300 UP!

This is unusual for me. Two posts in four days. Well, a landmark has been passed, so I thought I may as well mention it. I am now working on Page 300. That equates to significantly over the 85,000 words I mentioned in the last post. The overall figure currently stands at 87,947, with the last one being village.

People sometimes ask me how I manage to write a story three hundred pages long. It won’t be that length when it is finished. It will be a lot longer, possibly more than 400. The question is a reasonable one, though. Once they have completed their education, most people never write anything of length ever again. I discount those who do, of course. There are people who write reports, dissertations, scripts – er – novels etc. I am not discussing them. Everybody else writes, of course. They write every day. They have to sign things, write checques, leave notes, text, email, write letters. All of these things tend to be short, however. That still leaves the question of how somebody like me can write something with an overall length of 100,000 words or more.

Well, I can tell you. How do you walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End – a journey of nearly 900 miles by road? How do you climb Mount Everest, the highest peak on the planet? The answer is deceptively simple: one step at a time.

That might sound glib, but it isn’t really. A human brain cannot cope with something of that scale all at once. We cannot concentrate on something for more than a few hours before our minds begin to wander. That can be deeply frustrating, especially if we have a lot to accomplish in a limited time. That demonstrates the advisibility of pre-planning, of making sure that we have the time available to complete everything, bearing in mind that our brains are going to let us down at some point. When that happens, persevering becomes pointless. What we write will not be worth reading. That is why I create my books in the mornings, which is when my brain is at its most productive. I can edit text effectively later in the day, but anything I create after lunch tends to be well below my best standards.

I start each session by going through what I wrote the day before, and revising it. This is where most of the description goes in. When getting my initial ideas down, it usually takes the form of action and dialogue. It is only when I flesh it out that the writing becomes descriptive. Having done that, I move on to today’s bit – which will consist largely of action and dialogue, only to be fleshed out and revised tomorrow.

Although I can see where the book will end, reaching that point is a slow and painstaking process. I cannot take in everything that must happen to bring us to that conclusion all at once. What I can do is break it down into small steps, each leading to the next, and do one at a time. I used a similar technique when I was a teacher directing teenagers in putting on a Shakespeare play. Many of them blanched at the sight of the Bard’s lengthy speeches. I told them not to think of it in terms of one long speech, but several short speeches, joined together. Thus, they only had to learn a couple of lines at a time. Not only did that enable them to handle those speeches, but they also made better sense of them.

Thus, each day, one little bit of the book is done. It isn’t set in stone. It will be revised, altered, added to, cut ad nauseam until I am satisfied that it is as good as I can make make it. The important thing is, though, that it is written down. The book is nothing while it exists solely in my head. Once it is down in text, it is no longer a vague idea. It has substance. It is is something I can work with. Each day, there is a little bit more, until eventually the story is complete. It is a marathon, not a sprint.


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