fiction magazine.

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