(well, first draft)
I’ve just finished the first draft of a new book. It’s my 14th book. It was written out of contract (ie, with no advance) and with no idea if anyone will buy it. I’ve done that a couple of times before, it’s actually remarkably freeing. Yes, writing in contract is great too – there’s money for a start!, but there’s also the fear that ‘they’ won’t like it, that ‘they’ might not get it, that ‘they’ might expect more/better/different from me. This has been sold to no-one and promised to no-one, I hope they’ll all like it. I’m really excited by it and have been since the idea first started bubbling up about 8 years ago. But I didn’t start writing it until last year because there wasn’t time and it wasn’t the right book. The Theodora books were the right books for the last 6 years. This is the right book for now.
Here’s what I want to say about it. If I can do this, write a draft (messy, needs lots of work, wants lots of work, but the basis, the STORY is there in 50 weeks’ work), then you can too.
I started this book in the last week of May 2012. As I said, I’d had the idea, been looking into the idea, been dreaming the idea for some years before. I had the great good fortune of being a Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library last May and had hoped to spend the whole time I was there researching a little, and dreaming a whole lot more. Circumstances conspired otherwise and I spent the first 3 weeks working 18 hour days to re-write a film script that had suddenly lurched back from the death it had died 7 years ago. I also wrote some blogs and taught 2 workshops, and gave one talk while I was there. Which left me the last week to start. So I had one week writing ‘full time’ on this new book idea.
And the rest of this past 50 weeks I have – launched a new book (The Purple Shroud), directed one play (with a newly burned-out theatre, no funding, and a producer unable to be in the same city as the show), worked on one other long-term theatre project once every month, taught two residential one-week writing workshops, taught several one-day workshops, started the Fun Palaces 2014 project (which probably means about 300 emails and at least 30 meetings in the past two months), written a load of blogs, written another draft of that film script, directed one short play, been in a few one-off shows, written one short play, re-directed a show from last year with a longer script before it goes on tour, and am currently directing two other theatre projects. And I’ve done a bunch of the other stuff all humans like to do like eat and drink and see friends and play with great nieces and nephews and do the garden and make jam and have a holiday and turn 50*.
I don’t mean this as “yah yah I’m so good at working” (though yes, I admit, I do LIKE to work, I really like it), I mean I might as well have another full time job as well as writing books. All the other writing and directing work I do probably does add up to a full-time job (always useful when writing a book out of contract). So when I say, in a blog, or in a workshop, that you too can write a (rough) first draft in 50 weeks, by writing 500 words a day – I mean it. I know it. I do it. You can do it too.
And now, the real work begins. Bring on the edit …
* no I don’t have kids. You do? Lucky you, you win. Have two years to write your book instead. Beryl Bainbridge did it, loads of my writer mates do it all the time, MOST of my writer mates do it all the time. Apparently it isn’t impossible.
I love this..it comes just as I have negotiated a set couple of hours each week out of the house, sans kid, to consistently put pen to paper. Maybe more than a year at that pace for sure, but it’s got to be better than being on loop in my head.
Thanks for the extra prod. Looking forward to hearing more about, and reading, your new book.
yay, perfect timing. go for it!
This is just brilliant. You are so inspiring. Im going to put your post to good use and get my story out of the hidden depths again.
This was very inspiring. I started writing again properly this year after hiding behind other things, and I’m aiming for 500 words a day. My husband made me choose it – he pointed out that my free time was limited so I’d better do the thing I want to do the most. Once he’d said that it was easy to see that the choices I’d been making to do the laundry, or watch TV, or faff on the internet, or claim extreme tiredness, were all about the same thing – fear of failing, admittedly mixed in with a little bit of shame at having stopped writing in the first place. But then I also realised that if I’m not writing at all, I’m definitely failing. Things have been a lot better since then.
yay, making the choice to do it – and doing it – is def part of the long haul. good luck both.
Thanks for this, Stella – I’m sticking to the pledge I made two weeks ago to do the same!
yay Kirsti! lovely to bump into Jan today in town as well.
This is very inspiring, thanks for the words! I’m working on a novel out of contract, too, and yes, it’s freeing, but also very scary that it won’t have a place to land!