The Novel

My distillation of the writing advice I have received over the years is this…

You must actually write something, then read, edit, and re-write. Keep going until you are insane or finished, or both. Repeat until you get good, and if this never happens, you were never destined to be good. 

Behind any finished work there is a history of drafts, edits and re-writes. Many thousands of words are cut, many darlings are killed.

Interviews and anecdotes from various authors are useful and motivational, but they lack the specificity I am interested in. I would like to see a novel completely deconstructed into its component parts.

Exactly how many words were discarded? How many drafts were written? Did the plot change? Did the characters? The themes? How different is the finished product from the first draft?

This would be a difficult, if not impossible analysis to perform on any already-written novel and so, the obvious solution is to perform the analysis while a novel is being written, which is exactly what I am going to do. An interesting  and welcome side-effect of this experiment is that I must complete a novel.

I’m going to start by bashing out a first draft, analysing the text, improving on the measuring writing output experiment.

I’ll be writing all of my first draft text in 10 minute Flowstate spurts, aiming for somewhere between 10 and 40 minutes (500 – 2000 words) a day .

This means I should be able to have a draft of around 100,000 words by the middle of 2018. Once I get there I will figure out what to do next.

You can see the in-progress experiment results here.

The code lives here.

Measuring Writing Output

Words are to writers as clay is to sculptors. (Old Jungle Saying)

  Each morning I wrestle with my computer for a minimum of ten minutes and attempt to crank out some words.

  Flowstate is brilliant for hosting this event because it will not tolerate laziness and a result is certain. Any break in typing for more than a few seconds results in the total destruction of the entire document, with no chance of recovery. This threat alone is enough to keep me clacking away furiously.

  I have devised a workflow to track and report these daily dances. While the words written this way are invariably terrible, the point is that they have been written, and with the bad ones out of the way, the good ones can shyly approach.

  I want to reward myself for actually getting into the chair and doing some work. So I am setting up an easily repeatable way to track my output and thus be inspired to do more.

  With this approach completed, my daily routine can become more powerful over time, until I am steamrolling through many thousands of words per day like a crazed cassowary sniffing out ripe pineapples.

  This experiment ran for one week and you can see the results here.

If you are interested in the code, you can find it here.