Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Can I Write A Novel In A Week?

Can I Write A Novel In A Week? No, not me. That question is posed by my guest poster today, David Robinson, who answers it by saying ...
I don’t know, but from 9-15th July, I’m going to try.
It’s not simply an academic exercise, nor something to keep my tiny mind occupied for a week. There is an underlying purpose to it… aside from producing a novel in a week, that is.
What is it we writers are best at? Procrastination. It’s in the genes. We get out of bed determined that today is the day when we meet the WIP head on and really get to grips with it... after we’ve checked the emails, the Facebook and Twitter updates, and let’s not forget the news. There’s an hour gone. Time to get to it… oh! Ford have produced a new model Ka. Must check that out, and look, here’s a woman who lost two stones in three days. How did she do that?
Between visits to the kettle (or coffeemaker) trips to the shop, chats on IM or the phone, taking the dog for an extended walk to contemplate the direction the WIP should take, the morning soon goes, and then it’s the obligatory hour with Loose Women, and Wimbledon fills the afternoon. Before we know it, it’s yawn time and we need some sleep. Pity about the WIP. Still: there’s always tomorrow.
I like to think of myself as well-motivated and focussed, but the truth is, I’m as bad as anyone else. The road to hell is not a pavement of good intentions; it’s an unwritten novel that needs attention.
I got to thinking about the days when I worked for a living. Long hours and no skiving. I put in anything up to 55 hours a week. True, I was well paid, but the working week was just that; work.
What would happen if I translated that level of industry to novel writing?
I’ve never actually timed it, but I guess a day’s work now amounts to less than three hours of actual work; the rest is smoke. The missus will say, “Have you seen what the government’s done to (choose some contentious theme)” and I will respond, “Leave me alone, I’m busy.” Yes I’m busy all right; busy playing Marble Lines on Facebook.
Suppose then, I apply the principles of the workplace to novel writing. I did some rough calculations. I timed myself producing 1,000 words, and it came to 40 minutes. It’s about right, my typing speed is about 25-35 wpm. So in an hour, I should produce 1500 words. Let’s call the standard working day eight hours.  8 x 1500=12,000. That is the number of words I should produce in a working day. If I then multiply that by seven (no day off for a wicked idler like me) then I should produce 84,000 words in that week. For a cosy whodunit, like my Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries, that is a full book. For a major work such as The Handshaker (100,000 words) it needs only two more days work to complete it.
I’m not stupid… well I am. Only an idiot would tackle something like this. But I’m not foolish enough to think that I can have a completed novel in a week. I do believe I can get a workable first draft. I also know enough about myself to realise that I won’t put in eight hours of solid graft every day. Even when I worked for an employer, I took smoke breaks, coffee breaks, and bone idleness breaks. So I’ve decided to be generous with my targets. Over the seven days, I want to produce a working first draft of 60-70,000 words. That is 10,000 words per day.
I said earlier that this is not simply an academic exercise. The finished product will, at some stage, go to Crooked Cat Books, those lovely people who publish my work and that of Lorraine’s alter-ego Frances di Plino.
Can I do it?
Why not follow me and find out? As well as producing the novel, I’ll be blogging my progress at
Find out more about David and his published novels on his website:

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Flash Fiction Competition
Flash 500 Humour Verse Competition

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