How ThinkUp Convinced Me to Get Started on the Second Draft of My Novel Today

When I woke up this morning, I found the following insight from ThinkUp in my daily email summary of social media activity:

ThinkupNovel

It reminded me that it has been exactly one year since I finished the first draft of my first novel, sitting in a quiet corner of the Arlington Central Library. In the year since finishing the novel, I’ve written quite a bit, including fits and starts on the second draft. But those fits and starts haven’t really led anywhere, and the second draft has lingered in limbo ever since.

A few weeks ago, sitting at a local pub with Michael J. Sullivan1, Michael, as is his wont, pestered me about the second draft. I explained to him the trouble I was having with it. One good thing about having friends who are also professional writers of high caliber is that you can explain these things to them, and they understand. Michael offered some good suggestions on how I might get things started again. But I put it off.

Instead, I came up with a plan for the next several month. That plan was intended to help me juggle the fiction and nonfiction work I have underway. But a second motive, I think, was to convince myself that I could stall on the novel draft for a while longer. And then, this morning, I saw ThinkUp’s insight, and it triggered another insight: I’m stalling for no good reason. Michael’s advice will help me out where I was stuck. Now I just need to get started and get the job done.

So, thanks to the ThinkUp insight, I’m changing my plans. The nonfiction will continue as planned, but as far as fiction goes, everything is on the back-burner until I’ve completed the second draft of a the novel. The next obvious question is: when will it be completed?

Stephen King, in his book On Writing2, argues that a novel draft should not take longer than a season (3 months). I can see the value in this, but as someone who writes only part time, 3 months is probably unrealistic, especially when you consider it took me 6-1/2 months to write the first draft. Still, I have a lot of data from my writing, and I can use that data to make a good guess at an answer.

Over the last 564 days for which I have data, I have written, on average 867 words per day. In the last 3 months or so, I have also been writing nonfiction, but it has, so far, had only a negligible affect on my fiction output3 So I think it is safe to use 800 words/day as an initial level of effort.

The first draft of the novel came to about 95,000 words. On the second draft, I’m aiming for 90,000. At 800 words/day, it would take me 113 day, which is slightly longer than a season. If I started today, that would mean I’d finish the second draft on about January 5, 2015. But there is some nonfiction that I have to write during this time, and it is good to have a little buffer for technical problems I might run into. So let’s call it January 31, 2015. I plan to have the first draft of the novel finished by January 31, 2015. It may be done sooner, but I’m going to work hard to make sure it’s not finished any later.

For those interested in following along as I work through the second draft, the realtime stats of my writing are always available. I’ll see if there is some way that I can automate the charting of the specific stats for the novel draft separately.

Once again, I own some thanks to ThinkUp, which convinced me to stop putting over to tomorrow what I can do today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel draft to get started on.

  1. Who is doing a charity bike ride this weekend.
  2. I reference On Writing frequently because it is the only writing book I’ve ever read containing advice that has made me a better writer and improved my writing career.
  3. Note that I say output and not quality.