Monthly Archives: October 2012

I am a starter, but I will finish

When I first started writing my book I spent plenty of time reading blogs, articles, books, anything I could get my hands to help learn how to write a book. There is a lot of good advice out there (some of which has ended up on this blog) but two pieces of advice have stuck in my mind:

  1. Just write
  2. Finish what you started

This may seem obvious; write a lot because the more you write the more you learn and the closer you get to finding your own “voice” (which is important), but you also at some point have to complete what you are doing and let it go out into the wild. It’s very good advice, excellent in fact,

but

If you have ever had the pleasure of working closely with me you will know that I am a starter, not a finisher (I like to think that I’m an excellent starter, world class in fact). This doesn’t mean I don’t finish anything, I have worked hard for many years to make sure I finish what I’ve started, it’s just that it doesn’t come naturally to me. Now before you start worrying, this doesn’t mean that I’m about to go off and do something else. I love writing, I am hooked and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I will finish the book because:

  • The story deserves to be told
  • I love the story and I’ve put too much heart and soul into it to stop now
  • I love the learning process and I still have a lot of learning to do
  • I do not want to confirm to my friends that I am not a writer, but a marketing professional having a midlife crisis

There is only one problem, one tiny fly in the ointment. There is another story that has been marinading in the back of my skull for a while now and it has finally learned to talk. It has a seductive voice that whispers to me during those moments when my mind drifts (first thing in the morning, just before I go to sleep, when I am doing any domestic chore) and the voice repeats just three small words:

Write me instead

It doesn’t help that it’s a great idea (in my own modest opinion). It’s something that is very personal to me but should resonate with many people. It too is a story that deserves to be told, a story that is being written about in the media quite often but (in my opinion) not truly understood. However, it’s just going to have to bide it’s time. My current book needs to be completed first and hopefully I’ll be a better, stronger writer for it. Then, perhaps, I’ll be able to do the next story justice.

So, I stand in front of you all today (metaphorically speaking), to raise my right hand and say “My name is Dylan, I am a starter, but I haven’t started a new project now for 13 weeks and I won’t until I have finished the project I am currently writing.

Thank you for your support!

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Time to think

So, for the past few days life has intruded upon my writing. My youngest has been ill and it’s fallen to me to be the one to care for him during both night and day (it’s just a virus if you were wondering, nothing to worry about unless you are 18 months old and it’s in your system.) This has meant I haven’t been able to write a thing, nada, not a sausage. However, I haven’t stopped thinking about the novel, which is good because………… all is not well.
To begin with I realised that I have a plot hole as big as Donald Trump’s ego. Then, in order to fix it, I need to rejig a couple of chapters (they were due a re-write anyway, so I’m not too worried) but worse than that, I have to cull a supporting character. This will be tough, it’s a character I quite like and now nobody will ever get to know them. They have died before they were ever born.
The good news is that the novel will be better for it. Another character will have to take up the slack and this will make them a much more rounded, realistic person. I wasn’t too happy with how I had written them up to this point, you could almost see them twirling their moustache whilst strapping a damsel to a rail track they were so one dimensional (yes, they were also down for a re-write) but now I can have real fun and have a number of ideas to make them a much more nuanced character.
The moral of the story? If you are having trouble with your plot, I recommend sleep deprivation.

Excellent blog on writing – from an editor

This is just a quick blogpost to point you in the direction of my favourite blog on writing. I discovered it the other day and loved the combination of encouragement and chastisement contained within.
If you are in the process of writing a book, please give it a visit. It is well written, funny and very, very helpful.

The novel doctor

I hope you love it as much as I do. Just try not to let it distract you from actually writing.

Doubts

Over the past few days I’ve started to have my first doubts about whether I’m cut out to be a writer. It’s not to do with the act of writing (I’m still enjoying sitting in front of a computer, living out each individual character’s journey) or whether my story is worth telling (it is, even if it is just for me). My problem is that I have no idea if I am any good.

This is obviously a difficult question for you to answer because, as it currently stands, you have no idea what I’m writing (other than this blog). The only person who has read any part of my novel is me. And it’s a first draft. I’m deliberately using this draft to create the framework for the story, I plan to furnish it during the second draft (and brutal edit). The issue, I think, is two fold:

  • I’ve been reading some wonderful books recently and while enjoying them, in the back of my head I hear a little voice saying, you could never write like that
  • For the first time since I’ve started, some parts of the process haven’t felt natural.

Now I appreciate that, after being only 1 month and 50,000 words into the 1st draft, in writing terms I’m just a baby. I should be happy that I’m still enjoying the writing process and learning and improving each day (I am, I am!) but I’m impatient. I don’t want to be a good writer maybe one day in the future, I want it to be good now.

Anyway, the purpose of the blog is not to search for compliments, look for support, appeal to your sentimentality. I just needed to acknowledge these doubts so that I can file them away on the “to be ignored” pile of self doubt currently mouldering away in the dusty compartments of my psyche.

Thank you for witnessing. Doubts duly filed.

Celebration

After a three and a half weeks solid writing, I decided to give myself a break today to celebrate finishing the first act of my novel. Yes, 11 chapters, 129 pages and 43,422 words later, I’ve managed to hit the first major milestone.
So, what did you do to celebrate, you may ask? Have a day at the health spa, alternating between the sauna and the masseur? Spend the day cruising around a race track in a super car? Sleep?
Well, it was none of the above. I completed my tax return and bought an iron.
Living the dream….

How long is the average novel

This is a great article from the publishers weekly (click here for the original article). I was wondering how many words are in the average novel. This is the answer, based on Amazon’s stats.

According to Amazon’s great Text Stats feature, the median length for all books is about 64,000 words. The figure was found through looking at a number of books’ text stats, until Brave New World‘s 64,531 word count landed in the exact center of all books–50% of books have fewer words and 50% of books have more words.

PWxyz isn’t sure how useful this information is, but because we secretly like math, we’re all for injecting objective truths into subjective fields like literature. (Which is why things like this happen.) But it is nice to know, when you pick up a book and feel its weight, where it stands in relation to all others.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of classics and where their word counts land them on the spectrum.

Animal Farm

29,966 words (75% of books have more words)

Ethan Frome

30,191 words (75% of books have more words)

The Crying of Lot 49

46,573 words (64% of books have more words)

Slaughterhouse-Five

47,192 words (64% of books have more words)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

53,510 words (58% of books have more words)

Lord of the Flies

62,481 words (51% of books have more words)

Brave New World

64,531 words (50% of books have more words)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

70,570 words (45% of books have more words)

Portnoy’s Complaint

78,535 words (41% of books have more words)

Lolita

112,473 words (21% of books have more words)

Madame Bovary

117,963 words (18% of books have more words)

Mansfield Park

159, 344 words (9% of books have more words)

Moby-Dick

209,117 words (4% of books have more words)

East of Eden

226,741 words (3% of books have more words)

Ulysses

262,869 words (2% of books have more words)

Middlemarch

310,593 words (2% of books have more words)

War and Peace

544,406 words (0% of books have more words)

Some great words of wisdom from Neil Gaiman via the Jaye Em Edgecliff blog

Jaye Em Edgecliff

Gaiman’s 8 Rules

These, by and large, are really common sense,. But really that’s why I absolutely love readingNeil Gaiman. Not his books, though several of his are on my to-read list, the only one I’ve managed to get around to yet is Good Omens (very awesome, by the way), I mean him.

Really it does all boil down to: If you want to write, have a story or, better yet, have characters and see what story they present you and then try to keep up.

Write! You’ll never get your story told if you put it off.

Once writing, keep at it. I add the corollary of get the idea down, if not now, ASAP! You may truly not be able to get it down right as it happens. Maybe you’re making love, or driving, or cooking, or skydiving. Inspiration hits at inconvenient moments, but…

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