Measuring Progress


First thanks to all those who responded to my last post. It’s always interesting to take a sounding from readers before I set off and, in all likelihood, carry on as before.

Most days I have lunch with my husband and most days he asks, ‘How goes it?’

It’s a question I try to duck. Progress on a novel is a tricky thing to assess. If you’re knitting a woolly hat for your granddaughter (and I am) you can say, ‘Well, I’m just shaping the crown. I have the ears to do, then it’ll be finished.’ But a novel…

For one thing, today’s work, deemed worthy of saving to a flash drive may, by tomorrow, be destined for the waste bin. This can be particularly true at the beginning, where you’re still finding the right voice, or the middle when you’re flagging, or the end when you’re sick of the whole damned project. So basically anywhere. The other point is that progress isn’t evenly paced. Writing the first hundred pages of a novel takes far longer than the next two hundred.

I can’t say how typical this is. My writer friends and I tend not to talk about work. Some novelists do seem to be able to predict their progress with frightening accuracy. Some know that without interruptions they can turn out a novel in six weeks. To me this sounds as unattainable as flying to Mars. Perhaps ‘without interruptions’ is the key factor. Perhaps not. Even without running a house and fielding phone calls six weeks doesn’t seem to allow any time for false starts, the removal of tedious characters or the shoring up of a sagging plot. Nor does it give you any wiggle room for those dark moments when the Inner Writer whispers, ‘Are you kidding?’

So how goes it? Okay. I guess. This morning I’ve dumped more than I’ve kept but out of the dross something is starting to emerge.

You know, in the olden days when we wrote books with typewriters or even pens, Word Count was something you estimated. Not a bad thing.

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