After a lifetime of playing with ideas and words, Tom Hughes has committed to writing a whole book in just one year. As part of his mission, he’s going to be blogging regularly, sharing the trials and tribulations of trying – finally – to complete his first novel, while simultaneously running his own business and being a father and husband. Tom will be sharing regular updates here on Voices in the Dark – and challenging YOU to start and finish your own creative project!
I have never been published in anything before, aside from a few restaurant reviews many many years ago. I have written fiction on and off most of my life, from as early as I can remember. I don’t think I’m necessarily a great writer, or even a good one. I can’t even tell, because I haven’t finished anything.
Whatever it is – procrastination, perfectionism and a fear of failure (and success) – have held on tightly for all these years and my total creative writing to date is:
- Seven or eight notebooks, half-full of half-finished ideas
- Eight completed short stories, ranging from 1,000 words up to 8,000
- One of the above short stories was shortlisted up to the final 6 for a science fiction magazine competition (from about 200 entries); it didn’t go any further, but it was an amazing feeling to get my name on a shortlist
- Six more short stories, unfinished, in a perpetual state of editing
- An unfinished serialised fantasy novel (about 73,000 words total) that I started when I was about 18 and added to on and off over the years. Another 15,000 words or so would finish it, but I never have
- About ten or so half-started pages of novels, never getting beyond page four or five
- A completed feature length film script, about 90 pages, which was basically my version of Underworld
- Roughly fifteen short film scripts, some finished, some unfinished
I think that’s about it. That’s more than I thought it would be.
I’m turning 35 this year and I’m not sure what the change was, but I’m making a commitment to writing a book in a year. I follow lots of step-by-step approaches in the rest of my life, but have never applied this method to writing. So now is the time.
I’ll be blogging frequently over the next year to create consistent accountability t0 maintain momentum, motivation and inspiration for this writing challenge. I really hope this blog can be of use to others as I’ll be explaining my way through the whole process of writing a book. I intend to be as honest and transparent as I can be about the ups and downs, victories and failures.
I know there are other writers out there in the same boat as me, having many, many ideas and half-starts, but not the framework or motivation to actually get the damn book written. I’m going to prove that it can be done. For myself more than anyone, but if you can take inspiration from this and start out on your own One Book One Year, then please do.
The Secret Superweapon: Accountability
The intention is simple. A year from now, 1st February 2018, I will have a freshly printed book in front of me. I don’t know yet what it will be about, or what will happen, but I know it will be there.
One of the very first things I have to get sorted is enabling my chosen superweapon: Accountability.
In the pursuit of writing a book in a year, I’m trying to second guess myself in terms of what might trip me up. This could be lots of things, theoretically, but my most powerful enemy is myself. Through the years of being self-employed and starting up my own business, I’ve learned the hard way that one of the most critical tools for a fledgling business is accountability. Your commitments are very much open to change until you set them in stone with another person and have them call you up asking for it.
So I want to bring this strategy to bear on this year-long writing challenge. My mission with accountability is two-fold. To set this goal to write a book in a year and make a written commitment to:
- A small selection of people who will be terrifically disappointed if I let them down
And that’s it in a nutshell. The Accountability Packet, as I’ve come to call it, is a small set email/message/text that is sent to a selection of people. My text will be word-for-word the following:
Hi [insert name here],
I want to ask for your help. I’ve just started a personal challenge to write a book in a year and part of this process is to be accountable for my goals. To help with this, I’ve chosen you as one of a small selection of people (there are ten of you) who can help me stay on track and actually finish the word count.
I’d like to ask for two things from you:
- To set a reminder in your phone for a year from now, to the day.
- When that reminder comes up, to email/phone/confront me and ask me for a copy of the book I’ve just finished.
- (optional) If you’d like to be an advance reader, read it!
That’s it. If you’re up for it, please do let me know. If not, that’s totally cool too.
One final thing. I believe that an idea shared and chatted about is a very easy way to lose energy in the early stages of a project like this. It’s happened to me a number of times before. I’ve geared up to write something, talked about it to everyone, then it never happens.
So, as part of the year long process, I’ll be going quite silent about the work for the next six months.
I know this might sound strange, but I would really appreciate it if you didn’t ask me about the writing for a while. Six months from now is the beginning of August. Please feel free to send me a message around then and ask how it’s going!
In the meantime, in a counterpoint to my personal silence, I’ll be writing a blog for the whole process (including why I’ve done this among other things) over at my own site onebookoneyear.com – it’s barely started at this point, but might give you an idea of what I’m trying to do.
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
Cheers and catch up soon,
The effect that I want from this is a direct sense of an approaching deadline (as far off as that might be). And it’s much worse than self-set deadlines now because I’m going to have ten people all getting in touch with me a year from now and asking to read the book I’ve just finished.
I’m making no promises that the book will be good. In fact, seeing as it would be the first book I’ve published, I’d expect it to be a little rough around the edges. And probably in the middle too. But what is important is the actual completion. Of setting a goal and nailing it on the head.
If you’re reading this now and thinking about a similar project, feel free to copy the above text and start yourself on the path. It’s going to work for me. In a year’s time, I’ll be sat there with a finished novel in front of me. It could work for you too.