As I write this, I'm on day 112 of #100DaysOfWriting.
Maybe I should explain.
A little while ago, I noticed a writer, Jenn Ashworth, was doing 100 consecutive days of writing and documenting her progress on the socials. The idea was that word count didn’t matter. This wasn’t like National Novel Writing Month, where participants committed to writing 50,000 words in November. Instead, you’d find time to write something – anything – each day for 100 days. In fact, you didn’t actually need to write anything at all, you could just do some research, or some correspondence, or some planning. Anything, in fact, to move your writing project along in some way.
My first novel, Lord of the Dead, was written in such a piecemeal style - short bursts of activity separated by days, sometimes weeks of inactivity – that committing to a sustained period of writing seemed like a great idea. If I cracked on, I could come up smiling with the best part of a novel in just over three months. So 2nd January became ‘DAY 1’, and on the train into work, I did some scribbling. In the spirit of counting things, here’s 10 things I noticed over the next 99 days. I’m not doing 100 things. That would be mad.
1. The first few days require a bit of adjustment. At the beginning, you’ll probably have all the ideas you need to keep you going, it’s more the discipline, finding the time to fit it in among, work, family life and everything in between.
2. Soon you’ll get creative with juggling your time. I realised if I took the longer route into work, I’d have a better chance of getting a seat, about 25 minutes uninterrupted writing, and still get to work on time.
3. If that didn’t work out, I could get myself out at lunchtime. I could find a cafe, get something to eat and back to work, and still squeeze in 20 minutes of writing. In fact, the change of scenery would usually inspire something, a piece of dialogue, a character or a location, which I probably wouldn’t have thought of.
4. Writing in the morning really works for me. At weekends, if I happened to wake up early, instead of mindlessly thumbing my phone for an hour, I’d do a bit work. And then probably go back to sleep.
5. There’ll be times when you really – I mean really – don’t feel like writing. On my least productive day, with a stinking hangover, I did a total of eight words of dialogue. I wasn’t even that happy with them, but it was something, god dammit. There’ll always be something that could scupper things – a visiting relative, a christening, a weekend away with your significant other. Whatever it is, work around it. Fit it in.
6. At some point you might run out of stuff to write about. I guess it depends on your writing process. I’m not a meticulous planner. I have a vague idea of scenes, beats, plot points and where I want to get to, but often don’t have a clue as to how I’ll get there. A handful of days were taken just planning out things to write, a list of scenes on my phone for quick reference.
7. One good thing about #100DaysOfWriting is that you have to think ahead. Not just what I’m going to write about today, but what I’ll do tomorrow and so on. I think this consistency is great for your book.
8. Watching your book grow is pretty satisfying. I quickly gave up trying to organise anything into chapters and instead concentrated on getting it down, scribbling in my notebook, typing it up and scoring a line through the notebook page when it was done.
9. Don’t sweat over the small stuff. You could waste lost of time checking names, locations and facts that’ll distract you from your flow of writing. Instead, I’d write myself lots of notes. ‘Insert seas slug latin name here’ and so on. Fuck all that, you can sort it out later. Just keep writing.
10. Probably the best thing about #100DaysOfWriting is that it’s habit-forming. It changes the way you think about writing. I was always whinging about not having the time to write. There was always work, or family commitments, or the annoying need to eat and sleep, or good old-fashioned procrastination to get in the way.
I think #100DaysOfWriting makes you realise these pressures are always going to be there and if you’re going to be a writer, you’ll need to find techniques to work around them. So that’s why I’m on day 112. I’m maybe halfway through a really rough first draft, so when I hit DAY 200 of #100DaysOfWriting on 20th July, I might be ready to start a second draft.
A writer writes, right?