Can blogging help you write a novel?

According to my dashboard, this is my 48thpost (the one on WordPress, not some kind of car. Blogmobile?). What with my posts averaging around 1,000 words (some are longer, but the first few were a lot shorter, so I think we can safely round it off at 1,000 per post), in two post’s time I will have written 50,000 words on this blog.

Sneaks up on you

Which is actually quite a lot, considering it only takes about an hour every other day. An hour every other day has, at the end of six months, resulted in me having a body of work that is the same length as about half a novel, give or take ten thousand words. Even for my limited brain (the rest of which I sold to raise money for awesome rock star boots), that means that if I wrote a thousand words every day (except Sundays, or Wednesday; insert your favourite day of rest *here*), I’d have a whole book done.

Funny you should say that

Actually, I do write every day, but I know that a lot of the people I talk to who want to write novels fall down at the first ten thousand words or so because the challenge seems too massive. If you are in a big group of people who all do NaNoWriMo together, you’ll probably notice that a lot of people will drop out before it even starts. The idea of having to write that many words overcomes them straight away.

But when you think about how often you contribute to your blog, and how much you say, you’ll probably be surprised. You have (or could have, if you don’t have a blog yet), typed an entire novel or more in the space of a few months in terms of words, without ever realising it. Yes, we get days occasionally when we know we have to post something, but we can’t be bothered. Sometimes we leave it a couple of weeks. What eventually forces us to sit at that keyboard and bang out another post is that we know there are people waiting, that we are losing traffic and visitors (who could become followers and friends), and overall, because we feel we have to.

I would think up a good title here, but I can’t be bothered…

Let’s face it, most of the reason we give up on the novel(s) that we try to write is because we lack the motivation. I’m terrible for this, but somehow I’ve managed to make up for what I lack in self-motivation with almost galactic-sized ambition (if I was a more confident, less morally grounded person, I’d probably be wanting world domination). But the bottom line is, when we look at the blank screen, or the word count at 20,000 and realise we’re only a quarter, or a fifth of the way through the first draft, most of us will start thinking ‘Y’know, I don’t haveto write this novel…’

Supply and demand

Why blogging is great is because it generates a need. An empty blog looks bad, so you’d better keep filling it up. And once you get followers, you want to keep them happy. And imagine if an agent or publisher was looking you up and saw the barren wasteland of your blog, digital tumbleweed bouncing across the front of your last post, dated several weeks ago. Blogging is a great prompt to get writing; I’ve never gone ‘damn, I need to write a thousand words on my blog’. I’ve thought ‘damn, I should really write another post’, but it’s never been about the word count. And somehow, all my posts seem to round themselves off nicely circa 1,000 words. By the end, whatever my new post is about, I have accidentally written 1,000 words.

Get your novel writing working the same way

Now, I’m the kind of person who likes to keep my writing very close to my chest until it’s ready to be sent out into the world, but you might find that writing a novel as a blog is a good idea. Each post can be a scene/chapter/whatever. The good thing about this is that as the writing process gets harder and the temptation to give up rises, your amount of followers and hits will be rising at the same time. The more you feel like abandoning the project, the more you know you have people who want you to keep going.

After a while, it may even merge into the point where it becomes exactly the same as blogging – you stop thinking, ‘I need to write X many words on the novel today’ and start thinking ‘I need to write another blog post today’. Before you know it, you’ve written several thousand words. And, of course, with each chapter being a post, you can get comments and feedback on it, helping you shape and revise the book as you go.

If that’s a little extreme…

However, if, like me, the idea of sharing your precious idea with the world in this manner is a bit too extreme (and you’ll have to be aware that publishers may be turned off from publishing a book considering that in one form it is already on the internet in its entirety for free), then there are other ways you can tie your writing to your blog. There are loads of widgets all over the place that you can use to update your word count. Make your targets for each week/month/5000 year planetary alignment public, so people coming to your blog can instantly check where you intended to be, and where you are up to. If you get followers, they will probably encourage you to meet your targets, and more importantly berate you if you fall short.

It doesn’t have to be online

One of the main reasons we can write so much on our blogs without it feeling like a novel-length, gargantuan task, is because we feel like we have to. There is a sense that we will be letting ourselves and other people down if we don’t. So, if you don’t want to talk about your novel writing online, all you need is to have some people know that you have targets and who will regularly pester you about your progress. If you feel there are people out there who will know if you fall short or fail, this could be the motivation you need to keep going.

If you can’t find the motivation to keep writing within yourself, then finding some external motivation in the form of family support, nagging friends or some light torture could be what you need to keep you going. If you have a blog, work out an approximate word count, and see how close to an entire novel/trilogy/epic series you are, probably without even realising it.

Do you have motivation problems? Tell me about them, if you can be bothered…

Follow me on Twitter @RewanTremethick.

Got a question? Want to request a post? Got a topic you’d like my take on? thehypertellerATgmailDOTcom.

Winning NaNoWriMo 2011, and some excuses you can use if you didn’t

Huzzah, as I might have said, was I in the English navy in the 1800’s and just sunk a Spanish galleon. I have ‘won’ NaNoWriMo 2011. Congratulations to everyone who ‘won’, and also to everyone who took part. I put the ‘won’ in inverted commas to avoid the following misconceptions:

1. I played poker for it, and beat the other guy’s hand, therefore now owning the entire venture.

2. That it is a competition, and I came first.

3. Everybody else failed.

Despite trying to avoid the word ‘won’, I do have some very nice badges and even a PDF certificate that, if I was 8, I might want to print out and write my name on in crayon. I’m almost 3 times too old for such infancy, and besides, the only space it could go is currently being occupied by my castle-shaped advent calendar.

How Did You Do?

I’d love to know how you got on if you took part. Did you win, and if so what was your final NaNoWriMo total? If you dropped out, how many words did you reach and what prompted you to stop? And if you didn’t do it, why not?

My Dog Ate My NaNoWriMo

A lot of people are now in the unenviable position of having not completed the challenge, and realising that they have to release their family from the cellar and tell them that the four weeks of enforced captivity, cold beans and going to the toilet in Granny’s old gramophone was all in vain.

This could be horribly embarrassing, especially if someone forgets the events of the last few days, goes ‘Hey – a gramophone’, and tries to put a record on. So here, you for deployment, are some excuses to, if not convince people that you didn’t make the word count for a good reason, at least ensure they don’t ask the question, and never bring up the topic, again.

NaNo Excuses

  • I’m a writer – I deal with words, not numbers.
  • If you include all those texts I wrote during the month, I totally smashed the word count.
  • I thought NaNoWriMo was the misspelled acronym for National Gnome Wringing Month – I haven’t written 50,000 words but I have strangled a lot of tiny people.
  • I was writing a horror novel, but the first chapter was so brilliantly scary, I’ve been hiding in my wardrobe for the last 25 days, waiting for it to go away.
  • All those zeroes have a silent 5 in front of them.
  • It’s hard to know what to write down when all the voices are saying different things.
  • I’ve been writing so fast I’ve broken the speed of numbers – the actual word count will catch you up in about four years.

I could go on. In fact in a later blog post I might. But these few should give you some ammunition to keep the hordes of questioning relatives and friends and so-called well-wishers at bay for the time being.

Keep On Going

But just because NaNoWriMo 2011 is over doesn’t mean the journey is for your book. Writing a novel is a long, tough process, and if you need any advice or motivation now that NaNoWriMo is over, you might want to take a look at NaNoWriMo – 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Give Up. Although most of the writing advice in there is meant for people half way through, I believe that if you change the odd ‘NaNoWriMo’ to ‘finishing your novel’ and the numbers from 50,000 to 100,000, or ‘your end goal’, you’ve got some pretty sound reasons why, now that you’re halfway through writing a novel, you should push on ‘til the end.

Good luck. Your thoughts welcome as always.

Being Tenacious Will Probably Help

At university we were lucky enough to have a couple of lectures with a publisher from London. She told us a lot of very useful information, but also completely by accident made us all rather suicidal. Just from the figures she gave us about the publishing company she worked for, my friend (who is rather good at maths) worked out the likelihood of getting published.

I can’t remember the exact figure, all I can remember is that the first number was 0, and although there were some quite high numbers after it, sturdy, reassuring numbers like 8 or 9, they were, as it happens, after a decimal point. A 9’s not really that useful after a decimal point in this situation, rather like being burgled, and knowing you’ve got a Defence Tiger, only it’s locked in a self-storage unit under the South Pacific.

Oh Woe Is…Yadda Yadda

Now, lots of people got very depressed by all the statistics, but not me. Why? Well, because I’m tenacious, pig-headed and unable to look reality in the face. Statistics are all very well, but how much do they really help? There’s no point getting down about the statistics involved in publishing; we know that they’re a terrible way of measuring things. Competitions on crisp packets and cereal boxes and the like often say things such as ‘1 in 4 is a winner’. How come when you buy twelve boxes do you not then come out thrice victorious?

And, to be honest, look at all the amazing statistics that have resulted in you being alive in the first place, in order to dream about being published. I believe in science, so think of the trillions upon trillions of variables which resulted in the universe, the planets, life, me. Compared to that, the likelihood of me getting published is the same as opening a tin of soup and finding soup inside.

Somewhat Flawed, Perhaps?

But, you may be thinking, because you’re a writer, so deeply cynical by nature, that doesn’t really help me much, does it? You’re probably the awkward person who’s opened a can of soup and found a motorbike, so my logic has become void in your eyes. Fair enough, just because the universe exists doesn’t meant you will get published.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (Do-do—do-do-do-do-do-do)

Yet the point I’m trying to make is it is all about optimism. If you don’t believe, it won’t happen. It’s one of those notions peddled by Self-Help books (although that title is wrong, isn’t it, as there’s a book telling you what to do. What they are, is Book-Help books), and it doesn’t work for everything. But for writing I think it does.

All those famous writers who got rejected more times than James Bond at a lesbian bar, they didn’t give up. What makes you keep sending out your book when tens of publishers before have rejected it? Hope, yes. But also belief.

Don’t Be Arrogant, But Be Tenacious 

So perhaps, if you’re worried about getting published, there are a couple of things you can do. One, is to keep working on your writing, and your craft, making every sentence you write as polished and precise as you possibly can. The other thing you can do is say ‘sod the statistics, this damn book is getting published’, and keep trying.

You may have spent ages learning from the greats, trying to work out how they used language, or punctuation, or what themes really made them stand out. So take another leaf out of their book, and get tenacious. After all, if no one believed their book was good enough to be published, there wouldn’t be any books…