100 Days to Write a Novel(la?) week eleven

I did a bad thing. I should be at 55k now, I am a lot less than that and it’s because of the bad thing. As I’d slowed, a lot, which is usual in the middle slog, I went back to the beginning and re-read. And edited. And lost a few thousand words. Oops. OK, I’ve done a whole bunch of posts of “doing it wrong” and not following received wisdom on writing and this is another one.

Received wisdom is ‘just get it down then fix it later’ and you are supposed to press on and not worry about mistakes until you go through second draft. However, the counterpoint I’d put here is that if the reason you are slowing down is that you’ve taken a wrong turn then ignoring that and carrying on is counterproductive. OK, no writing is wasted, as such, it’s all practise but. But… it’s possible it’s wasted effort on this project, right now.

The other thing I did is also possibly a mistake. I did a quick and dirty version of the second half – you know, just press on with it. No fancy writing. And I’m now wondering if, when it tops out, when I fill in the corners, that this novel is actually a novella.

There’s less than a month to go on this challenge and I will end up with an editable draft, because I already have that, but it isn’t going to be 70k words… currently it’s a little less than half that and I think will end up at around the 50k mark – so just novel length (if you believe NanoWriMo) but a very short novel. But then stories find their own lengths. I just wonder if the publisher will still be interested. Of course you’ll find out shortly after I do, because I’ll blog it.

Happy reading & writing – more next week.

100 Days to (Not) Write a Novel

Another week has flown by and another disappointing wordcount. I’m still behind, at less than 40,000 words when I should be on 50,000 at this point. Ah well, blame politics – I’ve not been able to tear myself away from Twitter and news sites for the absolute shambles that’s on display. It’s been simultaneously hilarious and frightening how quickly the Tories have imploded as soon as Parliament is in session. But as tempting for me to continue watching I have a month left to finish this self-imposed challenge so I’d best crack on. 1,000 words a day, seven days a week is what it’ll take. Wish me luck!

100 Days to Write a Novel Week Nine

Having not really written for two weeks I am behind. I should be on 45,000 words, but I’m on just less than 35,000. I’ve done half a novel but have used up over half the time.

Lots of things can stop you writing I’ve found. In the War of Art Steven Pressfield talks about “resistance” and gets all spiritual – According to Pressfield, Resistance is a malignant presence that exists to block you. It rises up against you to stop you from doing what you most need to do: “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

but I think that’s mostly bollocks – writing a novel isn’t “soul evolution” – I mean you might learn things about yourself and the world writing a novel but it’s not some Buddhist practise towards enlightenment (YMMV).

Bruce Holland Rogers in Word Work talks about procrastination as armour – it serves a purpose (otherwise we wouldn’t do it), it protects us, and he identifies different styles of procrastination – like the perfectionist’s need to get everything right before moving on or the hedonist’s need to put off unpleasant tasks in favour of comfort and pleasure etc.

Of those I feel I am more the second than the first. I come home tired from work, didn’t write much that night. I go on holiday and take the journal and a tablet but don’t open either etc.


Why do it now when you can put it off till later?

I need to avoid the ‘do it right before deadline’ in order to avoid the ‘never do it’.

I am on day 61, 39 days/5 weeks to write 35,000 words? starting to look like I need to hit 7,000 words a week from now on… tune in next week to see how that goes!


100 Days to Write a Novel Week Eight

There was no week seven. I flitted across the border and took it with me.

In Glasgow, I met with another writer. We spoke, and ate a vegan meal, then watched random music in a basement. Drummer with mouthgag, a band describing themselves as being like ‘a sad wank in a bath’ and the headliners who somehow were the worst of the three. But were very energetic. I didn’t write anything.

In Loch Lomond I took a cruise from Luss and saw an osprey. I didn’t write.

I climbed Ben Lomond. It hailed. I got too hot. It was muggy. It rained. Lots of people passed me going both ways. I got to the top and took a photograph. I didn’t write.

I went to Stirling. The Wallace monument, lost the ticket but they let us in anyway, people in Scotland are friendly and nice. I drove the same road several times, parked in the same car park twice. Spent a few hours at the castle. Bumped unexpectedly into a writer from Bristol. We chatted for a while then went our separate ways. I didn’t write.

I drank a lot of whisky and visited a pub that was closed and one that wasn’t. It drizzled. I didn’t write.

I went to Edinburgh and did the Fringe – comedy, show, theatre, weird wrestling videos with comedians, shows, more shows, more comedy. I didn’t write.

I met a writer in Edinburgh. We drank lots of beer at the book festival. I listened to writers talk about their writing. I bumped into another writer I know who I didn’t know lived in Scotland. He went off to listen to other writers talk about writing. I ate Chinese food and didn’t write.

The tablet and keyboard went unused. Lugged from Glasgow to Dumbarton to Edinburgh pointlessly.

I watched Twitter as thousands of people converged on Dublin for WorldCon and all my writer friends socialised and probably talked about writing.

I didn’t write.

It’s now week eight and the total still stands at 31,000

I have some catching up to do.

<Cracks Knuckles>



100 Days to Write a Novel: Week Six

And so comes the inevitable crash. I’ve only written 1500 words this week. I’ve been stymied for a variety of reasons – none of which should have been insurmountable. As Mumford & Sons said – “If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won”

So that should mean lots of writing to catch up this weekend, right? In the normal run of things that would indeed be the case but I’m about to set off for a short break in Scotland. And have planned to meet friends, go for long walks and enjoy Edinburgh Festival. So it might be tough to catch up.

Still, I’ll be taking the novel with me and a means to write electronically (and on paper) so will just have to snatch time as and when I can. It’s a good job I’m ahead, but that fat is almost gone…

As per last week’s blog I hit that ‘I need to replan’ stage at around 30k (I’m at 31.5) and that’s one reason I hit the brakes. I also, foolishly, during re-reading indulged in a bit of editing to add description & specificity in the first 3 chapters before I realised that was eating up my writing time and editing needs to come when I have a full first draft.

Anyhow my next missive on the blog – 100 days to write a novel week 7 – will be late, but I’ll let you know how I’ve got on writing while travelling…

100 Days to Write a Novel: Week Five

The Certainty of Dust is at almost 30,000 words and this is the pause point. At 30k with both previous novels, it reached the point where forward momentum versus how it matches the outline needed testing at this point. And despite doing better planning, or so I thought, I’ve hit that point now too. I guess it’s just part of my “process” (hah, as if there was such a thing). So instead of adding more words today (or this weekend) I’ll be revisiting the outline – and making sure it still makes sense. I’ve already spotted – while writing – that one chapter needs to come earlier.

It’s also nice to reach novella length and almost half novel length (which for genre is 70k as usual lowest target) which it’ll reach next week (if all goes well, that’s 35k next week hopefully)

On Twitter on Wednesday I asked a research question which went sort of viral. Without too many spoilers Jackie, the main character of the novel, has to sing at a funeral and I wanted to know what the saddest song she could sing could be. But Google let me down, none of the songs it threw up were that sad (to me). So I asked people to give me the songs that make them cry and I have been overwhelmed at the response. Many, many thanks to everyone who has tweeted me songs that make them cry. I am very grateful & will try and acknowledge as many as I can in the book (definitely for the ones I use).

And after taking a hit on productivity due to a combination of factors (including Brexit setting the country on fire, sorry for so many political tweets folks!) but mainly due to being shortlisted for the BFA for my first book along comes something else to set expectations and re-awake that whole fear of success (fear of success is odd, but very real). My previous book, Seven Deadly Swords, has been longlisted for the Not The Booker. Although I have no expectations with regards to getting on the shortlist (not enough people have bought and read my book and the barrier for voting – having a Guardian account and leaving a 100+ word review will put off most of the people who have actually read it!). But just being on a national list is big. I have no idea how it made the list, and in fact hadn’t noticed it was on the list until Dave Hutchinson pointed it out on Twitter. I’ve explored this more in this post

As ever I’ve been reading writing books – as described in this post I’m kinda addicted to reading writing books, especially while writing a book. This week has been no different, I’ve finished The Making of a Story I’ve been reading it for some months on and off (it was recommended by Neil Gaiman no less, good but very thick!) and read 10 Core Practices for Better Writing (Aimed at beginning writers and people who have never heard of Amazon :-o) and Creative Writing (which I read in a couple of hours and picked up some tips so I’d recommend that one.)

The last piece of news is that I’m a judge for the British Fantasy Awards Best Newcomer

Best Newcomer (the Sydney J Bounds Award)
Tomi Adeyemi, for The Children of Blood and Bone (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Cameron Johnston, for The Traitor God (Angry Robot)
RF Kuang, for The Poppy War (HarperVoyager)
Tasha Suri, for Empire of Sand (Orbit)
Marian Womack, for Lost Objects (Luna Press Publishing)
Micah Yongo, for Lost Gods (Angry Robot)

And have been receiving these books in the post over the last couple of weeks – so I’ll be reading ‘professionally’ for a while…

Happy Reading & Happy Writing!




100 Days to Write a Novel: Week Four

The Certainty of Dust is now just under 24,000 words. I’m still ahead (basically due to the boost during week one). Although behind on the week – which means more writing over the weekend. Essentially it’s now novella length and half novel-length (if we accept NanoWriMo’s definition of a novel is 50K)

As I tweeted recently: “I’m leaving comments in the WIP that I know future me will curse me for. Like <better description here> but it allows me to work fast rather than spend long minutes trying to come up with something pithy. But is it false economy because I’ll need that later? *shrugs*”

This seems like a common practice for writers. As I mentioned before the way I work is underwriting and I have to add layers later. I tend to need to add sensory detail in later edits as well as descriptions and maybe also character blocking (where they are in the space).

I also fiddle with the structure (with Seven Swords this involved the whole index cards and moving chapters around – but that was much more complicated than this one, which is more linear)

So even at the end of this draft – I know there’ll still be a lot of work to do.

Still, onwards and upwards! Happy Reading & Happy Writing