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Author Topic: So you want to write a novel?  (Read 12751 times)
Ed
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« on: July 13, 2008, 04:22:12 AM »

Interesting article by Tom Monteleone at Cemetery Dance - http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/WritersColumnTomMonteleone
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2008, 08:16:19 AM »

Interesting stuff. I read something very similar in Jerry Cleaver's book Immediate Fiction.

Many years ago, after starting and failing to complete dozens of novels, I set out to prove to myself I could do it. After a bit of trial and error I discovered that 600 words a day was the optimum amount for me. I think I might have got the number 600 from Hemingway (my usual criteria, if it's good enough for Papa it's good enough for me) but what's great about that number is that I found that I could always write 600 words a day. Sometimes I wrote them on the train going to a meeting, sometimes in my lunchbreak, sometimes in the evening. I found that if I had a busy day and I had no time until maybe one or two o'clock in the mroning I could still write 600 words before hitting the hay.

So this is what I did, a minimum of 600 a day. Some days I wrote three thousand, but never less than 600. And lo and behold several months later I had a 120 000 word novel.  I treated myself to a Nikon SLR as a 'well done', put the manuscript in my bottom drawer and have never looked at it since.

But the knowledge that I have that discipline has enabled me to complete four other novel length manuscripts since.

My problem comes after the completion of draft one, when the work turns from the fun of creating something to the hard-work of editting and revising and re-writing over and over. That's hard work. Writing is fun.

Derek
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"If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it."
 
Robert B. Parker
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« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2008, 08:43:31 AM »

and how did he find the time to write all that? To be frank it was an intense study of the obvious, especially somewhere in the archives of every writers' forums the same advice is found.

I reach for the remote but not to hide it. I write better if the TV is stuck on radio 3 or music DVDs or CDs are playing.

After disposing of the 50 or so overnight emails, I aim for 1000 words by lunch, and a total of 2,500 fresh words by bedtime. OK, I'm an insomniac so I have 18 hour days and no 'proper' job to distract me. Luckily the rain has kept me indoors for weeks so my target is often met. That's 2,500 words that includes non-fiction, reviews as well as my own shorts and novels. It doesn't include crits and editing - some of which I am paid for.

Why, 2,500 fresh words a day? Cos that's what Stephen King says he aims at. Hah, as if I can get close to his success.

It's been interesting to examine the review pages of the Guardian on saturdays this year. This is relevant so bear with me. They've been running a photo feature - just a photo of a writer's room, corner, hidey-hole, space, and the writer's comments on why it works for them. So you have some with windows to look out (that would stop me writing - inspiring yes, but I like watching Nature making out too much) other with a blank wall; some are cluttered, some anally neat; some with ultra-modern computers and gadgets, others on typewriters (good grief); some with stacked in-trays and neatly ordered box-files, others in a pyramid of paper, sometimes with a cat on top. Ergo, we are all different.

Geoff
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Ed
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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2008, 11:39:19 AM »

Can't say I've ever consciously striven to be that productive. I used to be an insomniac, so I found it easy to write from say 10pm right through until three or sometimes four in the morning, fuelled by strong tea and lots of cigarettes. But that was before the advent of the Internet, and also before I got the hang of using a computer as a word processor. I wrote with pen and paper in block capitals so that my wife could read it to type it up for me, which she didn't keep up with doing. The handwritten manuscript sat around untyped for months, and then finally got put in a drawer, along with my ambitions to write. That must have been about fifteen years ago. For the next dunno how many years I didn't write at all.

I started writing again a few years ago (mostly shorts), taught myself to type, but since I quit smoking and had to change rooms, I've never really got back into the swing of things properly. I'm hoping sometime this year or next, I'll get my head together enough to embark on something novel length. I had hoped to go to the Borderlands Novel Boot Camp in January 2009, but they're asking for several chapters, a synopsis, character studies, etc., by the end of August (if memory serves) and I haven't even started yet, so I doubt it'll happen this time around.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2008, 12:47:57 PM »

Interesting article.  I have seen a lot of this over the years, in one form or another.  I think his best thought is near the top-(paraphrasing) if you want to write you will and if you want to make excuses for not writing you will. 
I try to get in at least two hours of writing a day-sometimes I am lucky and I can put in 4-5.  I probably write about 300-800 words. If I work more than 2-3 hours on writing, then I am probably editing or reading other works.  I am extremely fortunate to have a job where ,in between other tasks, I can do this writing. So I usually won't sit for a couple of hours straight and write, but rather, I will likely writing for 15-20 minutes. Do my job. Write for 10 minutes. Do my job etc...
My time is not always my own once I get home.  Gotta keep the wife happy and all that Shocked

I have to agree with delboy however:
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My problem comes after the completion of draft one, when the work turns from the fun of creating something to the hard-work of editting and revising and rewriting over and over. That's hard work. Writing is fun.

 
Its a bear to sit down and start trimming the fat Cry
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Ed
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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2008, 09:04:07 AM »

Yep, isn't it just. I sometimes think editing is the hardest part of writing anything - I find it especially difficult to add things, because to you the new text seems to stand out like a sore thumb, or a non sequitur.

True also, what Geoff says. This is fairly ubiquitous advice and, as you say GM, probably his best observation comes near the beginning, about wanting to write or make excuses. I'd say 90% of writing a novel is wrapped up in self motivation. My problem comes when, after a hard day at work, the writing feels like more work rather than leisure time. That's when my productivity drops. Most of the time I'm OK, though, as long as I've got a strong idea and I'm excited about where I'm taking it. I really must get on and start another novel. It must be at least two years since I threw away the last one I got (can't remember exactly, but I think it was) about 40,000 words into. scratch
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2008, 07:07:53 PM »

Im about 30,000 words into a novel, but I've been finding it increasingly difficult to find writing time. It's absolutely impossible to write when I'm at work (I think audiences would notice) and when I get home I really want to spend quality time with the mrs, mainly because we never, ever have days together. I think I'm often pretty drained creatively when I do get free time because I have to be creative all day at work and most of the things I talk about with friends and the other half are projects of some sort that we're working on. I'm actually pretty frustrated at never getting time to spend on my own personal things and I have been seriously considering some sort of writer's retreat. Borderlands sounds amazing, but I suspect it's a little out of my price range. What do people think of these sorts of things and are there any that you recommend?
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Ed
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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2008, 03:52:00 AM »

Oh, I know exactly what you mean, Jon. For the past seven or eight years I've literally been rebuilding the house we live in. It's a long story, but suffice to say I've even replaced the foundations, the floors (joists and all), the ceilings, the roof and both the outside and inside walls. I get no respite from it - even when I'm not doing it, I'm in it and looking at the bits that need doing. It think sometimes it's a mental break you need as much as a physical one. There has been times when I've desperately wanted to book myself into a hotel for the weekend, on my own, just to soak up some quiet and get a good night's sleep, let alone write something.

The writer's retreat is good for recharging the creative batteries, I think. Borderlands is a 'Boot Camp' weekend, though - you don't actually get any writing time, but you're still expected to write a short story to a prompt during the weekend. I began mine at five in the morning and finished it in time to hand it in at nine. The rest of the time was taken up with lectures and critiques that ended around midnight to one in the morning (with a six hour time difference it's a bitch). But I'd thoroughly recommend it, even if you only go to meet other writers. This year it's actually cheaper than last year - it's $1,000 for the weekend, but that includes the hotel room for the weekend, whereas last time it didn't. In our case we've got to add on a transatlantic air fair, too. Mine came to £350 last time, but I suspect it will be more than that this year.

If you're just looking for writing time, I'd say a week away in this country would possibly be more valuable for you.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2008, 07:46:06 AM »

I can fully appreciate Jon's lack of time to spend time with his wife and on his own writing - and I've made it worse by giving him Exit to perform, and even though I will be paying him, it still takes time.

I thought that once I gave up full time teaching I'd have loads of time, and I do, but not as much as I thought. I earn piles more from editing other folks' novels and shorts and often to a tight schedule. Sometimes a week can go by with no time to spend on my own writing and that with me needing only 5 or 6 hours kip per night. We should be grateful we have the work - I suppose, grudgingly!

Geoff
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2008, 08:24:02 AM »

I easily earn more from both music and art than from writing novels, but I've got the bug, so I have to do it. I'm trying to take a break from the current one, as I need to go to Alnmouth to research the next bit, but I can't help myself - I'm still writing it, with the intention of putting in the 'local' references later. Thing is, I don't know what's going to happen in the story, and I want to find out. The only way to do that is to write it and see what the characters do next. It's as if I can't leave them twiddling their thumbs while I go off and do something else. They need to get on with their lives, and they can only do that if I write the book.
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« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2008, 10:28:42 AM »

Interesting to compare these two quotes:

Quote
I had hoped to go to the Borderlands Novel Boot Camp in January 2009, but they're asking for several chapters, a synopsis, character studies, etc.,

and

Quote
Thing is, I don't know what's going to happen in the story, and I want to find out. The only way to do that is to write it and see what the characters do next. It's as if I can't leave them twiddling their thumbs while I go off and do something else. They need to get on with their lives, and they can only do that if I write the book.

Almost everything I write adheres to the Delph process, as opposed to the Borderland one.

I'm trying to have a go at planning the next one out... but as far as fun goes, it isn't.

Derek
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"If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it."
 
Robert B. Parker
Ed
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« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2008, 07:11:06 PM »

My problem is that I haven't decided how the story will end yet. I kind of know the ending will stay open, paving the way for half a dozen sequels, but I don't have the fine details. Perhaps I should have a go at writing out a synopsis.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2008, 07:26:03 PM »

I think I'm beginning to realise that I'm a commitment-phobe as far as writing is concerned. I'm OK for a one-night stand with a short story (or even a quickie down a dark alley with a flash), but a long-term relationship with a proper novel seems to be out of the question at the moment.  scratch
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« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2008, 09:04:53 PM »

What I do, Jon, is to make a rough plan of the novel I'm going to write, divided into chapters. Then the trick is to treat each chapter as though it were a short story. That way you're not looking at the long road ahead, but getting that buzz of achievement you crave each time you finish a chapter.

DW Cheesy
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« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2008, 07:21:13 PM »

I think I'm beginning to realise that I'm a commitment-phobe as far as writing is concerned. I'm OK for a one-night stand with a short story (or even a quickie down a dark alley with a flash), but a long-term relationship with a proper novel seems to be out of the question at the moment.  scratch

Just wait until a character grabs hold of your brain, JonP, and refuses to let go until you've tapped out its entire life story.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2008, 07:21:30 PM by canadian » Logged

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