it’s really difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when I started writing, but as I mentioned in the first entry, I took it a bit more seriously in the early 2000s, when Wizards of the Coast ran a few open calls for their AD&D book series. In those open calls, they told you what the book was about (one was “Maiden of Pain” about a cleric of some sadistic goddess and the other was “War-torn” set in the then newly created Eberron universe) and you had a month to write a ten page chapter and a one page synopsis of your whole novel. The winner received a contract with an advance of a few thousand dollars (can’t remember the exact figure, since I did not win. I think it was 5000$) and one year of time to write the book. Obviously the author would also get royalties once the amount of royalties exceeded that advance.
Anyway, those contests always invigorated me to write. Now that I think about it, I do remember that I actually started my novel before the open call. However, I also didn’t really start the novel back then. You see, in those days, some thirteen years ago, I wrote a few pages, decided they were crap, set them aside and didn’t look at them for another year. Next year I’d trash what I wrote and started anew. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s say that I started (late) in 2000, when I was 23 years old.
In the wake of the open calls, I came across the forward motion writing community and from there I found Holly Lisle’s website. She had a free e-book on writing called “mugging the muse” on her website, which I enjoyed reading. It contained a lot of useful advice presented in an interesting way, which compelled me to look at her other books on writing. I’d link to it, but after she redesigned her website, she decided to bundle it as a free goody with every purchase :(
Anyway, I then bought all her stuff on writing (my #1 recommendation there is “how to write page turning scenes”).
With my passion rekindled I made the first real effort to finish my book in 2008: In three months I wrote 25000 words. Unfortunately the workload of the PhD picked up, so I had to set aside the book once more, adding a few hundred words here and there.
In June 2011 I’ve made a deal with my best friend that we would meet up regularly and work on our respective hobby projects. Originally we wanted to meet every other week, but sometimes one of us didn’t have time, so we decided to meet once a week. That way, we figured it would work out to every other week, due to the need to cancel every once in a while. Instead, we’ve gradually increased the amount of sessions. If you have someone else to spur you on like that, I highly recommend those weekly sessions. The other person doesn’t even have to write a novel. In our case, my friend is working on his poems.
So disregarding the false starts, I’ve worked on this book since 2008 (more or less), but due to the interruption of several years, I would consider 2011 to be the actual start date.
For about a month now, we’ve added more writing sessions during the week, to complement our regularly scheduled weekend sessions. However, since I am living in Wachtberg and my best friend is in Düsseldorf, these are “remote” sessions: each of us logs in to Skype from 20:00 to 22:00 and works on their projects. At the moment it is a bit tricky, as there are urgent deadlines at work, preventing me from attending the sessions (I need to do some sensititve measurements that I can only do in the evenings), but in principle I do not want to let this become the norm, as there is always an excuse not to write. It’s important to stick to the planned sessions, if I want to finish the first draft of the book this year.
Long story short, the old piece of advice that if you want to be a writer, you need to sit down and write, still holds true. As for the “how”, considering the above story, I suggest to start slow: Pick one day every two weeks and write for two to three hours on that day. Once that is comfortable, keep adding days until you’re on a daily routine.
If I manage to stick to the schedule, I would finish the first draft of the book in late November: There are currently 22 chapters left to re-write. I do have between 500 and 2000 words each on paper for those chapters, but assuming I need to completely rewrite them, that’d be 22*3000 words. If I’m writing at a slow pace, I get about 250 words done per hour, so that’s 264 hours. Afterwards, I have to revise twice: reading 300 pages means another 15 hours and writing ten thousand additional words would take 40 hours. In total that’s 374 hours, to which I’m adding an arbitrary margin of 26 hours.
With the daily sessions and some extra hours on the weekend, I may be able to sustain an effort of 20 hours per week. That would mean I’m done in late November. I’m assuming worst case stats, except for the hours I put in every week. Those might be a bit optimistic, but we shall see :)
All the best,