Another Project October

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Last July, I undertook a month of intensive novel writing with mixed results for a variety of reasons (see the blog posts charting the journey here, here, here, here and here). And last October, I did the same thing.

If you haven’t read the other blog posts, the reason it’s called Project October is that it’s meant to be done in October, which I have discovered over the past few years is my most productive writing month of any year. Something to do with a lack of family birthdays, the end of the football season and weather warm enough to sit up long into the night instead of huddling under blankets.

Of course, the reason you’re only hearing about it now is that I write and schedule my blog posts a few months in advance. But, I hear you ask, do we really need to hear about Project October again?

Hell, yes!

The first Project October elicited only 10,542 words, even though I was targeting at least 14,000 and hopefully closer to 28,000. I consoled myself with the fact that it was 10,542 words and could hardly be considered a failure. I went back to writing my blog posts and scheduled another Project October for the actual month in which it is supposed to occur.

But something happened in the last week of September, which I wrote about in the previous Wednesday’s blog post about competitions. I received an email from a commissioning fiction editor telling me how much she liked my entry to the Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand Project competition and asking where the next book in the trilogy would go.

The problem with that question was that I’d finished writing the first novel in the trilogy over a year ago and since I hadn’t been able to get any interest from publishers, I had decided there wasn’t much point working on the sequel. I went back to writing another novel I’ve been working on (and being interrupted on) for over three years. The next book in the trilogy had gone straight onto the “to be resumed at a much later date” writing pile.

I answered the email by telling her where I intended the story to go and quickly decided that Project October would be focused on the second book in the trilogy and the other novel that has been so interrupted would have to be interrupted again. And there would be none of these half-measures when it came to targets. It would be a thousand words a day with a final target of 31,000 words in 31 days.

The first day was a spectacular success. I wrote 2,226 words. And then next day I wrote 1,763. So by the end of the second day, I had written nearly as much as I was targeting for the first four days. It was crucial because the very next day I wrote absolutely nothing. I knew it was coming. It was the day of the AFL grand final and I would be out from morning to night with no chance of hitting the laptop. But it didn’t matter because I was already so far ahead.

And that’s how Project October continued. By the end of Week 1, I had written 7,776 words. Not just on target but over target and already 776 words ahead for Week 2.

On Day 9, I had another zero word day but it was also planned as I spent the day looking after my disabled grandmother while my grandfather went for some medical tests. But by the end of Week 2, I had written another 6,395 words. With the excess 776 words I had written in the previous week, I was still on target with more than 14,000 words. And I’d already exceeded the total number of words I wrote in my previous Project October attempt.

Week 3 is usually where the roadblock occurs. But not this time. I wrote another 7,322 words and I was still on target.

And then in Week 4 I was asked to do a couple of days of freelance writing work. And when you’re a writer without a second job, you don’t say no to an offer of paid writing. That first day of work left me exhausted and unable to face any more time sitting in front of a computer so I took the night off. The day after I worked another half day and managed a respectable 817 words to pick up where Project October left off. Then there was a hiccup. Another day without writing a word, although there wasn’t any good reason why. Then two more solid writing days, hitting the daily target, and two more goose egg days with big fat zeros. The Week 4 total ended up being 3,405, less than half what I should have written.

The last three days of the month I got back on track and wrote 3,306 for a Project October total of 28,154.

Damn it, I thought. I had missed my target of 31,000.

And then I thought, Damn it be damned! I wrote 28,154 words. Since I already had 10,000 words of the sequel written and it’s a young adult series of 80,000 words each, that meant I was nearly half way through writing the first draft of a novel I wasn’t even planning to write for a few years. That’s something worth celebrating!

I don’t know when the rest of the first draft will be complete because I’m back to writing blog posts for now but I know where the story is going in much more detail than when I started, it’s gone places I never even realised it would go and I’m motivated to continue writing it and ultimately finish.

It’s even more of an achievement than that because I’ve previously struggled to write sequels to both my completed novels. Not anymore. Sequel struggles are done with.

I’m not sure when the next Project October will be scheduled but I won’t be waiting until October 2016 rolls around. Hopefully, by then, I’ll have done another two Project Octobers or maybe a Project October and a Project November and have another completed novel.

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