Write a book in 8 minutes…(a day)

Don’t have time to write? Think again. Some people set aside hours each day – lucky buggers – while others cram in maybe a couple of 30 minute blitz sessions. A few might just manage one such session. What they all have in common is that they write everyday, and they manage to organise their day to fit in their writing. They can do it, so what’s stopping you? You don’t even need 30 minutes. Write for just 8 minutes a day and you’ll have a novel within a year.

How 8 minutes a day equals a novel

We live busy lives, inundated with demands on time like work, family, social media and a myriad of distractions we’re told we need for some abstract purpose of marketing conformity. It might be easy to think we can’t manage to fit in artistic and creative ‘luxuries’ like writing.

The truth is if you want to be a writer you’ve got to write. It takes time to write, so you have ensure you fit in enough time each day to get something written. 

8 minutes a day. What are you doing each day that means you can’t spare 8 minutes?

Why 8 minutes you ask? Well, simple maths.

Imagine your typing speed is a sedate 30 words a minute. After 8 minutes that’s 240 words. Mulitiply 240 by 365 = 87600

Eighty seven thousand six hundred words. 

That’s a novel. 

That’s a short story anthology. 

It’s a few novellas. 

Just 8 minutes a day. 

Forget the romanticism of writing; these idea of lazy days writing thousands of words, taking long walks to boost your creative flow, and leisurely rewrites and edits of what you’ve done.

If you’re independently wealthy or already a successful writer, you might have that luxury. Most don’t. So 8 minutes a day is the best you might be able to summon.

Keeping a Routine

Now there are some realistic issues here. 

It can be difficult to get yourself going for the sake of 8 minutes. I find a five minute warm-up write does wonders, but then I fit in longer writing sessions anyway. So you need to get a habit going to seize that energy. This is about routine, selecting the same time each day to write. 

Maybe add a bit extra to your work time if you drive – write for eight minutes in your car when you arrive, or before you leave. Public transport? If your journey is longer than 8 minutes it’s sorted.

However you do it, turn it into a routine and keep doing it.

Keeping the flow going

There’s also a question of narrative flow. Inevitably it is easier to write a stream of events or even a single event when you have more time.8 minutes might challenge you to keep that flow going.

Having a good sense of structure or planning ahead can help. Planning each week can help provide the impetus you need to write an hour a week (8×7=56).

If you’re reading this thinking there’s no way 8 minutes is viable for focused writing, then I’d ask “what about 15 minutes? Is that really stretching it?” That’d be even more advantageous – nearly double the amount or half the time (6 months instead of a year).

My point here is that time is pliable if you’re willing to make accommodations. If you accept that usually writing a novel isn’t a quick process then you surely accept the capacity to spend a year on writing your book, short stories etc.

It’s not enough to claim there’s no time. You have the means, with some organisational effort, to contribute a little bit each day to making a writing project come together. For even a short spell and minor sacrifice, you can find the time to make it happen.

The Big Read: Reading through my novel first draft

I had a moment of empathy for despairing USA citizens and, bizarrely, Cory Bernadi, asking myself “How did this happen?”

While US voters get to wonder about their political naïveté leading to the election of the orange demagogue, and Cory asks himself “how did I misjudge President Trumble so badly?”, I read my novel and ask “How did I write this?”

As the first part of the rewrite, I am reading through my novel. I’m making no corrections or changes at this point, as I’m only making broad notes about themes and issues cropping up. I spend about half an hour reading, then make some notes, and then another half hour and so on. As I read I get to see all the little errors I made, the confusing sections where attribution is severely lacking in dialogue, and sections where I clearly lost my temper and gave up (one line said [what happens here? Fuck.]).

So far I’ve got through about a fifth of the novel, and I’m barely past the inciting incident. It makes me wonder how much I may have underwritten the later sections, but I’m getting ahead of myself. You can’t judge a piece of art by only seeing a section of it, so I just need to be patient. Perhaps the story will organise itself.

I see some strengths. I like the flow of the story so far. There’s action and crisis. I could probably do with more conflict amongst the main characters, but there’s enough. I hope by the end the spirit of the story is holding up. There’s still a long journey ahead.

Hemingway was right (& I finished my novel)

The first draft of anything is shit. Hemingway.

So why am I quoting the great one? Well, I finished my novel…after a fashion.

First things first. I finished my motherfucking novel!! WHOOP WHOOP!

Ahem. Let me define ‘finished’ before I get too carried…oh my god I fucking finished it!…away.

So, it’s not finished, not really. As a first draft, it’s done, but there are sections that need rewriting, some chopped, others need finishing. That’s obviously the nature of a draft, but there’s some serious work to be done. Nonetheless, it has a start, middle and end. There is a clear set of events (the plot) and story. The characters are distinctive enough (for now).

I could describe all the things I reckon are wrong, need changing etc, but that will come in time with rewrites. For now, I’m just going to bathe in the celebratory glow, albeit briefly, and reflect on what I’ve gained and learnt from the experience.

This all started out of a NaNoWriMo, and just kept going. To persevere to the end really was something, if I’m honest, and I found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I looked forward to writing more and more.

I found an appreciation for simplicity and action. Too often I ended up in sections that merely described the characters going from one place or another. These were hard to write, and often fizzled out. Once I introduced a sense of action, or tension, then it became easier to write, and much more enjoyable.

Planning out the plot ahead of time made it possible. I did very little character background, inventing it as I went, or relying on brief descriptions. I wrote little world creation, again developing as I went. I didn’t write in chapters, I wrote in sections, with strands of events occurring before moving onto the next. That all help make the writing simpler for me. There’s a trade off that there’s probably more I’ll need to work on, but at least the whole thing is done, and I’ve minimised the risk of endless world building without actually writing.

I’ve learnt how important it is that I like my novel. I enjoyed the story, while accepting it’s flaws. It’s the type of story I would like to read. I think this is why I wanted to persevere.

There’s a way to go. My first job is to get some distance from it. Just get a breather. I want to be clear headed for the rewriting.

My next task will be to read the whole thing all the way through, from start to finish. I won’t make any corrections, or take any notes while I read. Only after I have read a particular section will I take down some notes. Then, I’ll break the story down into clearer sections and, eventually, chapters. This will help me identify the bits I need to rewrite, add or delete, and start the draft process.

So there’s work ahead, but fuck me if I didn’t just write a novel. Yes, it’s shit, but it’s also beautiful. You know people say babies are ugly, but adore them at the same time? I think this is similar…and without the poo and that weird white gunk babies seem to produce (hey, bonus!).

So there it is, my first novel. I’m pleased. I’m proud. And I look forward to the rewrites and watching the book grow.

Holy fuck I really did write a book. Awesome.

Warm sticky goo phase

After feeling much improved yesterday I hit an uncomfortable reminder that saying something don’t make it so. I should have worked that out before, but unfortunately a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc – after this therefore because of this. Let me explain.

For the past few weeks I have been under the weather, courtesy of a cold (possibly two on quick succession) that has taken a while to shift. Even now, four weeks on, my throat is feeling a bit flemmy. Despite my best efforts and wishes this has an impact on functioning, as I became mired in mucus, both literally and figuratively. I even took time off work, which I almost never do.

In addition to my general working, my writing has also taken a knock. I had assumed that this was due to the cold, and as my energy returned so too would my creativity. Alas, this is not the case. 

My intent was to embark on a new writing project – a novel in fact – and though a little ambitious my aim is try and come out with a draft of at least one, maybe two if I can keep up the NaNoWriMo in November. I have an idea, and semblance of plot and story, but recently getting th subject matter off the ground has been hard. I’ve barely managed a few hundred words in an evening, which is very poor.

Admittedly, just getting something written is a step in the right direction (300 words a day for 100 days is 30k words – half a book almost). I am making progress, even if slow going. I guess my wider problem is that it’s too slow, and is stemming from a difficulty formulating the story. 

My approach had been to have a rough idea and go from scene to scene and casually find my way through a narrative. I could have opted for a more detailed plan, but I was wary of this becoming a structured way of procrastination. So my preference was something more off the cuff.

Truth is, it’s not working. I’m a little mired in the first section, and perhaps I need to break free from that into something else. In addition, though not a sizeable plan, I need to prep each day with some notes of what I plan to write. I can probably do 2000 a day (2x 25minute sessions) if I know ahead of time what I intend to write about. Maybe more on a weekend day. So this is the approach I intend to try. With luck the productive writing habit will follow from there.