Susan Grossey

Losing the plot

As you may know, I am only a part-time writer.  Indeed, for much of the year, owing to having to earn a living from a full-time job, it’s very part-time – perhaps half a day a week if I’m lucky.  Now this works fine until about this point in the year.  Let me explain.  In order to fit in writing one novel a year, I have to plan my time carefully.  I start writing in January, and aim for 2,000 words a week.  In July I take two/three weeks off work and write solidly, aiming for at least 2,000 words a day and finishing with a complete first draft that I send out to beta readers.  Late August and September are devoted to editing, and then the book is published in the third week of October.  (November and December I take a writing break, and then start again in January.)

Now this piecemeal writing of 2,000 words a week is perfectly manageable until about now – late June.  At this point I have about 40,000 words written.  And I’m losing the plot – literally.  Each time I sit down with Sam, I have to spend at least an hour, and sometimes more, re-reading what I have written so that I can remember the story.  And at the end of each writing session, I have to make careful notes of what I intend to write next, in case I forget before the next writing session.  As a consequence, I spend less and less time in each session actually writing – and, moreover, I get panicky because I can’t keep up with all the plot lines and I worry that I will forget something critical (perhaps kill off a character twice, or send Sam on a wild goose chase).  Frankly, I am now counting the days until I can forget about other things and just live with Sam for those dedicated weeks, and fill my mind with his story only.  I can only imagine the luxury of being a full-time author.

So what to do?  I had a gripe about it over lunch with my husband, and he came up with an excellent solution (he’s an engineer – that’s what they do).  He pointed out that “writing a book” is about more than just writing: it is also about reading and considering.  So he suggested that I print out what I have written so far, and for my next diarised writing session, I read it.  And then read it again, and again, so that the story becomes fixed in my mind.  I immediately printed out this very rough and incomplete draft, cycled into town to buy a lovely new folder – pretty stationery makes nearly everything better – and now I’m ready to go with renewed enthusiasm.

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  1. Graham Avatar

    Dear Susan

    I can certainly understand that being a part-time writer poses some challenges, but I wonder if there are different challenges in being a full-time writer?

    With you having to juggle a variety of jobs and priorities during the week, I wonder if it might perhaps help to bring fresh ideas and thoughts to each writing session whereas I can imagine a full-time writer needing to take an occasional break away from a book, so they can recharge their creative batteries and find some inspiration?

    I’m only guessing of course, as I have no writing experience whatsoever. However, your part-time system has certainly delivered the goods with all of Sam’s previous adventures so you’re definitely doing something right.

    Best wishes as ever


  2. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

    Dear Graham
    I hadn’t thought of that – perhaps it is a benefit to be able to come to the writing “fresh” each time, rather than jaded from several days on the trot. Although, to be honest, Sam is rarely far from my thoughts: I am always wondering “Did they have that in Sam’s day?” or “What would Sam have thought of that?”. And my husband is now used to me muttering, as we go around the place, “That building’s been there since Sam’s day” or “No, too late for Sam – ignore, ignore”!
    Best wishes from Susan

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