This time last year I set myself a challenge. Could I write a novel over the course of the school summer holidays? That’s almost seven weeks where I live.
It was something I’d been thinking about for a while. I was preparing to publish my first novel, What they don’t tell you about love in the movies. That had taken four years to write, maybe more, off and on, in between other things. I’d not long completed my second, Reivers, which is yet to be published and had taken me about a year to write. But I wondered if it had to take so long. People wrote entire novels during NaNoWriMo. Authors wrote of writing two or three thousand words a day, some even more. Why was it taking me so long to complete a sixty- or seventy-thousand word novel?
So, the challenge was to write 60,000 words in 48 days. That’s 1,250 words a day. Not too hard? Well, we’d see.
Before I started I wrote a plot plan. It was helpful that the book I intended to write, How do you say GOOSEBERRY in French? actually takes place over the course of a summer holiday. So my plan was really a calendar of events with a vague chapter structure around them.
Next I made a spreadsheet. I LOVE spreadsheets. There’s something very focusing about seeing those figures grow – or not.
And then, day 1 of the holidays, I started to write.
It was hard at first. There were days when I didn’t write nearly enough. There were days when I felt that everything else was getting in the way. But I persisted. I soon realised that I couldn’t afford the time to read over what I had written the day before. I would have to keep it all in my head and accept that what I was writing was a first draft and was never going to be perfect. I started to tell people that no, sorry, whatever it was they needed me to do would have to wait until I’d written my words.
And I got it done. On the final day of the holidays I had written 60,000 words. I wasn’t quite finished. I had another 5,000 to go, but I was more or less there.
And then, because that’s the way things happen, everything was thrown up into the air and I had to put the book aside for three months. I didn’t give it a thought. And when I came back to look at it again, I did so nervously. After all, this had been an experiment. What if I’d wasted all those hours?
I could not have been more delighted with what I found. Of course, GOOSEBERRY still needed work. But what I’ve written is a gushy first person present narrative, and going at it the way I did has given it a breathless dynamism that I don’t think I could have achieved by taking it more slowly.
I’d love to know what you think.
About Claire Watts
For a long time, Claire Watts wrote stories for herself, and wrote and edited non-fiction for children for a living. Then she decided it was about time to let other people read her stories. Both of her novels for young adults required research into factual areas that interest Claire: the first, What they don’t tell you about love in the movies, into ... you guessed it, movies, and the second, How do you say gooseberry in French? into France and the French language. She's currently looking forward to the research for her next book, which involves cupcakes!
Claire lives in the countryside in southern Scotland with her husband, three daughters, two dogs, a cat, a varying number of chickens and lots and lots of books.
links to books:
What they don't tell you about love in the movies http://authl.it/2ov?d
How do you say GOOSEBERRY in French? http://authl.it/3co?d
You can find my blog at:
My joint website:
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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