100 Days to write a novel: Week Two

4,300 words this week so far. obviously, I won’t be taking the whole weekend off this time – I need to do at least 1 more writing session to bring it up to the target 5k. At this stage, with the words flowing, I’m tempted to do a couple of sessions and try to get ahead for the inevitable setbacks. But I’m off to a friend’s for a birthday thing – and there are a lot of household chores that need doing… At this stage, 1/7th of the way through I’m not ditching real life to get it done just yet.

It was my writing group meeting yesterday night. We were doing critiques, of two writers at very different stages in learning the craft. It’s an interesting comparison: for one we were discussing improving general prose levels and making it more a story and the other was more how to make the prose really shine, and alternative endings.

I know there is a feeling, in some circles, that you can’t teach creative writing. I’m not entirely sure that’s true – obviously, some people will show a greater aptitude and facility to learn than others. I feel I get more from critiquing others than being critiqued (which tends to be story specific detail) and I find it just as useful to crit a beginning writer as an accomplished one.

In my own writing this week I’ve put some thought into layering and interiority, both things I struggle with in first drafts. I spent some time wondering how to improve my process so that I don’t have to add this in a later edit – but seems that’s the way it’ll go. I have to write in a fingers faster than the conscious brain mode first. if I overthink it I don’t slow down, I stop.

Some years ago a friend of mine got married and his stag do included clay pigeon shooting. In a group of around twenty men, I got the lowest score. I earned myself a giant clay pigeon in a “wooden spoon” type award. The guy in charge spotted that I started out well but got progressively worse – whilst some people started out badly and got better, and others were just good at it. He nailed my problem. I’d started thinking about it and my brain is slower than the swing, gun, finger, bang needed to be. That’s how I feel if I try to bring more intentionality into the writing. So that intentionality comes in the planning stage and because I can’t hold it all in mind and write at the same time, there need to be fairly extensive edits and revisions. I underwrite. It took me far too long to realise this. I’d read Stephen King’s On Writing and he’s an over writer and describes that the process of writing which, for him, included cutting by 25%. I thought I was doing it wrong. It wasn’t until I was at a workshop and the tutor said about the fact some people overwrite and others underwrite that the penny dropped.

Underwriting doesn’t always mean that you don’t add extraneous words, have unnecessary repetition or don’t have flabby prose. That’s all there with me and editing does involve cutting as well. What it also means (for me at least) is that there is a mismatch between what’s in my head and what’s on the page with regards to what’s communicated to the reader in order for them to understand the story. Some writers tell you too much information, not allowing you, as reader, to do any work. Spoonfeeding you more information than you need. I’m the opposite. I also have to add in context and blocking. So I’m sure after the 100 days to write a novel there’ll be a 100 days to edit it too!






2 thoughts on “100 Days to write a novel: Week Two

  1. People who say you cannot teach Creative Writing don’t know what they are talking about. The mindset of being creative is a difficult process to establish for some. The technique of writing and writing well is also difficult, but its a craft, so it can be taught. Talent helps, vocabulary helps, other things help, but ultimately wanting to learn and being open to ideas is the first step.


  2. I agree, it’s a craft and craft can be learned. However, I feel that what these people are saying is actually you can’t teach someone to be creative – as per your comment, it is difficult for some people. I’ve watched writers struggle to improve – and some reject utterly the editing process. My work on Far Horizons was interesting, as the publisher wanted us to publish every story we were sent we never explicitly rejected anything. That was a whole different mindset! So there were plenty where we tried to work with the author to bring it to publishable quality. From my experience some people do seem to struggle to learn the basics… plenty can, and do, learn though.


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