How’s the book going?

Staring at the blank screen of a new Scrivener document: the words won’t come unless I start striking the keys

A question I don’t get asked too often, to be honest. But thank goodness for that — being a kind of incognito writer has its own advantages. Nobody really knows what you’re up to, and as you pursue your daily life, doing errands, a bit of DIY, taking care of the chickens, it’s easy to forget yourself that you are actually a writer. You’re someone who writes, that’s who and what you are, what you ‘do’ now.

But I have my own schedule, and I’m impossible if I don’t keep to it. It’s okay if I miss on the normal 1000 words a day, but if I’m under the 5k/working week, there had better be a pretty good reason. How else, if I don’t keep cranking it out, will I ever reach mid-April with a novel length first draft? From the perspective of just over 1/3 of the way, it feels daunting, those remaining 60k words, but much less so when it’s ‘only’ a thou’ or so during the working morning.

Everybody seems to say that this is the first rule, as simple as it is: a writer writes. No waiting around for inspiration, no, you keep on cranking. That’s the way it is.

Meanwhile, distractions abound. Over the past couple of days I’ve been learning how to tweet. Really, in this day and age, how far behind am I? But so far, it’s just the twitter feed sitting in the corner, not too much traffic, not since I unfollowed a romance writer who seemed to re-tweet every new book coming in, for dozens, scores of re-tweets daily. No thanks, what is the point in that?

And I also live for the smaller pieces, which have to be interpolated into the normal work schedule. Just because a new task in Writing Group comes in on Monday morning, that doesn’t give me a free by for that day or, at least, doesn’t curtail the expected word count for the end of the week. Many small pieces have helped to feed ideas into the novel I’m working on, anyway.

So when I’m asked about my progress on the novel front, I usually smile and say, ‘Fine thanks, it’s cranking along.’ Just the way you reply to ‘How’s it goin’?’ And that’s that.

My experience is that folks don’t really want to know how the writing is going, but it’s a way to feel connected, to empathise. And that’s nice, sweet when they ask.

Don’t go any further, even if it’s a rocky patch, even if it’s not.

By Larry Winger

Retired scientist, devoted diarist (, community-minded aspirant novelist, I've lived on a smallholding in the East Allen Valley for the past 30 years, delighting in watching our family grow up, in experiencing the development of our grandsons, and in taking care of our small flock of chickens and garden.

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