November Musings

8 Nov

Over the last 13 months, I’ve managed to write 63,000 words of my current project. ‘Slacker,’ I hear you say, ‘what have you been doing?’ Surely, I should have finished long ago and dashed off a couple more books in the meantime?

I’m going to stop grumbling about NoNaRhiNo® after this post. Probably. I don’t have a problem with people using props to write if they feel they help them. I’m reliably informed that some very good books have come out of the process – none that I’ve read, mind you. I really can’t imagine any of the writers whom I admire undertaking such an exercise. Catch-22, for instance, took Joseph Heller eight years to write and, no doubt, he’d been turning the idea over for several years before that too. There just might be a connection between the quality of the end product and the time put into it (obviously, had Heller not been a tremendously gifted writer, he could have grafted forever and still not have written anything of worth).

If the novel is to be viewed as a sort of paper version of TV, popular entertainment and nothing more, all colourful surfaces with no depth, then perhaps writing 50,000 words in a month might be achievable. But a well-written, complex work couldn’t possibly be generated in such a short time frame unless its author were a genius. I know that I’m not one. I suspect that most of those taking part in NahNoRhyMo aren’t either. Heller was much closer to genius than the vast majority of writers and he couldn’t do it.

My real gripe with the whole concept is this. I’ve dedicated much of my spare time over the past quarter of a century to writing fiction. And yet here comes an initiative which – in its well-meaning way – denigrates the writer’s art. Writing a novel? Easy. Anyone could do it. It’s just another activity to tick off your list.

My last novel was 150,000 words long and took me six years to write. That equates – using the NaNaWryMot method – to 50,000 words every two years, longer by a factor of twenty-four than the recipe for instant success suggests. It’s not for me to say whether my manuscript’s any good or not but I can tell you that I thought long and hard about it and put a great deal of effort into the prose, imagery, characterisation, etc.

The truth of the matter is this. If you’re really serious about writing and have something to say, you’ll do it anyway. If you have to force yourself to write, you should probably find some other outlet for your creative side. I’ve met people who’ve dabbled with writing novels but can’t think of anything about which they want to write. Bizarre. There’s a simple alternative. Fiction writing isn’t actually compulsory. 


The aim for the end of the month
(by courtesy of Wikipedia)

And now to the real business of the month, moustache-growing. I made a late start. In a dozy state, I shaved on Saturday and then again on Monday. I’m going for the Mexican bandit in a Spaghetti Western look this time. Along with my Mo-bros and sisters, I’m making myself look ridiculous to raise awareness of men’s cancers. I shall look no sillier, though, than if I claimed to be able to write a meaningful novel in a month. 

All text © PSR 2013


17 Responses to “November Musings”

  1. PK Read November 8, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    “Fiction writing isn’t actually compulsory.” This made me laugh, Paul. Because I think it does, in a way, sum up a difference between the ones who feel compelled to write, regardless of talent, and those who want to write, regardless of talent.
    And believe me, I am not saying that feeling compelled to write is necessarily a good thing, or necessarily results in better books, or is in any way more worthy than anything else, because I really don’t feel that way.
    I want to be a good gardener. I feel compelled to write. I know the difference. I have the (as yet) unplanted spring bulbs, untidy flower beds, and almost complete novel draft to prove it.

    • Paul Sutton Reeves November 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

      Hi Paula and thanks for dropping by.

      I love the garden analogy. As it illustrates, those who are driven to write will do so while others will talk about it and seek out ways to overcome their ‘block’. If you have an idea that you genuinely wish to turn into a book, you’ll do it.

      How is the novel coming along?

      • PK Read November 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

        The 1st draft is 90% done. Whew. 18 months and 110,000 words on what was supposed to be an ‘easier’, ‘quick’ and ‘more fun’ book than the last one. I’m a fast typist, but the writing never as fast as I’d like.
        It won’t stay at 110,000 words, a lot of them will go.
        Meanwhile, we have a major storm raging outside, and I will have to tend to the garden soon if it’s to be any more than an overgrown mess come spring.
        Oh – and the novel has a large ‘garden’ element. Probably the gardening energy has all gone there instead of into the real one outside the door.

      • Paul Sutton Reeves November 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

        As I type this reply, it’s appearing above your comment, Paula… WordPress works in mysterious ways.

        Hurrah for a first draft almost completed! I read somewhere that writers divide into two types – those who write a skeletal first draft and then flesh it out and those who write volumes and then cut away the excess.

        110,000 sounds impressive to me. According to NoNaRhiNo, though, it should have taken you two months and one week (ahem…). I tend to prune back too. I also redraft as I’m going so plenty of words get discarded along the way. When do you think you’ll be finished?

      • PK Read November 9, 2013 at 9:31 am #

        When do I think it will be done…? All done…?


        I hope soon. But it’s been my experience that my notion of ‘soon’ usually has no correlation with when a larger project is actually done. This draft should be in a coherent form by the end of the month because I so decree it.

        And barring the unlikely scenario that sees my beta readers going through this draft, jumping up in shared euphoria and exclaiming that this first draft is complete, immaculate and revelatory with the exception of one or two minor typos, I guess I’ll break for a week or so and jump right back in for round two.

    • Paul Sutton Reeves November 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      Well, we can never be exactly sure how much longer a draft will take us to finish but we generally have some idea of the sort of pace at which we work. I can write a novella in a year or so whereas an average length novel would take me two to three years.

      Good luck with the m/s, anyway, Paula. And if you ever need another beta reader…

      • PK Read November 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

        Thanks Paul! I may just take you up on that!

  2. donna-lane.nelson November 8, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Gone with the Wind and Angel’a’s Ashes took ten years about to write. I can’t seem to do more than a chapter at a time and if I could do one every day, that would mean a novel every three months or so. However, there’s my newsletter, the sun, a walk on the beach, reading, café sitting with friends, a good movie, in other words–life…

    There’s no one way to write…

    • Paul Sutton Reeves November 8, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

      Hi Donna and welcome to my blog.

      There you have two examples of carefully wrought works and the time that such enterprises require.

      You’re right there – there are many different ways to write. And there are many wrong ways to go about it too…

  3. November 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Actually, I’m in awe of your 63,000 words. I write very slowly, and 63,000 words in 13 months sounds solidly decent to me.

    I’m currently reading Goethe’s Faust, and a good sampling of the background texts/criticism, etc. and just found out that it took Goethe 60 years of working on Faust before it was completed! And from his letters to Schiller, it seems he had absolutely no problem with the amount of time it took.

    • Paul Sutton Reeves November 8, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Hi Lauren and thanks for your comments.

      I’m actually pretty pleased with the progress I’ve made too. 63,000 words of one book and 15,000 of another is good going for me. I’m cool with that, though. As long as the ideas flow and the words come together then I’m happy.

      Well, there you are then, Lauren. Many people consider Goethe to be the greatest novelist of all time. If slow boil was good enough for him then it’s good enough for me!

      How is your writing going?

    • PK Read November 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      If you ever get the chance, a visit to Goethe’s house in Weimar Germany – about 30 mins from Schiller’s house – is well worth it. He got up to quite a bit besides Faust during those 60 years. I’m just glad he lived long enough to complete it. An amazing work.

      • Paul Sutton Reeves November 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

        Sounds interesting, Paula. I’ve not been to Germany for a few years. Perhaps it’s time for a visit, taking in a few of the literary sites/sights…

  4. Gunmetal Geisha November 9, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    I wholeheartedly agree. I’m a big fan of this post. And your humor.

  5. Paul Sutton Reeves November 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Hi Ms Geisha and thanks for the kind comments. It’s good to know there are others on one’s wavelength when it comes to the arts and their composition.

  6. IdealisticRebel December 4, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I thought your blog well written and it doesn’t matter if others think you are taking too long. You will be smiling all the way to the bank when you cash the check from the publisher. Hugs, Barbara

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