Thanks to NaNoWriMo, in which the target is set to 50,000 for everyone, getting to 50,000 words in a novel always feels like almost the end. Actually 50,000 words or even 60,000, which most of my mystery novels conclude at, is fairly short for a novel these days. My writing session this morning has just carried me over the 50,000 word mark in Pitkirtly XXI so I’m pausing for a short break of an hour or so. There has been quite a lot of pausing involved in my recent writing activities. I fondly imagine that this makes sense because it gives me time to think and even plan. In fact, having enjoyed writing the 4th in my historical series so much and having followed a plan for that, I did have a bit more of a plan for Pitkirtly XXI than for some of the previous novels in the series – III and XX, I am looking at you in particular.
In fact, of course, pausing for a break actually means arguing with people on social media, listening to online all-day music festivals, binge-reading whatever my comfort genre of the moment might be, staring out at the garden to try and work out when is the right time to harvest the apples – usually the day before yesterday – and trying to find things for all the family birthdays that occur this month and next month. The only time I do any planning for what comes next in the novel I’m writing is in the middle of the night. Ideally I would have a notebook beside me to record these amazing plans but of course I’m not that organised and have to wait and see if I still remember them in the morning.
I have a makeshift method of outlining which consists of writing a couple of pages at most about the basic story before I start writing. If nothing else, this can sometimes help me to decide whether the idea I’ve got in mind is big enough to fill a whole novel. I’ve had quite a few ideas in the past that turn into 15,000 word stories. This is a really annoying length for anything, and in fact I have just pruned one of these down to 4,000 words for a short story thing I’m taking part in (more on that later). If the idea passes that test, then my first step is to write a very short summary – only a sentence in most cases – for the first few chapters or sometimes for more than that. For the 4th in the ‘Brighton Heirs’ series I broke it down into parts before I got to the chapter level. I’ve tried to do this with Pitkirtly XXI but it hasn’t quite worked in the same way due to the characters’ tendency to run away with the whole thing.
Once I start writing I like to keep planning a few chapters ahead so that I don’t come to a complete standstill anywhere. Over this past weekend I’ve confused myself slightly by writing a couple of longer than average chapters that take in some of the events that were due to happen later, so that’s another reason for pausing! Oh, well, at least I haven’t lost track of the chapter numbering, and I’m trying hard to keep control of the days of the week, although it occurs to me now that I am only managing that because I haven’t mentioned any of them by name yet!
I think I’m still on track to complete this draft by the end of September, give or take a day or two. To ‘celebrate’ retiring from my day job early in October, I’ve enlisted in a screenplay writing event that runs for a couple of weeks in mid-month, and then there is NaNoWriMo again in November. What will I write for that? Your guess is as good as mine!