Writing on, and about, an island

Writing a Novel in 3 Months

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on February 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I wrote my crime novel in the 3 months of winter 2011. I wrote it while working full-time and running a part-time freelance business, and being a mum to a demanding five-year-old and being a brand new wife…

My writing style = fast results

Perhaps it’s due to my inherent impatience, my incubator-style of working, my advertising training and my time as a ruthless sub-editor, but I’ve never been the kind of writer to agonise over sentences, to re-work things over and over, to spend several years writing a book… For example, I write these blog posts in about 5-10 minutes each.

My time on weekly magazines (especially as the Lifestyle Director of Australia’s OK! Magazine) involved a team pumping out an entire 200-page magazine each and every week. I’d have to produce countless articles each week. Similarly, working as a weekly columnist for a national newspaper (Sydney Morning Herald) had equally hairy dreadlines. Neither was an environment where perfectionism to the point of procrastination was valued.

So, I like to bash things out. I like to get stuff down, then go back over the whole. For this reason, I’ve never suffered from writer’s block. I have no problem writing on demand (a far, FAR greater problem for me has been to turn off my ‘commercial writing’ mode, and go into narrative, personal mode).

1000 words a day x 90 days = 90,000 word novel

To write a novel in 3 months, I wrote 1000 words a day. This is nothing new to me in my line of work – and it’s certainly not a new concept in writing land. But I can’t stress enough that writing that 1000 words each day is what you need to do to get a book done.

Writing that much each day forces you to get over writer’s block, it creates discipline and drive, and it maintains momentum in your writing and story.

I would write 1000 words on my laptop – often in one go, and often more than 1000 – without worrying too much about following intricate plotlines. Above all, I wanted to avoid getting bogged down.

I’d then edit that 1000 words – usually in the evening, and on paper (not computer). The next day, I’d revise the previous day’s copy before writing my next 1000 words.

In my time not writing or editing, I’d think about the plot and characters, discuss my book with my husband, and do background research (the crime in my novel is underpinned by a controversial Titanic conspiracy theory).

Is this for you?

Perhaps not. And presumably no-one’s forcing you to write a book in 3 months. I simply chose to – because I was motivated to tell the story (and didn’t want to miss the boat, so to speak), because I was worried about my commitments coming up (and didn’t want to get waylaid), because writing fast is pretty much the only way I know how to work, and – crucially – the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is coming up on 15 April 2012, and I wanted to market my book around the event.

Even if I didn’t have an external deadline, I would probably still have written my book this way. It’s my style.

Some would say that a novel bashed out in speed is one that suffers in style and substance – I disagree. I have always felt that my writing is fresher, quirkier and more compelling when I go with the flow. When I’ve tried to be the considered, ponderous writer, my writing comes across as stilted and stifled. It doesn’t feel authentic – and if nothing else, I want my book to be authentic.

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