More on the Sordid Life of a Novelist

My second novel’s coming along well, and it’s currently nearing the 45,000-word mark. But looking back, I can’t help but notice that my writing-schedule has changed considerably.

There was a time when I set myself a weekly wordcount. This is a tactic that served me well when I was writing The Omega Factor: Divinity, but as a TV tie-in that had a much clearer framework around it. With my more personal novel, I found that giving myself a quota was leading to bad habits – I was writing up long, irrelevant scenes that, when I get to the editing phase, I’ll very likely be cutting.

With the novel now competing with a number of other projects for my time, I’ve lately been settling for something rather more flexible. My monthly to-do list always includes “work on the novel” but exactly what kind of work varies from month to month. Typically, it’s writing a chapter – although, given that the chapters aren’t particularly long, that amounts to some slow progress, admittedly.

But I’m glad that I’m keeping things pliable. This month, I struggled to get started on the latest chapter and soon realised it was because of a new-ish character I’d introduced into the narrative: I just didn’t know enough about who she was and what she was looking for. So, that’s on my to-do list for October – figure out that character. By the end of the month I aim to have a potted biography of her drawn up.

As well as my monthly list, the novel sometimes turns up on the daily to-do lists I sketch out before I go to bed. In those cases, my aim-for-the-day varies from writing a whole scene to mulling things over until I figure out a solution to a story problem that’s facing me.

Sometimes flexibility works rather well.

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