Oh, Stephen King you have a lot to answer for!
Some days I love you for this new madness I have introduced into my writing life. And some days you do not want to know what I am saying about you.
New readers should know that I am currently following the Stephen King tip of trying to complete a first draft MS in three months which requires the discipline of writing 2,000 words per day on at least five days each week ( see earlier blog). I promised an update so here is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
It is nigh on killing me….
And yet here also is the BUT. It is working. I am well into the second half of the MS now which is beyond astonishing. The problem, of course, with this success is I am being tempted now to slow down. To apply the brakes. And I can’t decide whether to forgive myself.
I am exactly the same on a diet. As soon as the pounds start dropping off quickly enough, I start allowing “treats” which we all know is a complete disaster.
But no choice here. I will unquestionably have to slow down just a little bit now as it has been a very difficult time in my family’s life and we need very much to pull together to have a good Xmas.
Back in September we lost my father after several months of illness and unbelievably we have just lost my husband’s father too. He was a great age but that, of course, does not make the sadness or the adjustment any easier. Through these past weeks of great upheaval and the rollercoaster of emotions, I have surprised myself by continuing to write at such a crazy pace and only now am I seeing that for what it was. A constant. An escape. A familiar place to go.
So now – into the second half of the manuscript, I am going to have to ease the foot off the pedal just a little to ensure I deliver the kind of Christmas we all love…and this year, more than any other, really need.
Whisper this but I am thinking I will for a time aim for 1,000 words daily rather than 2,000 until the holidays are over. Do not, please, tell Stephen King.
Strangely with the big, fat MS alongside me, this does not feel like any kind of failure or slacking. It just feels like the right step through difficult personal waters…and the challenge of the festive holidays.
What I am very happy to report is a significant improvement in the narrative drive of my story as I write under this new discipline. Normally with a first draft, I take breaks of varying lengths between forward progress and tend to do many “resume” reads and edits before ploughing on, especially if there has been a longer break. This means that I get very familiar with the MS as I go along and I hence do quite a lot of editing en route.
But following the gruelling Stephen King strategy, there just isn’t time for as much major re-reading so it is forward….forward…forward. This means I have been forced to switch from being a classic pantser…to more of a planner.
Don’t laugh, but I actually now use a proper spreadsheet to plot and plan and find it a great help for fixing timeline switches and balance of characters. It’s proving essential in this overdrive writing gear so I can properly keep track. Not that I have stopped listening to my characters, of course. They always lead the way. But I rather like having a road map so I can at least see how far we have travelled together and whether passports are soon to be required.
How all this will turn out in the wash, heaven only knows (I suspect much longer editing time will ultimately be required) . Possibly a decade. Here’s hoping I am joking.
Whether I will make the three-month deadline as I now *blush* *whisper* take my foot off the pedal for Christmas, I have no idea.
But I will try to be honest. So watch this space…
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.