Friday 22 April 2016

500 words – an update

It’s twenty past seven on Friday night. I’m sooo ridiculously tired and I haven’t yet written today’s 500 words. I did try, but I spent the day going on a school trip which involved getting to school early followed by a two-hour bus journey on winding roads, four hours of child-wrangling with a 3D film (which I can only bear to watch if I don’t wear the glasses and I kind of squint) in the middle of it, and then another two hours of bus… My attempt to write was on the first bit of winding road, typing on my phone, and I stopped 65 words in when my head and stomach protested. So, though it wasn’t late when I got home, it was way past creative o’clock and hence, I thought I’d just have a chat to you about how the whole 500 words is going instead.

So here’s the thing. So far, so good. 123rd day of the year and I’ve written at least 500 words each and every day, giving me a grand total of 66,167 words so far this year. They’re not all good, or even all useful, but they are a sustained creative effort and I feel, I think justifiably, proud of my efforts thus far.

It hasn’t always been easy. There have been days like today, when it seemed far too difficult to fit it in. Once, I didn’t even start until quarter to eleven at night. A few times when I knew the day was going to be busy and draining I did it in bed at six in the morning before I got up. But 500 words isn’t much. If you know what you’re going to write, you can knock it off in half an hour. Not that it always takes half an hour. Just under an hour most of the time, I’d say, but once or twice, much, much longer. The thing is though, if I’m really struggling, I can do it in bits: 100 words and then I’ll go and do one of the other things I’ve got to do; as much as I can manage in the fifteen minutes I’ve got to spend on it and I’ll come back to it later.

It helps to have a plan. On days when I know I’m going to struggle, I like to make sure I know what it is I’m going to be writing before I start. On those days, I’ll probably go for one of the options that requires a bit less in the way of imagination and a bit more opinion – a blog piece like this or a review. I’m never short of opinions! Occasionally I’ve set myself a writing exercise.

It’s been much easier to complete the 500 since I planned out my next book. I’ve written a really detailed plan (scroll back a few blogs if you want to find out more about it) and it means I can always pluck a scene from somewhere in the plan and just get writing. I’m mostly working on it in order, but occasionally, when I fancy writing action or scary or something else in particular, I go for a scene later in the book. When I was working on the previous book – the one that’s complete but waiting for me to pick it up and work on the next draft – I had a much sketchier plan, and I’d just add another 500 words each day wherever I felt they were needed. Consequently I think I may have to cut a good bit from it. Heigh ho – fortunately I’m not counting deletions against my total!

Of course, there are days when having a target of only 500 words can make me lazy, days when I could easily get several thousand done if I kept going. But look – 66,000 words this year. What more can I say? There are also other things I ought to be getting on with that may be getting side-lined while I concentrate on this target. I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t really given this enough thought. Certainly I have two other books which need editing rather than more words and they both come behind my daily 500 in the queue for attention.

So to sum up, yes, I’ve written 500 words every day so far this year and I feel it’s working for me. It’s most effective when it’s backed up with advance planning. I’m still determined to keep going until the end of the year, and longer if I think it’s still useful.
Watch this space.

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