Monday, 25 November 2013

My one thousand a day

– and that's not vegetables.

When I read that author Sarah Waters aims to write 1,000 words a day I thought, I'll have a go at that! and indeed managed – but it lasted only a day and then over a week went by during which the total word count was well below the desired daily rate. She also explained, in graphic terms, how difficult it can be. Now I know how she feels.

I can tell you that the next book is coming along nicely. Now, I only say that about a project when I can see that the end will come, which isn't the same as being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel; that's still a way off. But the story is over half way there. That's the first draft I'm talking about. There's still loads to do after that (and some of it can be trickier than writing the story).

So I'm training myself to get the 1,000 words a day. Sarah says it helps her to inch the book forwards. It might not sound like many, but maybe it's because there's a great temptation to make every single word the right word – as if this is the last draft and no further revisions will be allowed.

James Joyce, so they say, took his time writing each sentence. I don't know if what I'm going to say now had any bearing on why he wanted to get it right first time, but we should remember that in the early days (and not so long ago), whatever you typed was immediately there on the paper. There was no backspace or delete key. If you reached the end of your manuscript, then found that you'd missed a bit, or lost a bit, or something was wrong that affected everything that came afterwards, then you had to go back and type it again. While publishers accepted inserted pages, such as 15, then 15a, 15b, then 16, and so on, it was unlikely that first-time authors would be allowed such concessions. Manuscripts had to be submitted looking rather pristine. Maybe that was why Joyce wanted to get the write right the first time. Perhaps he didn't like re-typing. Or maybe not.

However, the secret of good writing is rewriting. So I will continue to strive for the thousand (and squirm when I think about Stephen King's 10 pages a day) and see how it all shapes up at the revision stage.

And I'll try not to get too hung up on the numbers. Wish me luck.

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