Having decided to do NaNoWriMo during September, I managed to finish the draft by the 27th. I’m very pleased with how it’s gone. Fatigue was setting in after three weeks, and a migraine at the weekend there put paid to my word count. However, I picked it back up the last two days, and made it to the end of the story.
It’s exciting to think that four weeks ago I didn’t have this novel, and now I have a new book to work with over the next couple of months. When I wrote The Kill Chain it took me six months with progress so slow it can only be described as glacial. The sequel. The Kill Switch, has come out at a good pace, and overall I’m pleased that I’ve managed to move from chapter to chapter in a sensible order. I don’t recall having to abandon chapters just to get on to the next one. It hangs together and I’m looking forward to actually reading it all the way through for the first time. The plot evolved as writing progressed and looking at my notes I can see there is the potential for some additional scenes. However, right now I can’t tell if they will be a useful addition to the story.
As this is a sequel, I already had the main characters, so they all make an appearance and that helped get me through this draft in the month. As it’s set in the present day and needs to be believable I’ve had to keep in check some of the ideas for plot twists that may stretch credibility too far. It’s a balancing act between knowing this is fiction and I make stuff up, to having something that although it is made up, it is believable enough not to lose the reader.
All the way through I’ve been conscious of the technology that features in the plot – this is a cybercrime novel – and have made effort to make those areas readable for those who are not steeped in cyber. I learnt this during the edits of The Kill Chain, and have made sure that those lessons have been learned and put to good use in this new novel.
I recall after two weeks I took a day off. That was a good move for my overall well-being. Getting up early every morning and making the effort to sit down and get on with writing and not spend time on all the other distractions that make up modern living is hard. That for me was the difficult part of this draft. When I started writing it was easy. I managed to keep my word count up and always finished up with something ready to pick up the next day. The evenings were spent thinking about what comes next, and making draft notes on paper as ideas came to me that would be good to include. It takes over, everything, which is why having that day not writing – though admittedly it was difficult switching off – was a good thing to do. I then wrote a little extra for the next four days, to make up for the day I missed. The important thing here is to do what works for you. For me, taking a day off did help. There are no rules, remember.
I had a plan, which was drafted into a word document. I don’t do endless lists of character traits and aspects of the world they inhabit, and detailed plot twists. I’m pretty loose and accept the story will go where it needs to once I start. I focus on finishing a chapter with a cliff-hanger, or at least something that will entice the reader to keep on reading. Feedback from The Kill Chain, highlighted this as something I apparently do well and a number of readers got back to me to say how much they enjoyed the fact I just kept doing this, chapter after chapter. I then have a second word document in which I write the draft. That will contain further notes at the end and these are simply to keep reminding me what is coming next. I then alternate between this and the other word document which contains my plan. Not everything is used and I add and discard as I go. I have a paper notebook and pen in which I will scribble ideas down as they come to me. Some of these will be typed up into the plan or the notes at the end of the draft, while others are lifted and typed straight into the draft as I am writing it. It’s a very basic setup, but it works for me. Anything else starts to become process and gets in the way of the moment. I write fast, somewhere between a 1000 and 1200 words an hour on a good day. I have times when that can be as little as 100 to 200 words an hour. I usually stop on those days and study my notes, until I work out what needs to be done and then pick up the pace again.
I’m looking forward to the next stage, draft two which is the rewrite and edit.