Tuesday, April 08, 2008

New techniques and a million words a year.

I am reassessing the whole idea of the shitty first draft. On the one hand I found it enormously liberating when I started the new novel, just to power on and rack up the word count and get the story out. On the other, after 10,000 words, what I have is, well, shit. After taking a break to work on other projects, and coming back to it, I didn’t experience the feeling I had with my other one, I just felt a profound sense of disappointment, which is probably the reason behind my mood last week.

But, not to be deterred, I decided to adopt the Chris Else method of working – he has talked in the past about starting the novel about four times and each time getting further and further into it before scrapping it all and starting again. I thought this was a bit nuts when I first heard it, but I can totally see how it works – each time you get into it, you start to know your characters and story so much more and can go back to the beginning with a stronger idea of the voice of the novel and what it needs.

That means piling up a huge number of words, but the idea is that by the time you have started it the fourth time, you will be sailing through it (and I’m sure you can lift good passages from other drafts).

Speaking of word counts, kiwiology.com alerted me to this blog, which is basically one Edinburgh-based NZ writer’s challenge to write a million words in one year. Each week he charts his progress using graphs and pie-charts – genius! I would love to do this, but the difference between him and me is that I would probably make the graphs instead of writing, thereby negating the need for any graphs at all. He seems to be working on a whole lot of things all at once, and includes his blog in his word count, which I thought was a bit of a cop-out, until I read that he also has a day job. Now I’m impressed.

He also sets himself interesting exercises, such as writing a story at the rate of 8 words per day for a month, the result of which is actually quite a sweet story, if a little mad (not surprising really).

The blogger is Craig Cliff, who has already made a mark on the NZ writing scene (he won the novice section of Katherine Mansfield award) and I predict he will feature quite strongly in the literary landscape in the future. Especially if he writes a million words a year.

Craig’s work is also featured in Turbine, which I have been reading lately. My favourite part of Turbine is the 'Reading Room' - reading journals of students of the MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. They are a lot like the blogs I seek out on the internet, about the writing and reading process, the thoughts that go into creating. They are full of excitement too, by people who have been given a precious year in which to do nothing but write and think, which I know from my own experience of the MA is a gift that keeps on giving long after the year is over.

Finally, I’d just like to say that I had a great start to the week, clocking up a good word count (not enough to get me to a million though) and, using my new technique, working my way towards finding the voice of the novel, but all was thwarted yesterday by a sick family. I got three hours sleep on Monday night due to a clingy child who would only sleep in my arms while I sat in a chair (“And when does Mummy get to sleep, hm?” I asked him, but he didn’t notice) and my husband was no help as he had been struck down at the same time by a vomiting bug. So I was off work on Tuesday looking after them both, but I’m back into it today, by golly. Just a little sleepy.

1 comment:

Craig Cliff said...

So this is why the visitors to my blog quadrupled overnight...

Thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad to hear your word count is coming along this week!