THE WRITING LIFE – book 4, zero draft – complete!

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Well, I did it, I hit my deadline!  I have written a very rough, very basic draft of my fourth novel in a little under four months. To be honest, I could have finished this on Saturday, but I really wanted to put that last cross on the calendar today. Ok, so maybe there’s a touch of OCD involved…

If you’ve seen my recent blog posts or if you’ve been following my Facebook page, you’ll know that I’ve been using some incentives to help keep me going. First, there’s the calendar, an idea I adapted from one I saw in Mslexia magazine. Just print out a calendar, then for each day you hit your writing target (mine was an absolute minimum of 200 words but aiming for 1000) you put a cross in the squeare for that day. So here, a cross means I wrote at least 200 and if I got to 1000, I added a dot.

I also used a reward-based incentive. Assuming this draft would be around 90,000 words (it’s ended up as 81,500) I put 90 small coins in a glass, each coin representing 1000 words I had to write. Each time I wrote 1000 words, I took one of those coins out and chucked it back in my purse, but I also put a pound coin in another class. So I saw the number of words I had to write going down, and the amount of money I had to celebrate completing the draft going up. It’s a winner!

So there’s now £81 in that glass, and me and Himself will be having a night out on it this week. (I think I’m going to have to do something similar to the redraft – got to celebrate the end of that, too.)
Here’s the proof of my wordcount and a sneak peek at the first page:

Of course the other thing that helped was that this time, for the first time ever, I was working from a detailed five-page synopsis– thanks to my agent Kate Shaw for keeping on at me to do this! I found it very difficult – it took several weeks – but I will definitely try this approach again.

Inevitably, things have changed a little from the original synopsis, but the basic story is the same. I’ve changed some character details – occupation, for example. I’ve also got rid of one supporting character and introduced a new one. The other thing that’s different is that a few things I thought I could skim over in a paragraph as back story have turned out to demand full scenes of their own.

What I’ve learned is this: planning a novel out like this is difficult, and there were many points at which I felt sick, certain the idea wasn’t working and lying awake at night agonising over whether I would be able to make it work. But this is EXACTLY what I usually go through halfway through writing a novel anyway. Maybe sometimes an idea doesn’t work, but surely it’s better to abandon a synopsis after a few weeks of work than to abandon 70,000 words after several months, which is what I ended up doing back in June – you can read about it here

So, I feel exhilarated having completed this draft and very excited about embarking upon what I hope will be a decent first draft. I will, of course, keep you posted.

If you’d like to know more about me and my work, or if you’d like to sign up for one of the popular Novel Writing workshops I run with Russell Thomas, please visit my website, and you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter

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