Writing a Marathon


When someone asks, ‘So, when you start writing, what will you write about?’, I have to think for a moment. I’ve always maintained the challenge I have is time, not ideas. In fact, since the start of my sabbatical, I’ve thought of even more ideas. Controlling them is the problem.

My plan was to complete a novella I am half way through by end of March. April would be the start of my main project, a 60,000-word Young Adult fantasy novel. The novella (around 15,000-words) would be good practice before I undertake something more epic.
On 3rd March, I opened the novella for the first time since August 2017 and began re-reading. I attempted to continue where I’d left off but found I couldn’t. The next day, I tried something different. A short (2,000-word) ghost story – an idea I’ve had for a while. A thousand words in, I read it back. It was rubbish. I was flawed. How should I start writing?

This is just how I look before a run…

A walk, listening to a ghost story anthology audiobook, helped me understand where I was going wrong. I sat back down, re-wrote and found ‘rubbish’ transformed into ‘quite bad’ – at least this was an improvement. A few days later, I had a finished first draft. I still wasn’t happy, but I now know how I’ll re-write the second draft. What struck me was how out of practice I’d become as a result of not writing for six months.

“Is running any different from writing?”

I try to run. Unfortunately, I’m not a very good runner. This isn’t helped by a dicky ankle and a love for cholesterol-packed BBQ rib platters. Yet, is running any different from writing? If you’re able, you can run. Some people are natural runners, others not. For some, a 5k park run is daunting, others find an Iron-Man contest the ultimate achievement. Personally, I’m happy with a 5k or 10k run. I have trained for a half marathon (21k), but I certainly could pick my backside off the couch after doing nothing for six months and run 21 kilometres. There’s few that could…

This is how I look after a run… Too much too soon, and you’ll do yourself a mischief…

The same applies when starting to write. Maybe I was over ambitious in making my first project a 15,000-word novella. I was also overly ambitious thinking I could tackle a 60,000-word novel a month after starting my sabbatical. I’ve realised that like training for a marathon, I need to start with a couple of 5k runs or 5,000-word stories. Then I can build up to the 10-15,000-word novellas, before moving on to a fully-fledged novel.

Working on the shorter stories is also another way of getting the ideas out of my head and onto paper. Even if they sit as the first draft for a few months, at least they’re there, ready to be worked on. For now, I’ll be sticking to the 5k runs and 5,000-word short-stories. Hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before I increase my distance one step, and one word, at a time.



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