Saturday, 25 December 2010

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.



womagwriter said...

That puts it in perspective really well! As long as you keep writing you will finish a novel eventually and it doesn't really matter whether it takes 3 months or 3 years.

I like to leave it mid-scene and even mid-sentence, so that it's easy to pick up again.

Sarah Duncan said...

Quite a lot of writers leave it mid-scene, or even mid- sentence (eg George Orwell and Kingsley Amis) tho I can't do that as I can never remember where I was thinking of going and it just frustrates me.

badas2010 said...

I sometimes go long periods editing other stuff before getting back to the wip.
When I'm first drafting the first thing I do is 1st edit on what I did yesterday (or last week or last month) and it's then easy to continue.
Works for me.