Recently I started something. I started writing.
Getting words down on the page.
I started to write a novel. Did I dare? The hubris!
This was both exhilarating and terrifying. I haven’t been this excited by a personal project for as long as I can remember. But, the idea of writing one hundred thousand words was seriously daunting.
I have experienced imposter syndrome before, but rarely at this scale. I needed a plan, I needed some bite sized chunks, I needed guidance, otherwise this mountain seemed unclimbable.
So before I wrote, I googled. I found authors, advice, and support. From my googling, I decided on the following writing plan to get into my novel:
- + One hundred words
Basically this means I started slow. Dipping in my toes so I wouldn’t get scared by the confrontation of thousands of words. I could just do my minimum amount on the novel if I wanted. I started with one hundred words a day, five times a week minimum. I would then increase minimum this by one hundred every month. Going over is fine, but once my words were done, pressure was off.As of September 2014, my minimum is 400 words a day, five days a week. I plan to place a cap this minimum at 1000 words a day – this will be in six months time (March 2014).
- Only the words to my novel count towards my minimum.
So ok, August was pretty bad for this – I focused on creating this blog instead of writing the novel. But as of tonight, I am back on. The blog has, and will, serve its purpose of practicing and polishing my writing outside the novel. But the novel gets its minimum first.It also means the distracting other novel ideas I really want to write simultaneously get limited to handwritten notes and scribbles – enough so I don’t forget, but not so many that I am cheating on my primary manuscript (thanks to C. Wendig for that imagery).
- All words towards the novel count
This means I can spend the words on writing new stuff, adding in words at an earlier place, or even editing or planning. Editing is tougher, as if I go back, I can only count an overall net increase in words – so if I delete one hundred words, I need to add back two hundred.Planning was what got me through the first few months. I found that planning the structure of the novel section by section was excellent for a stop start approach that such a small word minimum encourages. I didn’t need to write much, I could simply bullet point out the story/plot.
I’m now into the story proper (at least the beginning) and the structure keeps me going, and the planning I did really helps with the actual writing.
Just a quick note regarding how I have planned; I used the outline and section sheets recommended by the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: http://themarshallplan.net/freesectionsheets.htm – this not only provided structure, but limited the time and effort I spent on planning. I couldn’t plan a section for days and days and never end up writing it. I could keep each section to a single page, then it was done. Next section. NEXT!
As I think I said when I discussed this the Marshall Plan in a previous post – its pretty rigid, and I think you have to feel free abandon it if you find it too much like a straight jacket, but that rigidity made the first stop of getting words on the page much easier.
My only aim with this first novel is to finish, and to polish it to a state where I can ask a friend to read it. It may be a pile of dribble – my google advice indicated that generally first manuscripts are utter shyte, but that doesn’t bother me. I figure that if you never finish your first rubbish novel, you can never start your second, better piece.
What do you do? Do you have a word limit? Do you use a time based limit instead? What has worked and what hasn’t?