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!
This week: How to (not) get lost in the planning…
The Planning Game
I remember first settling on the idea of this project and explaining it to my wife. I said something along the lines of:
‘Exactly one year of writing, broken down into planning, writing and editing. Maybe one month of planning and research into how to structure my novel, then ummm… probably about nine months of writing, on and off, in a cyclical fashion. Four days writing, two days off, that sort of thing. Then you are left with two months for editing. The idea being that you aren’t caught in that perpetual cycle of re-editing the same page for years on end.’
Okay, or it was something like that – but that general structure has stuck up until now:
- (February) One month planning
- (March – November) Nine months writing
- (December – January) Two months editing
And that’s a whole year. Am I underestimating editing time? Is nine months too much or too little writing? Is everyone laughing at the idea that I can research and plan a novel in a month?
Now I’ve wondered if this is the right balance for this kind of project, but have ultimately come down to the idea of fuck it, just do it. So this is the pattern I’ll follow. Bearing in mind this is for my own style of writing and that skews the planning/writing/editing spectrum, so if you’re reading this in search of your own framework, it could well be different.
You’re writing a historical epic in Egypt? Maybe more research. But then again, maybe not. Do you care what kind of fish were in the Nile in the year 200BC? You might not, but some of your readers might.
So what does this planning phase consist of? Good question to ask myself – at this point I’m already 3 days into it and still finding my feet, if not distinctly unsettled. I need a comprehensive plan of what I’ll be covering in the planning stage, confronting such horrors as:
- Decide on a story idea
- Figure out what, where and who the story is about
- Create a concrete breakdown of the story so I know what I’m writing and when during the year
- What research do I need to do for this novel?
Overcoming Inaction and Procrastination OR Stop Planning, Start Writing
Thing is… I’m an expert at planning. I’ve pondered over novel ideas for years and years, searching for imperfections before I start. Just in case I get a single word/idea/setting/anything wrong.
I’m on familiar ground with myself as I write this. I’m at an empowered position of:
- Not having written anything yet
- Deciding on how it all fits together
- Daydreaming about the reactions
All of this adds up to the same old situation I’ve been in hundreds of times before. I feel energised by the very idea of being a writer, but I haven’t committed a word to this project. As I look at the rough ideas in front of me and see the potential, I’m years ahead of myself, planning into the third book.
With the lull of inaction and only planning, I’m in a golden zone of possibility. My ideas are unknown quantities that could be the greatest book ever written, or could equally be a lump of words that are clumsy and poorly executed.
Wouldn’t it be easier to plan out the novel, to fill the walls with post-its and little notes, then never write it? I could just let this blog peter out slowly over time. No one is reading this anyway. Better to not try than go for it and confirm my fears that I’m not any good.
Well fuck that.
This is my last chance to write a book. I’ve set in motion the best framework I can manage and I’m at the cusp of starting it. My subconscious is considering how to get out of this.
Well fuck that too.
I’m angry with myself for all these years passed by. For those that know me, you’d probably say I’m a pretty calm guy, nothing rocks my boat, etc., etc. Well that is the mindset that will ruin me. I have to get angry at myself to get this fire lit and start moving.
I am a writer. I’ve valuable words to put out there that could make people smile and think and laugh at. If I get complacent and apathetic about this, then I’m shot through. I should quit this blog right now…
So this is the final fuck.
And that is a fuck me. I’m leaving that behind and writing this book. Let’s start.