Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Mathematics of Novel Writing

People often tell me that they'd like to write a novel but they don't have the time. Actually you don't need much time to write a novel, you just need a little basic maths. Ten to twenty minutes a day is about how long it takes most people to write 250 words*. Multiply 250 words by 365 days and you get 91,250 words. That's a reasonable length for a first draft. Now, all you need is ten or so minutes a day...

1. Do your novel thinking outside your writing time so when you get the chance you know roughly what you're going to write.

2. If you say something like, "I just want to do some writing, could you keep an eye on the children", you're in effect asking for permission. Sneak off without telling anyone and I bet it'll be ten minutes at least before anyone notices you've gone.

3. Leave your writing with a few notes about where you're going next. When you next get the chance they'll refresh your memory quickly so you use the time effectively.

4. If you get stuck on one section jump to the next bit you fancy writing; you can always go back later and fill in the gaps.

5. Give up watching television. Or Sudoku, the crossword, emails, Twitter - there are thousands of things that gulp down novel writing time. And if all else fails...

6. Cultivate a reputation for IBS. Why not? Who will ever question, other than sympathetically (or possibly cautiously), the time you're spending in the loo?

If you really, really want to write a novel you'll find those ten minutes. It's just about the maths. A x B = C. That's all you need to know.

* As a guideline, this post is 300 words.



5 comments:

Craig Davey said...

Great blogging Sarah.

As i slave away on my second draft I refer often to the notes I scribbled in your wonderful creative writing course (2003! Where do the years go?), and this blog is proving to be a lovely light refresher!

Craig

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Craig. See you on the 26th

hackedoff said...

Couldn't agree more... I tend to write at lunchtime instead of trawling through the day's news... far more satisfying, and generally worth a good 1500 words. Well, I say "good" - as in quantity, not quality :-)

Sadly the Wii is my own particular vice when it comes to distractions. You'd have thought I'd have grown out of such things by now. Sigh.

L-Plate Author said...

Love this post. I think people don't realise how easy it is to rack the words up on a blog post where as writing a 1000 words a day seems impossible to them. I try to write a 100o a day when I am drafting, it takes about an hour as I always start with an idea of what to write. Whether it ends up as that idea at the end of the hour is anyone's business...but I find, bizarrely, that it's always written for a reason...

Sarah Duncan said...

I'm a great believer in quantity not quality. You can always make it better once it's written down, but you can't do anything if it stays in your head. And as Alan Bennett said "you don't know what you're writing about until you've written it." So true.