I arrived at my holiday cottage in Suffolk at 2pm and once settled, I took a walk along the beach. Then, getting to work, I outlined my Christmas short story (published as Plus One Elf as part of the Rainbow Advent calendar) and dictated it in 300 mins. This was 6 x 25minute rounds of dictation, ending up with 6602 words.
This felt slow at first because I was getting used to dictation again – having not done it for about 6 weeks. I always feel quite self conscious when dictating, simply because I have to say the words, rather than writing in silence. I left a placeholder for the sensual scene because I definitely couldn’t dictate it. (As it turned out, I never wrote that sensual scene because it didn't feel like the story needed it, I simply started the scene the morning after with all the feels and flirty breakfast together!)
The holiday cottage was made of bricks and the adjoining one was empty, so I soon got over the awkwardness and was dictating well.
If I can aim for 12-14k words per day this week that’s a good target and I’ll be finished by the middle of next week!
Word total today = 6602.
Outline Four Funerals and a Wedding (FFAAW) from 9.00 – 10.00 then do 3 x 50 minute rounds of dictation in the morning. Swapped to 50min rounds because the 25min ones felt too disruptive. When I was just getting into the flow, the alarm would go off. Time for tea, walking around the beach house and brief bursts of internet between rounds of writing.
Break for lunch at 1.30pm, walk along the beach.
Resume writing at 4.00pm and do 3 x 50min rounds. In theory I’ll have won Nanowrimo by Wednesday!
Flag in the last round so have a power nap on the sofa for 20mins.
Word total today = 12,507.
3 x 50min rounds of dictation before lunch, plus some outlining from 9.00am.
Day trip to Lowestoft and manage to track down somewhere selling A5 page per day diaries including weekends! Cup runneth over! Plus treat myself to some coloured ballpoint pens, very easy to write with.
From 4.00 – 7.30pm do 2 more 50min rounds of dictating. It’s getting harder because this is day 3, and I’m tired. Plus, the Sikh funeral scene is hard to write and I’m doubting the whole concept of the story itself. Like who really wants to read a romance with 4 funerals in it? What was I thinking?
Running total on FFAAW = 22,079
Total today = 9,572
Feeling tired when I wake. Obviously doing this much writing is exhausting! What a surprise.
9.00 – 10.45 outline. 2 rounds of 50mins dictation before lunch – reasonably easy and flowing well.
Day trip to Great Yarmouth – deserted, desolate, but nice to get out and exercise.
Back at 5.00pm, a decent 4hour lunch break! Do 2 x 50min rounds of dictation plus 10mins.
Running total on FFAAW = 30,062
Total today = 7,983
Over halfway through the week and I have definitely got myself into a bit of a routine.
Get up at 9.00, tired, so think I deserve a bit of a lie in!
Do 2 x 50min rounds of dictating this morning. Although 12,500 word days are, theoretically possible, with dictation, and there’s no arm and wrist ache, in reality my brain can’t sustain creating that much wordage for more than 1 or 2 days.
4 rounds of dictation = 8,000 words, which feels much more sustainable longer-term.
Day trip to Southwold – free parking on the common is a pleasant surprise. Lovely walk along the promenade by the sea, the beach huts are photogenic. The large Edwardian houses overlooking the sea give me inspiration for Robin’s house in FFAAW. I can imagine him holding a very life-affirming celebration of his late husband's life in one of those houses.
Back at 4ish, 2 more 50min rounds of dictation plus another 15mins. Considering how much else I did today, that’s an impressive total I feel.
Running total on FFAAW = 38,206
Total today = 8,144
Outline 4 extra romance scenes for act 2 – the ‘discovering love’ according to Romancing The Beat. So it’s then not a sudden drop off to the oh sh*t moment. This takes from 9.00 – 10.30am.
2 x 50 min rounds of dictation with a bit of typing for the sensual scene. Tried dictating the sensual scene and it was ok, but faster to type it. This surprised me. Thought it was impossible when I'd tried it before.
Walk along the beach. Bit blustery and light rain, but nicely invigorating. It is November in the UK, so it’s precisely as I’d expected.
Back for 3.00pm ish. 2 x 50min rounds of dictating this afternoon. Easier than previous afternoons for some reason. V pleased with the word total today. Hoping for a 4,000 word ‘discovering love’ phase and a 4,000 word wedding and ending section.
If writing full time, I reckon I could maintain this 8,000 per day pace. Even allowing for promotion and publishing and editing time, that's still a lot of words in a year. 4 days per week and 12 week off for holiday and sickness = 1.3 million words, or about 20 x 65k novels per year!
Even doing this part time it’s still a lot of words.
Dictation is definitely the way to go when I’m writing alone.
Running total on FFAAW = 46,475
Total today = 8,269
Feeling tired this morning. Unsurprisingly, since I’ve been writing hard.
Outline the last 2 scenes from 9.00 – 10.00. Then do 2 x 50min rounds before lunch. It’s flowing well now. These are the in filling romance scenes.
Long walk along the nearby beach – a good hour. Sun and rain means there’s a rainbow, which feel appropriate, since I’m writing a gay romance.
2 more 50min rounds by 4.30pm, then a bit of a rest, doze and internet mimsy on the sofa. Fifth round today is the final scenes, plus another 20mins. Then that’s the wedding. Feel myself getting really emotional writing it.
Really pleased I have genuinely managed to write a novel in a week.
Can move onto self edit of Christmas short tomorrow.
Running total on FFAAW = 57,532 (and won Nanowrimo one day early, having written the book in 6 days)
Total today = 11,057
Last full day of one man writing retreat and it’s very cold in the morning. Perhaps February won’t be a nice month for a UK writing retreat.
1hr 40 self edit of Christmas short, it’s not too bad – hard to get conflict and resolution and happy ending in only 8,000 words, but there you go.
Spend the day with cousin and her family.
Another 1.5hrs self edit of Christmas short before bed.
Although it’s possible to dictate 12-14,000 words in a day, this is hard to sustain for more than 2 days.
Dictating makes 8,000 word days feel effortless, no arm or hand strain and only writing for 200 minutes out of the whole day.
Taking breaks between rounds is important, as is a long lunch away from the writing.
I used the ‘headlights’ outlining method. Rather than outlining the whole story and then writing it, I outlined a beat, wrote that beat, then outlined the next beat, wrote that next part, and repeat. I find this gives variety of writing activities, plus avoids outlining something the characters wouldn’t do when I know them better having written more of them. This is now my preferred method of outlining.
It’s important to outline with a bit more detail than when typing because I need to see the scene clearly before I can dictate it.
The words per hour is lower than the first story I dictated, but I did correct missing words and mistakes as I went along, rather than leaving it until the end. This helped prevent checking weeks later and having no idea what I meant to write when Dragon dictated it incorrectly.
Writing in concentrated rounds helps with focus and provides scheduled guilt free internet, dozing, tea break time, making the rounds stay as focussed writing time.
I wrote FFAAW in 6 days and a total of 29 x 50 min rounds of dictating = 1450 mins which is an average of 2380 words per hour. I’ve seen some Dragon authors saying they’ve reached 5,000 words per hour, and when I first used dictation to write, I had a higher word per hour, however it required lots of editing. So this time, I decided to aim for a more sustainable rate, plus dictate slightly less rough first draft words, hoping it’ll make the first self edit less tedious!
If I add in the Christmas short, (Plus on Elf) that takes my total for the week = 64,134
So in answer to my original challenge, can I write a novel in a week? Yes, it is possible.
My other blogs about getting used to dictating with Dragon (who I called Denise) are here:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 Part 6
I hope this has been useful.
Love and light
Liam Livings xxx