Ask any writer the hardest part of their job and they’ll tell you its getting the vision in their head onto the page in front of them. Moments of inspiration are rare and not conducive to getting anything finished. Most of the time its a hard slog between your motivation and your imagination. It’s even harder for aspiring writers for whom writing is not yet their occupation, just a dream, something they are doing alongside another job which is paying all the bills. It can be very easy to go days, even weeks at a time, without writing a single word as your dream gets put on the back burner for more pressing matters. To be a writer, successful or not, you need to cultivate a discipline, or else you will never get anything done.
This is something I found out for myself. Days and weeks did pass with nothing written. Grand ideas and stories existed only in my head. I decided to change this. I came up with an idea I believe to be original. Every day for exactly one year I would write 100 words. To give you a frame of reference this post up to now is 200 words.
The idea was that 100 words was manageable. Even if I only had 5 or 10 minutes in a day where I could find time to write that would be enough to achieve my goal, and at the end of one year that would equal a story that was 36,500 words long. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is 28,944 words long so you can see how a little at a time could add up to a fully fledged story.
As I’ve said, the primary aim of this was to cultivate discipline, to write something every day. To some extent the content of what I was writing didn’t matter, just that I did write it. If by the end of it I had something even slightly coherent and interesting so much the better. The other aim was to challenge my imagination. I set out with no more in my mind than an image of a man, clothed in black, arriving in a village on a stormy night (the subject of the first 100 words). Everything after that I would come up with on the day. So there was also the challenge of making whatever I wrote that day carry on from what had come before, and also allow me to carry on to something new.
Let me tell you some days 100 words seems like a hell of a lot. There were many times when it took me longer than I’d care to mention to write such a tiny amount. There was simply nothing that came to mind. Nonetheless I persevered. On the other hand there were days when 100 words really did seem tiny. Some days the words would come pouring out. But then I would have to stop. 100 words was my limit and I stuck to it.
After around 60-70 days I stopped writing with no idea of where I was going. I realised I had at least one climactic moment I wanted to reach that would be the key message I would try to get across with this story (if you want to know what it was you’ll just have to read it). I soon realised I was going to get to this point with many more days still to go, just after the mid-point of my goal in fact. Rather than being the end this moment was going to be right in the heart of the story. That was alright though I decided. I would make it work, make it fit the narrative, and when I got to that point I would start wrestling with my imagination again and finish the story.
So that’s what I did. I got to this point that I had visualised in my mind and day by day moved passed it, coming up with the story on the fly. It was a lot like laying down tracks in front of a train. Then something great happened at about 200 days in: I knew what the ending was going to be. This was exciting and daunting I knew where I was going which made coming up with the story slightly easier. But I also had to do it in 160 days, 16,000 words.
As some of you who were following my updates on this might be aware I did accomplish this. In 365 days, 36,500 words, I said everything I wanted to say and have a somewhat coherent story. Now the next part of this challenge begins: making it publishable.
A story written like this is clearly going to need a lot of work. First of all its all written in 100 word paragraphs which is terrible structurally. Then there is the fact that I limited myself. There are a lot of parts that need to be expanded on, and then are also parts where I had to force out the words and the quality suffered for it. The story was also almost wholly improvised and so will feel rather disjointed. Now I know what I want from the story it will have to be reviewed with this in mind.
Basically there is a long way to go still for this story. But there is something there. I truly believe that somehow I have come up with a good original story, it just needs a lot of love and attention.
Way down the line when it is finally a completed work the next stage will be publishing. I have decided to self publish using a site called “Createspace” which is a site affiliated with Amazon. Through this I can format my story in an actual book, acquire an ISBN, design a cover, and sell it on Amazon in both printed and digital formats. I don’t have to worry about a publisher deciding if my work is marketable or not, I’ll be able to put it out there and let my story speak for itself. This won’t leave me J.K. Rowling in money (perhaps my favourite pun that I have ever come up with). But each copy sold will be a profit to me financially and more important it will get me a little closer to my dream of making my living from writing. At the very least it will expose me to a wider audience and really all I can ask and want is that people will read my stories. It’s going to be a lot of work but being able to hold a book I have written in my hands and to know that anyone in the world can read it will be all the reward I could ever want.
So now I need to get on with doing it. I’ll post updates and thoughts on writing this as I go on here and maybe the odd snippet from the edited version but otherwise if you want to read it you’ll have to buy it when it’s published. I’ll be leaving the original on here free to view. If you want to see how the edited version is going I’ll send it to you privately but I will ask that you give constructive criticism on it. Anyway watch this space and check out the original version here: https://storiesbyadam.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/100-words-a-day/