Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Journal

The 20 Day Novel: Day 1

SuppliesOkay, flush with the success of completing The Flesh Market, writing over half of the thing in two weeks, I’m repeating the experiment with a brand new novel. I’m giving myself twenty working days to get it written, from start to finish. Blogging along with my progress last time was an excellent way to keep myself moving, and so I’m repeating the experiment here. I’ll be opening up a blog every morning, and tracking what I get done and how. You can follow along, if you’re so inclined. For the most part, these blogs are a way for me to bed in the process of working in chunks through each day, and watching the words add up.

I’m going to assume I’m writing a novel that’s 100,000 words long. That’s a completely arbitrary figure. If the novel ends up being a lot longer in first draft then I’m going to struggle to get in done in the twenty days. If it’s shorter, then life will be a great deal easier. 100,000 is a good length to work to though, and was about what the The Flesh Market ended up being.

The novel I’m writing is one I’ve wanted to get to since 2008. I know the concept pretty well – the one line elevator pitch – but none of the detail, or even the actual story. All that is waiting to be discovered. I’m also not starting completely from scratch, as I made an abortive attempt to begin this book four years ago. I wrote two and a half chapters, or about 7000 words. If I remember right, the first is pretty good and the second two are boring exposition, where characters sit around explaining stuff (which often happens when a writer hasn’t got their head around their story – the characters sit and try and work it out for him). Today, my job is to go through those first chapters, revise what I like, and throw out the rest. To reach 100,000 words in twenty days I currently need to average 5000 words a day. With a bit of luck, revisions will leave me with that by this evening, and I’ll be ready for brand new words in the morning.

Today and tomorrow I also need to split my time, as I’m still editing The Flesh Market. Having this little pile of words to revise for the first day of the new novel should buy me a little time for that.

On the downside, I’m contending with this:

Little Men

Little men outside my window, chatting, and singing, and scraping, and banging stuff. They’re painting, mostly. I don’t understand how banging stuff can be such a big part of that, but it is. Every now and again there are screaming mechanical noises that make me think of a chainsaw, but whatever that is they hide it whenever I look out of the window.

Right then. Onwards. I’m starting with The Flesh Market, so as not to lose sight of that in the excitement of starting something new.

Oh – my Internet is being an arse today. I’ll keep posting as it allows.

10:30 – 11:15. A good swathe of editing done. I like the new words a lot more than I feared. They aren’t hopeless gibberish. Stopping now to bid Kirsty farewell – she’s away on business for a couple of nights – and run down to get something for dinner.

I have returned with salmon. Salmon rocks. Back to the editing. I’ll continue until I feel the need to stop for lunch, then after that it will be The 20 Day Novel for the rest of the afternoon.

12:15 – 13:00. I’m storming through The Flesh Market. It holds up well, I think. I’m stopping for lunch partway through a chapter. When I come back, it’s The 20 Day Novel for a while. I’m excited. I don’t know yet if I will find the first chapter fair or foul, but rediscovering things is fun.

A quick cheese sandwich, and I’m back.The chapters I wrote of this new novel a few years back are in an MS Word document. I’m going to read and revise them there, and anything that makes the cut will be transferred to Scrivener (where I do all of my writing these days). Whatever is in Scriv at the end of the day is my opening word count. I have nerves now. Here we go.

13:30 – 14:40. I hate the first four paragraphs. They’re a character thumbnail, for one Grant Allen – his life story drawn in quick strokes because at the time I obviously didn’t really know who he was, or how else to start the chapter. In a future edit, that stuff will be the first to go. Until I’ve threaded the useful stuff into later chapters though, I’ll leave it where it is right now.

After that – it’s good. I’m happy. Chapter one survives, with only minor edits because I want to change the locations. Grant Allen now leads an unusual team of professionals on a night job in the heart of Glasgow, as the rain smashes down. Blood on a bare mattress. Flies on the air. I can’t remember writing most of this, so it’s a nice surprise.

Eva’s home from school, so I’ll catch up with her day then get back to it.

15:30 – 16:50. Well, there’s a brilliant surprise. Chapter two is absolutely fine. I did a lot of micro-editing as I went through it, but mostly because I still have my editing hat on from this morning. Rowena Murphy is en route to her first day at Tarrington, a made up place halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, some fourteen miles or so off the M8 motorway. Despite the remarkable job she’s about to do, I’ve made her as fresh and normal as I can. First days are first days no matter what your profession, and she’s an entertaining bag of nervous paranoia as she drives in.

Time for a break. With this chapter being better than expected, I don’t have high hopes for chapter three (the last that already exists). I think this is probably the one which left me with a lingering memory of horrible exposition writ large…

17:00 – 17:40. Yep, this third chapter is where all the problems sit. I’ve salvaged some of it, but scrapped a lot more. I like the gist of it, as Ro meets her mentor Charlie and tries to get her head around Tarrington, but there’s too much sitting around and describing, and not enough seeing.

I’ll stop there for the day. I’ve salvaged 6229 words from the aborted first draft of this novel, which puts me ahead of target. It’s a lead I’ll lose no doubt, especially as I’ll still be using time editing The Flesh Market tomorrow (I’ll be continuing some of that tonight too, while my lady is away).

I really like how the novel started though., and am really looking forward to forging on with proper new words tomorrow. Charlie, Ro, and Grant – who I think are the three viewpoint characters for the book – are all in play, and all likable, ordinary people in a weird and exotic world.

Tomorrow I will torment them. Oh yes. I am going to put these people though hell…

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