As well as being an avid reader of fantasy fiction, I also consider myself a bit of a writer. Plenty of places say that everyone has at least one book inside them, and I’m not talking about people who like to eat paper here. The hard part for many is finding the time, the place or the inclination to release that book into the world.
I started writing my first novel when I was just turned 18, and after a quick first draft have been writing revisions on and off in the 13 or so years since. Looking back today, I realise two things: 1. The first draft was actually a lot longer than I thought. Apparently, the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers of America define a novel as being anything over 40,000 words. I managed a handful under 56,000 words, so where I was going to use the word “novella” or even “short story” to refer to the draft, I think I’ll revise that and actually call it a novel. Of course, the quality of the content isn’t worthy of the name, but that brings me nicely to point 2:
I read years ago in (I think it was) David and Leigh Eddings’ Rivan Codex words to the effect of “write your first novel, then bin it and start over again from scratch.” I always remember thinking that sounded a bit harsh and counter productive, but looking back at my original first draft, and where I am now, I realise that’s pretty much exactly what I’ve done.
The years since those college days in front of a computer, writing like there’s no tomorrow have largely been spent in the planning stages. So much has changed that I’m practically writing a completely different story now. A couple of the characters have survived, and one or two events have at the moment lasted the distance, but overall the story is barely recognisable as that original draft.
I said the writing has been rather “on and off” and truth be told, it’s been more off than on, for one reason or another. Two things I’ve seen recently though have persuaded me to make more of an effort to get on with it again. First, I saw over at Fantasy Faction an article on the Brandon Sanderson method of writing, whereby a commitment is made to writing 500 words a day, every day, over the course of the year. Then I saw that Tor UK now have a policy of accepting direct submissions, for Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror novels.
Now, I’m not daft enough to think a combination of the above two links will result in me sending an email to Tor UK in 12 months time, but they did get me to thinking along the right tracks again. By the Brandon Sanderson method, 500 words a day every day equates to 182,500 words. Tor’s policy gives an upper and lower word count to aim for – between 95,000 and 150,000 words. Accounting for editing and any shortfall in the daily count (or of course finishing before 12 months is up, since this isn’t a tight schedule), and seeing that my original draft was around a third the size of the upper limit here, I think this is certainly doable. It’s always been achievable, I guess I just needed to look at it in a different way before I realised it.
Lately some new ideas have been floating around in my head, so I’ve been getting them down on paper and will continue to do so in a period of proper planning going forwards. Then I think I’ll try to keep a writing diary for myself to see how I’m doing, because above all, I think the one major thing that’s been lacking for me in the past is commitment to the novel. So, allowing for the occasional miss for things out of my control, my commitment now stands that I’ll go for the 500 words per day. My original first draft is sitting in a folder on my computer and its “date last modified” is 18 January 2001, so here’s hoping that next year there’ll be another draft (awaiting editing et cetera) sitting next to it dated January 2014…
In other news…
- My Fantasy Must Haves top 10 (or top 11 depending on which version of the list you’re looking at) has been featured on Peter V Brett’s blog! OK it’s only a quick mention, but from one of my very favourite authors, I’m taking it as an honour. Thanks Peat 🙂
- I got up to grab a nice cup of tea and by the time I got back a minute later, my chair had been stolen… meet George, my lovely bundle of fluff: