I started working on a new book on January 4th, with the aim of writing a thousand words a day five days a week until I was finished with the first draft. I had expected this to take me until near the end of March but I discover to my surprise that this first draft is coming out much shorter and I’ll be done with the initial writing by the end of this week. On reflection, I’m not sure why I ‘m surprised; I’d divided the plan into scenes and I’ve written one scene of a thousand words or more each day. True, I’ve added in a couple of extra scenes along the way, but basically I’ve run out of scenes.
Even though I’m finished putting words on paper for this first draft I haven’t actually finished with it to the point that I’m ready to set it to one side. This one is far too scruffy for that stage. I like to play around with different working methods. The act of putting a first draft into big blocks of words on a screen can be extraordinarily tedious. Some of it sings at once, of course, but for other bits you’re simply working out how to move your characters from A to B or what they should be doing to break up their conversations. I find that varying the method I use to write means I’m not completely comfortable with the writing and that keeps it from being dull (mostly).
This time my new method was to write by hand first and to write out of sequence. Before the start of each week I’d write a list of the five numbered scenes that I was going to write that week, picking them randomly from my detailed plan. Then each morning I’d get out of bed, check the plan and write for an hour. That was usually long enough to write a scene. I generally write in pencil but I decided to use one of the fountain pens I own and never use instead. I discover that writing with a fountain pen is extraordinarily pleasing. The nib floats across the paper.
After the hour of writing by hand, I’d get up and dressed, possibly run, and then sit down and type up what I’d written. But of course, I wasn’t typing word-for-word what I’d written at all. I was refining and reordering, adding in things I’d thought of as I ate my breakfast, smoothing out knots, occasionally checking facts. The typed-up scenes mostly fell at around 1,000 words. I suspect when I come back to look at them again I may find that some seem rushed and others stretched, but the aim was to get words on paper My idea was that by handwriting first and then typing up I’d get through two draft stages in one go and I think it’s worked.
When I’ve finished writing all the scenes at the end of this week it’ll be time to go back to the beginning and sort out the unevenness created by working piecemeal. I know there are places were one scene overlaps with another and there are probably gaps too. There are things I invented in later scenes that I’ll need to add in earlier. I suspect there’ll be plot holes because it’s quite a complicated plot and I know there’ll be places where I need to let my character have some fun with her situation and others where I need to scare her a bit more It’s a long way from being a finished first draft. But the hard bit, the big chunks of words on paper that tell a story, that’ll be there. The rest is much more fun.
My new book Snippets: Tiny Pieces of Fairy Tale is available now.