Shaun Levin

Posts Tagged ‘novel writing’

A Single Written Sentence

In Writing, Writing Exercises, Writing Workshops on September 1, 2020 at 3:54 pm

It may come as a shock how little time you need to write a book. A story is loyal to those who turn up to write it, and that loyalty grows with the regularity with which one turns up.

(Even though I set the timer and I told myself I’d write for 20 minutes, along came a distraction, and to be honest I can’t remember what the distraction was, maybe it was the delivery guy with the books, but that was 8 hours ago and so much has happened since then, so many distractions, so many nice things, the regular day to day things that fill our hours, like spending time – online, on Whereby – with a friend and doing what we call office time or water-cooler time, in other words, we work in our separate living rooms/studios/bedrooms and there’s accountability. Things get done. Not those initial 20 minutes, though, the ones I started 8 hours ago, so here I am at the other end of the day, starting over.)

It may come as a surprise how little time is needed to write a book. An hour a day is a generous amount, and done daily, seven days a week, as Walter Mosley suggests – no days off – you’ll have a book by the end of the year.

Try it. Set the timer and write for 5 minutes. Whatever comes to mind, even if it’s just to repeat what can I write what can I write I need something to say I want something to say and something will come I promise you that.

In 5 minutes (this is a recent discovery) I usually write approximately 150 words, even with slight pauses here and there, which would mean that in 20 minutes I could do 600 words, which means that in 1 hour I can write almost 2,000 words. 2,000 words over 30 days = 60,000 words, which is a first draft of considerable dimensions. Write for 5 minutes just to see what happens, to get a sense of what you can do in that time. I don’t believe in the importance of word counting, but I do think it’s helpful to know what you can do in a given amount of time. Why? To dispel the myth of the inordinate amount of time needed to write a book. More than the word count, the turning up, the making time is what matters.

Whenever I make time, I have something to show for it, even if it’s just a sentence. A single written sentence is a lot more than an unwritten novel. I’m not sure what that statement actually means, whether it’s of any use to myself or others, but I sense there’s a truth in it.

I want to say something about time spent in good company. Writing with others is my favourite way to write. Writing is lonely, having to be both the writer and the audience is a challenge. Often the project itself is all the company you need, and when that happens it’s a kind of miracle. Writing in a café or art gallery is often all the company I need. But writing with a friend on a park bench or at the kitchen table is my favourite way to write.

Tomorrow’s plan: Writing with friends.


Almost There: Joy and Fear

In Writing on February 27, 2018 at 3:32 pm

There’s a book I’ve almost finished but I’m doing everthing I can to avoid it. The manuscript is on my desk. I know exactly what I need to do. The ending needs to be written. It’s a happy ending after a lot of turmoil and loss and violence. Something good happens at the end and I know exactly what it is, and most of it is written already. If I sit down, it’ll be done in 3-4 hours. It really will. All I need to do is sit there with the mansucript and with my keyboard and go paragraph by paragraph and write down the story as it happens.

I know what happens.

Is it fear? The fear of the completed project. The fear of having to put the book out into the world. The fear of saying okay this is what I’ve been working on for the past 2, 3, 6 years, do you like it? But those feel like the cliched answers. It’s not fear. It’s something else. It’s the power of fiction, I think. The overwhelmeing rush you get when you create a scene that is completely fiction, a creation of your mind, a fantasy you have of love and joy and meeting The One. At the end of the book he meets The One. The story feels so real, the happiness is so real, and I guess because it’s at the end of the book there’s no room for negativity to snake its way in.

Maybe the fear is joy. It’s not fear, it’s joy. Me and joy. We have a complicated relaionship. I have always resisted the endings of projects. When I was part of a professional supervision group, they bribed me with chocolate cake as an incentive to finish my first book. They didn’t actually bribe me, I made them promise to buy me the cake if I finished the book. Now I’ve bought myself a sofa, so I owe it to whoever – me! – to finish the book. The sofa must be earned. The sofa is a gift for finishing the book.

It’s not joy, either. Not fear, not fear of joy. What do you do with a book that is done? You look after it. You find it a home, you do your best to make sure people like it, you find people to like it, you show it to people, you say nice things about it, big it up, feel proud of it, keep your doubts to yourself, make sure it gets the best care possible. If you finish a book, your capacity for support is tested. How well do you care for your books? Some people care for their books very well. Some people will do anything for their books. Some people are embarrassed by/for people who’ll do anything for their books.

The truth is that I’m not sure why I’ll do anything to avoid finishing the book. How about I shut up now and go finish it. A few more pages and I’ll be ready. See you on the other side.