Chop and change – Finding a technique that works

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.

Six edits of 'Head over Heart' (Book One)

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?


2 thoughts on “Chop and change – Finding a technique that works

  1. Jill Mansell writes by hand. Nabokov used to write scenes on little cards, which he then filed away and pulled out when ready to use. You are not alone!

    I start by finding out everything I can through googling, and then I buy books. I then create word documents ( I think that’s the term) on the computer for every topic that I might need in my book. I have a file for each aspect that I research; for example, CLOTHES, FOOD, HOUSES, etc.

    When I’m writing the book, I then minimise any file that I might need for the aspect of the story that I’m working on, so I can easily draw upon it. I write the novel in the order that the story will be read. If that makes sense.

    Liz X


  2. Sorry for the delay, Liz! Thanks for commenting.

    I am glad to see I am not alone – what a vat of information you are 🙂 Scenes on little cards to file away, I like the sound of that.

    It’s nice to hear how you compile your research and yes, it does make sense that you write the novel in the order it is read. That’s what I am trying to do on the computer and then my little notepad is other parts of the story waiting to go in.

    Thanks for stopping by, Liz xx


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