Journey of a Novel – Week 1

When I started my blog one of my first posts was about me writing a novel. I talked about how I had 14,000 words written and I was aiming to write 3,500-5,000 words a week. Just over a year later and I am sitting at 17,000 words and an opening chapter I had re-written 3 times. In between that time I had also spent time writing some short stories and, of course, the occasional blog post. But let’s be clear, it is still a pitiful return for a potential year’s worth of writing.

The short stories were beneficial because I could plan simple plot and let the mechanics of writing be the focus. I learned a lot from those stories and the main takeaway was there may be hope for my writing yet! Learning about drafts and editing is easier with a shorter story as well. Stepping away from the bigger story was necessary, but I still hadn’t written nearly enough for it to become a habit.

So the next step in my evolution is public shaming. I am going to keep a journal of my struggles to get a novel written at as rate of 500 words a day. I thrive on positive reinforcement and I know that target will be achievable on a regular basis. I am also keeping a rolling word count but excluding what I have already written in that count. Considering a new ‘ground zero’ for the purposes of this journal.

At the very least I will have a record of my struggles and triumphs. At worst this will be an embarrassing few months.


Day 1

I have a tendency to get paralyzed when I lack of guidance on ‘rules’. Like novel research for example. Does it count as writing time? I mean if I only have a set amount of time a day do I cut into that time or add the research on? Currently I am on zero words for the day but I have spent two hours buried investigating the evacuation of children from London during World War 2. For my fourth – yes you have read that right – attempt at an opening chapter I am going with a World War 2 setting for a few reasons:

* I love the era and I am fascinated by the impact the war had on the people who lived through it;
* I need a reason for my protagonist to be a ‘fish out of water’;
* I want to explore how it must have felt to be torn from a life you knew to something almost alien; and
* I want him to be alone and for what happens to him to make only small ripples in his normal world.

Journey of a Novel

I also made a visual board for my setting and ideas on Chapter 1. Writing is still not a habit for me, so I get sucked into the process too much and forget to stay loose enough to imagine. I want the board to drive me creatively and to remind me my characters live large in the story being told.

I wanted to put something together by hand rather than digitally. It was cathartic sifting through printed photos and snipping away at the white borders framing the people within. The principle behind making the board was to let the era sink in. It is not something I need to stare at day in day out but rather the ‘creating’ process itself is what will make it memorable. I really wanted to start in the right frame of mind for this chapter of the novel.

Journey of a Novel

It’s midnight now and I need to be up in 6 hours. I better not be like a zombie tomorrow.

Rolling Word count: A big fat…. 0

Quote for the Day:

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult

Day 2

Holy rotting putrid flesh I am like the King of the Zombies today. I am aware they don’t have a ‘King’ per se, due to their reduced brain function and an all encompassing obsession with, well brains.

I am already trying to make excuses about my 500 word target today and how I deserve a ‘rest’. One day of research and its rest time, even I can smell my own BS on that one. Although it could be the coffee making me hyper intelligent…. maybe I should have another.

I have managed to quickly put together some bullet points on what I want to write today. They are based on the overall story but it is more about taking the ‘novel’ macro down to the ‘scene’ micro. For me structure is important or I can get overwhelmed on bad days, and write little or nothing. I don’t have to stick to the exact structure, it’s about knowing it’s there that helps me focus on the writing.

I managed 23 words before I started flicking through the Internet. A second attempt yielded 46 words and it was my phone that distracted me this time. I know every writer gets distractions but, again, I need discipline to make lasting habits and break bad ones. One tool I use in work is the Pomodoro technique which breaks down work into intervals of 25 mins in length. I am using 10 minutes as my starting point for writing. Aiming for small steps to develop a long term habit. I finished the day hitting my target easily and some of the words are not even that terrible. Now to get some sleep.

Rolling Word Count: 663

Quote for the Day:

“Waiting for inspiration is a fool’s game. You hunt it. You summon it. Writing is an act of laying traps for the Muse. Writing does not follow inspiration. It goes the other direction. You become inspired through the act of writing, of telling stories. Just sitting down and doing the work lays bait. It’s an alluring trail Reese’s Pieces meant to draw the extraterrestrial Muse into your house.” – Chuck Wendig

Day 3

Today I am taking heart from lessons I learned in my primary career. I struggled at the beginning, as a graduate, because the learning curve was so steep. I wasn’t afraid of hard work and I clocked up many late nights demonstrating that fact. But it was the long hours of repetition and perspiration that helped me improve more than any natural affinity for the role. I also had access to great resources and mentors. With writing I am finding it is more an isolated pursuit and the ‘method to the madness’ is wholly your own. That is not to say I don’t research writing techniques, story structure, read as much as I can and practice some of the techniques. It just means that I am realising I need to make my own of all that advice and information. I can’t copy a method verbatim unless it suits me as a writer.
It’s also remembering the hours I ground out in my career when I really didn’t want to. The perseverance to keep going – even when I could see how far I had to go. I have forgotten that lesson in my writing despite how similar the process is. All I need to do is grind on. It sounds so simple in principle.

Rolling Word Count: 1184

Quote for the Day:

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” – Neil Gaiman

Day 4

500 words on some days seems like a pittance, but on others it’s a millstone. Today was one of the days I could have kept writing, but I ran out of time. I had some ideas forming as I wrote, so beneath the last words written I typed out bullet points of where my thoughts were headed. I may not use the idea tomorrow but at least if I capture the essence of it I can use it to inspire another few hundred words.

The Pomodoro technique definitely helps but distraction is still my main enemy. I am supplementing my novel writing by reading one fiction and one non-fiction book before moving on to the next pair. For fiction I am on book 2 of the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks as it is in the genre I am writing – but it also feels impossibly more intricate then anything I could write. I need to remember I am not Brent Weeks and may he never think he is me. I want to have a mindset while I write, immerse myself to some degree so I am choosing fiction that relates.

The non-fiction book is Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. It is the creative mindset and values that I gain inspiration from, although it is not strictly about storytelling.

Rolling Word Count: 1686

Quote for the Day:

“The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like. Write the kind of story you like best—write the story you want to read. The same principle applies to your life and your career.” – Austin Kleon

Day 5

I made a rookie error today. I had gotten a little lazy last night and didn’t type up my journal entry. I typically write it on my phone or iPad while I am sitting at home, or when I go to bed. So instead of using my usual spare time to write my target words for the novel, I wrote my journal entry and promised to make up the time later.

Later never arrived and just as I head into my first weekend of targeted writing I have slipped up as my work week ends. I am expecting days of the dreaded zero count, but for some reason today should have been a positive reinforcement not a lazy day. I take heart that I did at least write something but alas not what mattered most.

I did at least finish my non-fiction book and will be starting another on Day 8. Oh is too late to blame these two for me not getting any writing done today?

Journey of a Novel

Rolling Word Count: 1686

Quote for the Day:

“Never put off till tomorrow the book you can read today.” – Holbrook Jackson

Day 6

I decided to test a theory today that I had always wondered. How well would I write with the lubrication of red wine? Well it turns out not any worse than I all ready do. Although I must admit it did seem to go by much quicker. I left until 7pm to start writing and 500 words flashed by in no time.

I was struggling a little on characters though. When I set up my novel originally I put together a questionnaire for each of the main and secondary characters. The questions I lifted from a number of writing websites but made my own of. Again they are not something I check regularly, but the process of entering the information has helped me form a basis for each character in my mind. In this instance the struggle was with two new characters who I had not filled out any background out on. While I had fun making it up as I went along, I think time spent fleshing them out before their next appearance would be a worthwhile endeavor.

A questionnaire may not be everyone’s choice, but as long I have some sense of who they are, and why they would act the way they do, it allows me to move forward in the story more naturally.

Journey of a Novel

Rolling Word Count: 2286

Quote for the Day:

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” – Ray Bradbury

Day 7

Ok I knew there would have to be a downside to my experiment – the hangover. I was quite pleased with myself last night at how well I had done. Also to have managed to write/research for 5 out of the 6 days so far, that may have encouraged me to be TOO merry. I am next to useless with a hangover and admire anyone who can function with screeching monkeys pounding inside their skull with dynamite for drum sticks.

So this was a self inflicted rest day. An average week that still exceeded my previous week by 2286 words. So as a beginning it was a success, as a barometer it should be an easy one to match. But then famous last words as they say.

The main lesson taken from this week is consistency. It only takes one moment of smugness, or complacency, and the habit erodes just enough to make you lazy. Thing is I really want to finish this novel, if only for myself. I am quite interested to see what happens in the story! It is definitely something I would read.

Rolling Word Count: 2286

Quote for the Day:

“I never met anyone who gets up out of their bed after a night on the town and says, ‘Oh I wish I’d had another drink last night. That would have been a great idea” ― Arthur Mathews

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About Me

About Me

Scribbler of words, learning the art form from the beginning. Like minded scribblers can find my experiences shared in this blog. I am also a fan of storytelling in it's many forms, which will be expressed through the posts for the reader to peruse at their leisure. Here's hoping some scribbles catch your eye. Please forgive me any errors while I learn.