As someone who is fairly new to writing full length novels, with only a few years experience behind me, I am constantly finding new ways of keeping momentum when writing. When you look at it as a whole, writing an 80,000 word novel is quite an achievement, but it is a hard slog to get there. Especially as most of the time, of those 80,000 words, about 70,000 will have been re-written numerous times. So it’s not just a case of writing 80,000 words, that’s the finished product. (Give or take – novels come in all shapes and sizes but I tend to work at around 80k)
So, how do you keep going and get to that stage?
When I wrote my first book, I wrote the first draft and it barely consisted of 40,000 words – just half of the final product. But, I had the essentials to work with to make it grow. Getting to 40k was hard. It was the first time I had written past the, ‘I’m rubbish, must give up‘ stage and pushed to get a basic plot outline down. I did this whilst completing a novel writing course at the LSJ so I got there by writing a chapter and submitting it. I then got to the stage where I was on a roll so I was to write a few chapters and submit every 3rd/4th one to be checked, to make sure I was flowing OK.
When I completed the course, I hadn’t even finished the first draft. I didn’t have a tutor to submit to each month so I was left to my own devices. (I would like to say that the LSJ didn’t just leave me high and dry, I had, and still do have, regular contact with my tutor once I had finished so I still had support from them, I just wasn’t submitting to them.) I worked out that I needed to just write. Write it down and edit it later. Editing along the way doesn’t really work for me. Some people it does, but for me, I need to just get the story down. I’ll sort out the mess of it afterwards.
So I continued to write. I would have a break, then I would edit, then I would have a break, then I would edit…..this is how I ended up with the final version that has gone off querying.
Second time around. It’s a lot harder. I was actually shocked at how much harder it was to get started. Beforehand, I had my writing course and my tutor holding my hand and guiding me through the very first stages of draft one. This time, it’s just me and a blank screen. It’s very daunting. I needed to think of new ways of how to get myself going.
This is where I discovered ‘chop and change.’
I have always been a computer writer. When I write by hand, my writing becomes a messy scrawl where my hands fight to keep up with the information that my brain is telling it to document. I can ONLY just read it back – others don’t have a hope in hell of understanding it. However, having finished a whole book and receiving all the support and encouragement from other writers and friends that I have, it has lit a flame inside me and I am excited to get book two going. The idea is fighting around in my brain, desperate to be on paper and I find myself thinking about it all the time. (Those that follow me will know the daily paramedic spotting and cake eating I have to do – it’s a hard life) It is because of this uncontrollable need to write the story, that I am finding myself having to use pen and paper. Being on the computer all day every day just isn’t practical. So when I can’t get on the computer, I use my notepad. My new, especially bought for book two, black spotty notepad. I went to the zoo, wrote in the notepad as LO was playing in the ballpit. I went to London for the day, wrote in the notepad on the way in the car. I was early to pick LO up from school, wrote in the notepad whilst sitting in the car parked up at school. It really has taken hold. And I love it! It’s an amazing feeling.
I have now found a new way to work. The story doesn’t necessarily flow from one scene to another right now, so I use the computer when it does, and when I need to write a scene that is in my head but not ready to be placed into the story as it is, I write it in the notebook for future reference. It may sound silly that I’ve not worked like this before, but I had always copy and pasted in word to chop and change – I much prefer the writing of it now. I have my little book of scenes, ready to pluck and place into the action when it is time.
The only downside is that I can’t keep a record of my word count when I am writing in the book. Oh, and the sore hand!
Productive day – 1614 words on the computer and 8 pages in my notebook = very happy writer 🙂
How do you keep the flow going?