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What 25,000 Words Looks Like

I like to print out the first draft of my manuscripts as I am going, so that I can see the progress that I am making. It gives me a better feeling of achievement than seeing the word count on a computer screen does.

Today I finished the seventh chapter of The Ladies Adventure Society, which is about a quarter of the way through the story. At 25,000 words, that means I’m looking at a first draft of 100,000 words, which seems about right.

Anyway, this is what I have so far:


This morning I found myself starting to doubt the story I’m working on. I began asking myself whether it was really the best thing I could be doing, whether I wanted to spend so much time writing it.

Resistance is part of any project worth taking on and I am used to coming up against it. Sometimes I win the battle and sometimes I lose. Quite often, the battles that I lose, end up being projects that I look back on and wish I had finished.

“Resistance in my experience always kicks in when you’re trying to move from a lower level to a higher level or to identify with a braver part of yourself or your higher nature. So it’s that negative repelling force. It’s kind of the dragon that we have to slay every day if we’re artists or entrepreneurs.”
– Steven Pressfield

Even now there are stories sitting half-finished that I think I might return to one day but that I wish I had never abandoned. They are stories that I think would have been really good. Perhaps they were stories which could have pushed my skill to a new level.

So the question becomes; how is it best to handle resistance?

“Don’t prepare. Begin. Our enemy is not lack of preparation. The enemy is resistance, our chattering brain producing excuses. Start before you are ready.”
– Steven Pressfield

Which is where I find myself now.

There is always the possibility that what I am working on isn’t worth persevering with, but I won’t know that until I have some perspective. The only thing I know for sure right now is that most of the projects I have abandoned would have been woth persevering with.

I don’t know if I’m ready to start yet, but maybe I should take the resistance I’m feeling as a sign that I should. There are reasons to wait, good one’s, but there might be better ones to start.

Naming Characters

When I’m writing I like to have a list of names that I can pick and choose from as I’m going. It saves me having to stop and think of them while I’m in the flow. It also means that I don’t have to type “XX” or whatever to remind myself to add it in later.

I already have the names of the main characters in my upcoming story, but I needed some extras to choose from for characters that I don’t know about yet. This morning I put together a couple of lists, one for surnames, the other for first names.

A couple of invaluable resources for this process are:

Behind the Name

Fantasy Name Generators

I am planning to add more “quick tips” like this. There are a lot of good resources out there and I am always interested to find out what other people use.

Encoding for Loss

When you encode an analogue music file to MP3, some loss of quality is unavoidable.* I believe that the same is true when you pick digital tools over analogue ones.

You may have picked up on my preference for notebooks and pens over computers and phones. In my mind this is more than a choice over which is more fun to use. I believe that using analogue tools leads to a better output.

There is plenty of research to back this up:

Pen and paper ‘beats computers for retaining knowledge’

9 Incredible Ways Writing By Hand Benefits Our Bodies And Brains

The Benefits of Writing by Hand Versus Typing

Clive Thompson “How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think”

A good place to have bad ideas

There are, of course, benefits to using digital notebooks, but as I considered this over the weekend (writing into my pocket notebook) just because there are some benefits, doesn’t mean they make up for the disadvantages.

I want to be able to leave my phone behind for days at a time and that won’t feel possible if I’m using it for notes. So, despite the many advantages of using my phone as a notebooks, that one disadvantage is enough to make it a no go.

There are other disadvantages, but that was the big one at the weekend. And it’s an important one. Being able to leave my phone behind makes up for the occasional inconvenience of taking out a paper notebook, for those times when it’s not possible so I miss something. It makes up for a hell of a lot and when you add it to the other advantages (quality, peace of mind, memory improvements) then it just doesn’t make sense for me to switch.

The problem with a lot of digital technologies is that by using them I would be encoding for loss. I know from the start that they aren’t as good as analogue equivalents, so by using them I am saying that quality is less important that convenience. As I mention in Compromises that is occasionally a compromise that I am willing to make, but not always, in fact, not even often.

*Yes, I understand that there are “lossless” formats such as FLAAC, but I would argue that even when using those formats a certain amount of loss happens by not having a physical representation on the music such as a CD or record. In my experience, listening to music goes beyond the sounds that you hear when you press play. At its best it is a tactile experience.


Some thoughts on the internet…

I try to stay away from networked devices. It isn’t always possible. I work for a big technology company and that means that all the tools I use are connected. In my spare time I do copy writing and that often means I have to go online to do research. So what I really mean is that I try to manage my online use.

I have social media accounts but I don’t use them. Someone tried to contact me on Facebook Messenger and I didn’t find out about it until they messaged Tamzin to ask why I wasn’t responding. The responsible thing to do would be to close my account so that no one expects me to respond to anything they send there.

I subscribe to 22 RSS feeds but only a few of them post daily. Only one of them posts more than once a day and they are very short. None of them are technology related and none of them are “news”.

The internet is a powerful tool, but something feels broken about the way we use it. I don’t think that we should live there the way we do. Maybe that’s just an issue of nomenclature; maybe referring to a home page is what bothers me. But then I see reports about screen time and I ask myself is any time reasonable to spend online every day? Should the internet even be an every day thing?

I don’t have any answers. I’m trying to work it out. I think everyone should work it out for themselves because any answers I come up with will only apply to me.

A Room of my Own

I used to have a room to write in. The spare room in our little two-up, two-down terrace. I had a big desk and plenty of space. Most importantly, I had a door that I could close. After my son Jude was born, it continued to be my office, although sometimes when he had a difficult night I had to share it with him in the morning. When he was six months old my office became his bedroom. That was five years ago now.

Since then I’ve worked in a variety of places. At the dining room table, in coffee shops, on my lap. It wasn’t a problem.

When we bought our new house the plan was to use one of the bedrooms as a laundry room / office. But as we tore down walls and built them up again, as we decorated and furnished, the spare room was never a priority. Again, this wasn’t a problem. I was used to working wherever I could open a notebook.

I have written previously about the number of meetings I have at my day job. It is an hours drive away and I’ve been getting frustrated with doing that journey just to sit at my desk and sit on conference calls. So over the weekend I bought and built a small desk and wedged it into the spare room. The walls are unfinished, the carpet isn’t laid. There is no light in the ceiling and it still smells a bit like plaster. I’m sitting there now and I could not be happier.

It wasn’t until I got the space back that I realised how much I’ve missed having a room of my own. Or, in this case, the corner of a room. There is a door that I can close and that makes all the difference. Finally I have a place where I can go to write, or to work, and feel comfortable.