In January, I decided that for my new year’s resolution I would write a novel this year. I had in fact been trying and failing to write a novel for the previous three years and, not wanting to repeat this failure, I formulated a plan to get it done. Here’s the plan:
January: research and planning
February through to July: write first draft
August: read first draft, plan second draft
September through to November: write second draft
December: final tweaks to second draft, sending the manuscript to publishers, prize ceremonies, etc.
It’s not a great plan, but nevertheless I am trying to stick to it. It’s 11th July, I’ve written about 30,000 words of the first draft, and the first draft’s supposed to be about 100,00 words. So I’m only about a third done. To avoid abandoning the plan, I have taken a ten day period to push hard and finish the first draft. I’ve booked a week off work, so for seven of those ten days I’m completely free. Should be easy.
To make it a challenge, I’ve decided to not only finish the first draft of my novel, but to do a bunch of other stuff I’ve been meaning to do.
I’m lucky enough to work at a great independent bookshop, where we get lots of interesting authors coming to do talks, and I get lots of proofs of books that are yet to be released. I’m actually quite a slow reader. Some of the people I work with manage to read three books a week, while working a full-time job and having a normal home life. That’s almost a book ever two days! So, in the next ten days I’m going to read five books. That’s actually a book every two days. And not piddly books either. I’m going to read:
Tim Winton’s Dirt Music (because I’ve never read him before and he’s supposed to be great, so this is a bit of a treat to myself)
Neil Ansell’s Deep Country (because Neil is visiting the shop at the end of July for the release of his new book Deer Island, and I’d like to have read some of his backlist)
Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper (because Robin is hopefully coming to the bookshop in the autumn, which should be way more exciting to me but shockingly I’ve never read any of her books, so this is me making amends before it’s too late)
Margaret Atwood’s Maddadam (because Margaret is coming to the bookshop for the UK release of the book at the end of August, and I love the Oryx and Crake trilogy, and I’m lucky enough to have an advance copy)
Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season (because it’s the hot tip this year, and I’m lucky enough to have an advance copy)
I used to be a really keen electric bass player, but I’ve slacked off a bit. Recently, I’ve taken up with a couple of guitarists in my area. We’ve done a little bit of jamming, but I haven’t been fully committed to learning the material they’re writing, and I haven’t been contributing anything of my own. So in the next ten days I’m going to write four songs.
I’ve never been into fitness, but I like a bit of a stroll. Recently, too much pizza and chocolate is starting to show, so I’m going to walk it off: apparently we should all be walking 10,000 steps a day to maintain our body weight. I’m going to walk 15,000 steps a day for the next ten days: that’s 150,000 steps in total.
I like to learn stuff. Working in a bookshop, you get a feel for stuff you don’t know about. I know that my geography is bad, and so is my history. So I’m going to learn all the counties of England, all the cities in Europe, and all the capitals of the world. Plus, I’m going to learn all the kings and queens of England and the dates of their rule, same for the prime ministers. Next time I’ve got a week off, I’ll look at other countries’ history, but I feel it’d be a good idea to start at home. As part of this, I’m going to work on my memory so that I can spout off all this amazing learning. I’m going to develop my memory until it’s so good I can memorise the exact order of a pack of playing cards. That’d be neat.
I have a vague feeling that all of this might wind up my wife. To make up for it, I’m going to cook a new meal every day. I generally don’t cook at all, so I guess it’ll be fun.
How will I do it?
By increasing my efficiency and getting more done! To be honest, I don’t know how I’m going to get all that done in the next ten days, but I’ll have fun finding out, and I’ll share all of my findings with you.
How will you know?
I’ll post some samples of the first draft of my novel.
I’ll provide reviews of the books I’ve read.
I’ll perform the four songs I’ve written on a video.
I’ll record my steps with a pedometer and post the updates.
I’ll do a video about the rulers of England and the dates of their rule.
I’ll do a video where I memorise a pack of playing cards.
I’ll test my geography knowledge on geography-map-games.com, and post my vastly improved scores on my Twitter feed.
I’ll post photographs of the incredible meals I cook for myself and my patiently suffering wife.
Will you care?
Probably not. But having an imaginary audience who will mock me if I fail could be just the motivation I need.