One hundred days

As an experiment, for the last 100 days I’ve written every day. No matter how full the hours, I’ve found some time. I’ve been trying to discover if the “write every day” mantra works: whether the writing flows more easily, whether it instills a new discipline.

In those 100 days I’ve written a fraction over 70,000 words — 700 words a day. Each day’s output is recorded in a spreadsheet, and I’ve been pretty good at remembering to update it. I’m a little disappointed in that average — when I’m on a roll/deathmarch, and with no other distractions but toilet and food breaks, I can write 3000 words in a day. There are more demands on my time now, though. As a result the daily word counts range from 250 to 2000 — quite a spread.

Does this mean a new book is about to pop out? If only. And here we come to what I’ve experienced as the negative side to committing to write something every day: the imperative to write, write something, has sometimes meant I haven’t paid proper attention to what I’ve been writing. I haven’t been outlining nearly as much as I usually do, because it eats into writing time. That’s not to say the words are wasted: they’re perfectly serviceable, for the most part. I suppose in a sense I’m learning to write without the crutch of an outline — to trust that a plot and ending will emerge from the mist.

The trouble is I’m not there yet. I reach about 10,000 words into a story and a buzzer goes off in my head: “yes, but how does it end?” And I don’t know, and I get nervous, and decide it’s not going anywhere, at least not yet, and one of the other ideas in my head coughs politely and offers an opening line, and I jump at it because opening lines are easy and full of promise and this time, this time, I’ll figure out an ending.

The good news is, one of the stories I’ve started does now seem to have an approximation to an ending, or at least a hint of an approximation. If I squint it also has a framework that gets me from here to there, almost, just about, which might well stop my brain from bleating long enough to fool it into writing a bit more. The details will evolve — they always do — but I have a working title and I’ve just breached the 20,000 word wall and I’d quite like to finish this one, please.

It won’t be as part of NaNoWriMo. I’m not writing enough words each day and too many Things are happening this month. But I’ll try to keep up the pace. Christmas is a more realistic deadline, albeit one receding with every word I type into, say, my blog. (It’s all your fault, basically.) Finishing by Christmas would allow me a restful holiday season while slave-driving my beta readers to ignore their families and get me some feedback ASAP, and January would be a mess of revisions and panicking so I could get the book out before I inevitably become obsessed with the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

I seem to have just planned the release of a story I’ve only written 20,000 words of.

Oh dear.

Maybe I should just shelve it and start another.

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2012-2013

Happy New Year! I thought I’d take a few minutes to write a short review of my 2012 and how I see 2013 unfolding.

My plan for 2012 was to write and publish as many stories as I sensibly could – a mix of mostly shorts with some longer form stories of about 40K words, at the hotly disputed novella/novel border. I didn’t set a concrete target for how many, but I imagined a pipeline of sorts: in parallel I’d be writing one book, revising a second, and publishing/pimping a third. I wanted to end the year with a pleasing body of work for sale and an increasing trickle of revenue.

Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

In 2012 I wrote many words: over 200,000 for sure. The bulk of Till Undeath Do Us Part was written in 2011 but it increased in length in 2012; and I wrote all of The Pink and the Grey and the first draft of my next novel. The balance of the word count went on stories I decided, for one reason or another, to shelve uncompleted. They remain in suspended animation: I hope to resurrect at least one eventually, even if only the core concept and the title remain.

I can’t truly say I met my goal for the year. But to publish a novella and a novel in one calendar year across a whole bunch of formats ain’t so bad, and I’m aiming to rattle through the remaining stages of the next novel as quickly as I can. Two novels and a novella in roughly twelve months sounds very good to me.

As to sales: well, I still suffer from invisibility, and that’s something I need to address in 2013. I’m grateful to So So Gay magazine for reviewing both books — and even nominating Till Undeath Do Us Part for Best Book of 2012 — but so far that remains the only publication to take a punt on either book. These reviews — unbiased by rose-tinted friendship — give me the confidence to keep writing, keep publishing, even when the gremlins of self-doubt mutter dark words in my ear.

That’s not to say I don’t value the support and kind words of my family and friends, especially those who’ve bought one or both books and evangelised on my behalf. It means a great deal to me.

What’s my plan for 2013? I wish I could say same as 2012 and carry on as before, but that’s not possible. I’ll write as many stories as I can, yes: but I can’t live on dust and air and junk mail. So I suspect I’ll be writing less for myself, and more for others. I have plenty of ideas that I’d love to flesh out into stories, if I can. I want to revisit St Paul’s College from The Pink and the Grey, and see if I can resurrect one of the suspended stories. We’ll see.

The first goal, though, is to publish the new book as soon as I can. And since a deadline doesn’t exist unless you tell someone, here it is: it’ll be out by the end of this month.