Writing your first novel is never easy. Not for anybody. That doesn't mean the process isn't enjoyable, because often it is. But easy it ain't.
And the main reason for this is TIME. Or to be more precise, the lack thereof.
Like many new authors, I was still in full-time employment when I began laying down the first words of my first novel. Not a major obstacle, you might think. Work during the day, write during the evenings. Problem solved. Except I was planning to emigrate, and since that took money I was taking all the overtime I could get - which meant I was working very late most weekdays. Once I got home I had enough time to eat, shower and sleep, and that was about it. This essentially left me with just the weekend to write. And while I was still managing to eke out my self-imposed 1000 words-a-day quota on both days, I wasn't particularly happy with the results. Because of the five-day gap away from the keyboard I was finding it harder and harder to transplant myself into the story and get any momentum going. Clearly, the whole situation was less than satisfactory and needed to change. But how?
Outside circumstances solved the problem for me. With the worldwide recession rapidly affecting the whole of England, my company was forced to drastically cancel all overtime until further notice. Bad news for most people. Good news for me. My evenings were free again, allowing me to write seven days a week. What could be better? As any author will tell you, if you're serious about becoming a professional writer you have to write every day. Now I was able to do so.
It also helped that I was now able to set an achievable target for myself. Weekends stayed the same at 1000 words a day. During the week, I was able to manage 500 words a day. That made 4500 words a week. I worked out that, barring complications, I would have written 120,000 words in about six months. And 120,000 words is a book. I now had a clear quantifiable objective to aim for. I got to work.
For the next six months I stuck to the same routine. I'd go to work in the mornings and come back in the evenings and write. At weekends I'd write all day. I hadn't been going out much before, but now I didn't go out at all. As far as I was concerned, any time not spent writing (or earning a living) was wasted time. And it wasn't long before I realized I enjoyed writing, which was a real bonus. Because I hadn't at first. Those first few chapters in particular were painful to write and even more painful to read. Many days I wondered if I was doing the right thing. But I persevered and found that the more I wrote, the better my writing became. And the better it became the more I enjoyed it.
My word count steadily rose over the months until I finally got to the third act, the part of the novel I hadn't actually outlined. But that was okay, too. I was confident enough at this point to know I could come up with the final part of the story without too much trouble. I spent a few days staring off into the distance and making lots and lots of notes, essentially brainstorming with myself, until I was able to formulate an ending to the book that felt totally satisfying. Then came the epilogue to wrap up a few loose ends, and right after that came those two magic words every author loves to write: THE END.
Cause for celebration? Most definitely. But 'the end'? Not by a long shot. There was still plenty more to do yet. But that's for another post...