After finishing my 2nd book, Queenie of Norwich, I fell into a writing rut. I began and abandoned several projects, telling myself I didn’t have it in me to write a book at all. That was pretty crazy given the two completed novels on my desk, but the brain is a strange beast when it wants to be.
I had another historical novel brewing, but it required specific research that I couldn’t start for another month or so. This left me in a fidgety, writing limbo.
Then one night, just as I was falling asleep, a story idea popped into my head. At work the following morning, the story grew in my mind. By the time I got home, I wanted to write it down.
What if I just wrote, and wrote and wrote with no stopping to question, doubt, dwell? I decided to give myself 3 weeks and see how far I could get. By the end of the first week, I’d written 20 000 words. It became apparent that unless I abandoned my jobs (and family!), 3 weeks to write a book was completely unrealistic. But if I had managed 20 000 in a week, what if I did that every week for 4 weeks?
How? When? Where?
First of all, there was no way I could write my usual Historical Fiction that quickly. My favourite part of writing my previous novels was the research. But research takes time, and this challenge was about writing, not research. There were a few methods which were key to hitting my weekly word count. I’ll list them below, but these were personal to me. Everyone works differently and I’m in no way claiming to be an expert. These tips applied specifically to this challenge; my writing methods were completely different for my previous two novels. Anyway, enough caveats. Here goes-
-Write what you know. My story is in no way autobiographical, but draws both on experiences lived, and places I know well.
-Don’t think! I realised I waste so much writing time on self criticism. Those thoughts tried to seep in this time round, but I ignored them. They will be useful during the editing process, but not during the writing.
-Write as a reader. Although I knew the basis of the story before I started, the actual plot unfolded in real time as the words landed on the page. It was an exciting way to write, but will undoubtedly throw up a few issues when it comes to editing!
-Stick at it. There were days I didn’t want to write anything, but given the challenge I’d set myself, I had to. Some days it was like pulling teeth, other days I’d open my laptop completely uninspired, only to find my characters did something unexpected and before I knew it, I had several thousand words under my belt.
-Be flexible. I have a random work schedule which meant setting a regular time to write didn’t work for me. In order to meet my word count targets I squeezed writing in whenever I could. One of my most productive writing sessions was in the car while my son was at football training!
Would… I do it again?
Probably. The main thing I took from this challenge was a renewed love of writing, and to me, that’s the best outcome I could have hoped for.