Novella Diary: Looking for some Feedback

I started May with this bright idea that I’d get Claw all neatly wrapped up inside of a month, which is one of the reasons it seemed like a prime candidate for tracking the process in front of a crowd.

In terms of the words-on-the-page level, my assessment of the time it’d take was pretty accurate; even with a handful of dead days, working on other projects, I’ve still clocked up about twenty thousand words in as many days. Sure, a whole lot of these have been cut out of the manuscript, but that’s always been part of my process. I’m a pantser, and one of the realities of that is writing far more than you ever release out into the wild.

My big problem is me: I’m rusty. My ability to gauge how long things take is at least three years out of date, predicated on having scads of free time, and I’ve written far less than usual. The novella is still on track to get done (I built some extra time into my plans, just in case); I’m still writing, still tracking, still getting Claw done.

It’s just going to take a little longer than expected – at this point I’m stretching things out to late June (which, unlike May, is busy, so I’m not expecting a daily focus on the novella) and fretting about the possibility of things going further.

And here’s my conundrum:

Two Months of Novella Dairy is a whole lot of word count tracking. It actually flies in the face of one of my few rules when it comes to this blog, which is don’t bore people to death with the minutia of writing unless it’s for a purpose.

As a one-month project the novella diary was relatively discreet. If it blows out to two months, or more, it quickly becomes an omnivorous creature that has the potential to bore the pants of all of you. So I’m looking at options. And asking for advice or preferences, since you guys are the ones who are choosing to read this (or not read this, as the case may be).

Option One: Continue the Diary to the Bitter End

I’m not inherently adverse to doing this, but I am aware that it may not be a hell of a lot of fun for people who aren’t me. I can think of reasons it’s important, not least of which is advice like this:

I like to get 1- pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book…on some days those ten pages come easily; I’m up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning, perky as a rat in liverwurst. More frequently, as I grow older, I find myself eating lunch at the desk and finishing the day’s work around one-thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes, when the words come hard, I’m still fiddling around at teatime. Either way is fine with me, but only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words. (Stephen King, On Writing)

We tend to think of writing process in very specific terms, and the sit-down-and-write-like-a-bastard approach is pretty common. I’ve got no problem with that, since it’s really useful when you’re starting out, but it’s not always practical when you’re working a dayjob (or multiple dayjobs). I tried having this kind of focus earlier in the year and it failed for me, big time, and left me feeling like something of a failure as a writer.

Having alternative models of creative process out there is important, ’cause not everyone has the opportunity or the ability to work like Stephen King. I’ve been doing this writing gig for a while, and even I’m surprised by some of the things I’ve picked up about my process as a result of the diary.

Option Two: End the Diary on May 31

This keeps the diary to the discrete month-long project that I’d originally intended and frees up the blogging space in my brain for…well, other things. This seems like the sensible option at present, but it bugs me a little ’cause I’m irritated by unfinished narratives and walking away from the diary is going to feel like leaving something half-finished.

Admittedly, even if I ended the diary, I’m going to keep tracking the act of writing the novella and trying out some different approaches to see how it influences thing. I’ll probably even post updates for people who are interested in such things, just a little more haphazardly than I started.

Option Three: Some Smart Alternative That Someone Else Comes Up With

You people are smart. Presumably there is some awesome compromise solution that’s eluding me at present, so feel free to let me know

I’m throwing these out ’cause the Diary has probably been one of the more popular things I’ve done on the blog  – and, let me tell you, that caught me by surprise – and I’m not sure I have any real preferences beyond not-boring-people. If you’ve been reading along, let me know your preference and I’ll take it into consideration as we come towards the end of the month.

  7 comments for “Novella Diary: Looking for some Feedback

  1. 21/05/2013 at 6:45 AM

    I think it would be really valuable and useful for many readers for you to see the Diary out all the way to the end.

    However, you don't need to write a long post each time. Cut the entries down, right down, maybe down to just a paragraph. Then write longer ones when something particularly noteworthy happens, something that other readers can really learn from.

    (We learn something from every post, of course, but some events need more wordcount than others.)

  2. 21/05/2013 at 9:42 AM

    What Patrick O'Duffy said. The Diary doesn't have to be the only thing you blog about, but the progress tracking has value and reading your process-tinkering is interesting (and motivational!).

    Plus that very human drive to find out what happened next, and how did it end? is in play now.

  3. 21/05/2013 at 6:11 PM


    I'm with them. To the bitter end!

    It's funny you should quote Stephen King, actually, because I've always wondered how you could write huge amounts of words per day and yet always seem to be working on the same thing. Answer: You're a natural sprinter. Just like King. Also, you delete things if they're not perfect (!?! Hahaha SO NOT what I do).

    So. Yes. Fascinating. Continue!

  4. 21/05/2013 at 8:36 PM

    I love that you're blogging this novella out for us all to follow. I can identify with a lot of what you're saying each day, so I don't want you to stop until the novella is done!

    Your posts are quite inspirational to those of us on the other side of the network cable, so please keep sharing 🙂

  5. Nic
    21/05/2013 at 10:43 PM

    May I suggest a rabbit hole type scenario where you smash it out for a day?

    Understand recently you've been a Day Job on the weekend kind of guy, plus added 'Visit to my family' type things.

    Might not be practical. As suggestions go, it works.

    I say keep going. You've posted many Tweets lately where the advice is 'Keep Going'.

  6. 22/05/2013 at 10:33 PM

    I've worked a bunch of rabbit holes for QWC – they're really not my thing in terms of getting stuff done (as social events they're great). I'm looking at options for getting more done in my writing days, but I'm not really going to smash an entire book out in twenty-four hours.

    Also, I'm starting to think I need to plan to have an actual weekend every now and then.

    The consensus does seem to lean towards keeping the series going in some description; I think the cut back versions (potentially appended to the end of other posts) is going to win out.

  7. DrFriendless
    30/05/2013 at 12:44 PM

    Yep, continue. Your blog is the only reason I persist with Pulse.

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