Going Long

Today I noticed that the word count of my work-in-progress has reached a level that makes it the longest single piece of writing I’ve ever done. I’m pretty pleased with that. Four or five months of steady effort have gone into it, and it isn’t even close to being finished yet.

When I tell people I’ve written a novel, their first question is usually:

‘When did you do that?’ or ‘How long did it take?’ or ‘How do you find the time?’

I write every day. Or rather, I intend to write every day, and I usually manage it. It was settling into this routine that made a novel achievable. I can’t afford to take a couple of months off work to write it all in one go, so I need lots of little sessions and the best part of a year to get from the idea to a finished book. I don’t know why it took me so long to settle down to a routine of writing – all the books recommend it. I suppose I didn’t really want to have to get up earlier in the mornings.

Getting the long project finished is more than just grinding out the words though. There’s the whole emotional roller coaster to negotiate:

  • This is brilliant. It’s going to win awards and make my fortune.
  • This is okay, but there are some less good bits. How can it possibly make my fortune?
  • This is awful. I might as well give up. I’ll be lucky if this makes me any money at all.
  • No, wait, now that I re-read that bit, it’s brilliant. This is going to win awards and make my fortune.
  • …and so on.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of visualisation of success, and I’m sure every writer has rehearsed the award acceptance speech in their heads before they’ve put a single mark on the page. Nor is there anything wrong with a bit of self doubt. Every writer has days where they’re convinced that what they’ve written is worthless.

But those emotions can be barriers to success. The trick, I find, is to put them to one side once the writing starts, to forget about the finished product and how that might be received. In the end I’m not going to be dragging myself out of bed every morning to sit at my desk just for a dream of success. I drag myself out of bed to write, because I love writing. I don’t want to finish the book, I’m having too much fun.

Tomorrow morning I will get up early and write and that work-in-progress will get longer, and all just because I enjoy it.

Who am I kidding? This novel is brilliant. You’re going to love it!

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