Counting words

I’ve been thinking about word count. A brief trawl online brings up numerous opines on acceptable novel lengths, many of which make sense. I also like to think that the narrative arc will propel you up, out and gently bring you down to a natural halt, that is, when the tale is told. I think about books I have loved, ranging from less than 200 pages long, to more than 600. Who can put a quantity on such things? It’s certainly not for me to say. But, if it’s numbers you’re after, check out this blog post. It’s a feast of words counted.

Timeline technique

I was reading Writing Magazine, and thoughtful writer Wendy Clarke had sent a letter with details of a story timeline Excel document, set up by her husband. If you’re writing a book that involves any kind of time shifts, I can recommend it. I’ve already downloaded a copy from Wendy’s blog, and inserted my main characters’ birth years; their ages are automatically calculated on the timeline. Lists of British monarchs, Prime Ministers and some key events through the years is a lovely additional detail, and fills in the plentiful gaps in my knowledge. Thanks to Wendy for sharing.

Fast Fiction

I will definitely be keeping an eye on Budgie’s Perch, on Friday 15th. Lee Barnett (aka Budgie) has recently specialised in fast fiction challenges, and has published two collections. Now he’s planned a huge Comic Relief feat, to write 24 fast fiction stories in 24 hours, with a four-word title and a single word to include in each tale. These are supplied by a raft of celebrities, from the likes of Ian Rankin, Neil Gaiman, Lauren Laverne and lots more. There will be a chance to by an ebook of the stories after the challenge is complete. Check out all the info here, including details on how to donate.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

I’ve been thinking a lot about process and structure, after an unsettled week with my novel. My frame of mind does tend to yo-yo from being all-conquering, to cowering in the face of my inner critic.

After one of those latter moments, I took myself off with a novel that has served as a huge inspiration, and returned feeling very positive.

I have come to accept that ups and downs are a part of the process of writing a novel. I’ve also come to realise that the authors of books I’ve read and loved, have likely been through the mill to get their works to the wonderful finished articles they are. An interview by Lucy Scholes with Deborah Levy, author of the quite brilliant Swimming Home, was very interesting.

The workshop sessions with my MA cohorts and tutor are vital in teaching the importance of pruning, as well as being a source of great support. I’ve also been looking at revising and editing in my local writing group, with some reminders of the lengthy process required to achieve an effective economy of prose.

That’s what I aspire to. Not a word wasted. It will take a lot more work.