The Big Mo

I have been a terrible blogger of late, so it is with profuse apologies for my recent absence that I must begin. This is due to a number of reasons, none of which are terribly interesting, but revolve around work, a long holiday decorating and gardening with my girlfriend, and general slackness…

Yet I also have a good reason for my tardiness in posting a new article, which is the subject of this post: momentum.

Being a full-time writer is just that – writing all day, five or six days a week. It is a luxury most folks cannot enjoy, what with having day jobs and whatnot to fill up their time. It does come with a downside though, and that is the matter of sustaining the workflow. For some writers workflow is simply about what commissioned work they have in the pipeline and as any freelancer will tell you, there is rarely such a thing as too much work. However, with lots of work to do, one has to be careful to pace oneself properly or risk burning out. I am in the fortunate position of having plenty of work to do, and quite a lot lined up for the future. This schedule is somewhat compromised by an extended holiday I am planning later in the year, which will eat up the best part of a month and a considerable chunk of my finances, so in a way I am ‘front-loading’ my work for the year to ensure I have both time and money for my New Zealand trip.

Head Space and Typing Time

In order to ensure that I am not caught short on either the time or money front, I have recently begun to plan my work in a bit more detail than before, using a spreadsheet. One important part of the scheduling has been to include time for ‘planning’ – coming up with a writing synopses for future projects. Despite this, it is very hard some times to concentrate on the work at hand knowing that an upcoming project hasn’t been properly planned yet, and the temptation is to spend a little time on that now rather than later.

To counteract that, I have been making sure that my ‘writing’ time of late is focussed solely on typing time – actually sitting at a keyboard and writing words in the novel. I have a daily target to reach, calculated quite easily by dividing the amount left to be written by the number of days left to write it.

So far, so straightforward.

Corax about to 'Bring It'

Issues have come from taking a break at the halfway point of my latest novel. Quite a long break – over a week – in which I have not been thinking about writing at all. Getting back on the horse and picking up where I left off has taken a few days, which has obviously impacted on the schedule. So it is that for the past week and a half I have been avoiding any and all distractions – like blog posts – in order to get back up to speed on Deliverance Lost. It has been especially tricky with this project, my first Horus Heresy novel, because it has quite an involved plot and has to cover a lot of ground in the space available. Word count wise it is still going nicely, but my worry is that the ‘dawdling’ I’ve done in recent days might well show through in slow narrative.

I am resisting the urge to go back and edit it already. I have a principle that the first draft gets written without too much re-reading, otherwise I could end up revising the same few thousand words over and over and never finish. This is a problem I hear from writers who are just starting out.

Keep on Truckin’

When I get into the groove, the writing comes smoothly. Thankfully I am back in that happy place with the novel. For those who are still learning about their own process, it might be worth bearing in mind the importance of momentum. Remember that there will be time to re-write and revise later – if you get the first draft finished. If something occurs to me – a scene that should be inserted or a lingering doubt about something I have written previously, I insert a note into the manuscript [like this]. This means that I don’t interrupt my general flow by going back and making the changes there and then, but ensures that when I do my first read-through, I won’t forget what it was that had occurred to me.

I may even make such a note in the section I am currently writing, if I get a little stuck but want to carry on. For example, you may want to end a chapter on a pithy line of dialogue, or open with an awesome description of the setting, but the words aren’t coming cleanly at the time. [Write a note] about it and get on with the narrative, coming back to the problem sentences later on, maybe even leaving them until the second draft. There is nothing worse than letting a line or two bog down your work for an hour or more, when whatever you come up with probably won’t survive the first rewrite anyway.

Always bear in mind that your first draft is rough. There will be typos, spelling errors and some bad prose. Do not fret about it, but make sure you get the narrative finished. When all the words are there, and the story is complete, then you can concentrate on making the delivery as polished as possible.

P.S. The tagline on the cover ‘War within the shadows’ is a cutnpaste, not the final one…

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 10:58 am  Comments (13)  

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hope you enjoyed the holiday. Always interested to read about the process of constructing the novel. Seems a far cry from the hard drinking and livin’ authors of yesteryear. Course they all died and/or went mad, so you may well be onto something.


  2. Ah, interesting to hear about that tagline… I had been wondering whether Corax had decided to become a Shadowrunner, since the Primarch thing didn’t work out so well… /geek


  3. Keep at it Gav cant wait to see the novel
    got complete faith that it will be great


  4. Gav thanks for the tips – very welcome. It truly is too easy to get distracted for prolonged periods of time trying to get THAT description or THAT piece of dialogue just right. Glad to know it isn’t just us amateurs who find that problem.


  5. Thanks Gav! Very cool insights, always enjoy reading your take on all things writey.
    Good luck!


  6. Momentum and motivation – in my experience, these are the most important aspects of writing full-time. Once you lose one, you tend to lose the other, and they are bloody hard to regain…

    Damn, I’m looking forward to New Zealand later in the year. Can’t wait.


  7. Keep up the good work Gav, the boys at Sons of Corax have been waiting ages for a Raven Guard novel, doubly awesome because it’s a Horus Heresy novel πŸ™‚


  8. GAV!

    I apologise for this rather abrupt, long and off-topic message, but I could find no other way to get in touch with you (am I just being stupid?). I’ve just started a campaign to get Warhammer Quest either re-made or made available in some fashion & know you were instrumental in some of the game’s development. If you could fill me in on any licensing issues or anything of the sort that would be appreciated. You can sign the petition here:

    I’ve just managed to get Geoff Taylor to sign it & am very pleased. I’ve sent over 100 emails, as well as starting threads etc to help give the campaign as much exposure as possible. For Sigmar!

    On-topic – Corax does indeed look very much like he is going to bring a fist-full of ‘BRING IT!’ to something! Looking forward to reading it!

    Thanks for your work, both past, present & future!


    • Here’s a little bit of publicity for your campaign. πŸ™‚

      I loved WHQ, helping both in playtesting and development, and with the leaps and bounds that have changed GW’s plastics for boxed sets, I could well see it being awesome. It’s good to see the game still has dedicated fans after so many years. As far as I know there are no license or legal issues around the game, although at the time it was a bit of a budget-buster getting everything into the box.



  9. This is gonna be SICK.
    Can you…

    Let’s see…how to phrase this…without bringing the BL Inquisition down on you…

    Can you reveal anything? Besides the common sense stuff (it’s about Corax, really? etc)?


  10. Sir,

    I saw a vision in which the emperor fought Horus. After many blows Horus grabbed the emperor and squeezed him in such a bear hug that screaming to the “skies” his body LEPT up in light above his physical body.

    He spoke, “I cannot abandon Humanity”

    Thrusting bak in into his body Horus exploded into warp and viscera. The Emperor crumbled broken.

    Then Dorn was there.


  11. Hey Gav! Im really looking forward to Deliverance Lost!!!
    How much source material are you given by GW to write a HH novel or do you have to do a lot of ‘digging’ yourself in terms of pre-existing canon and continuity between different sources (FW, BL etc)?
    Are you coming to NZ for the rugby world cup? if so, prepare to be in for a good thumping from the home side :P. Hope you enjoy the trip round here mate.


    • If BL have any relevant materials, they will usually pass them on, but a lot of the HH work is digging through the old and existing background for little nuggets to expand upon. I have just rewritten scene in Deliverance Lost to include tunnellers from the original Space Marine game πŸ˜€

      I and some friends were going to be travelling to the RWC in NZ, but alas finances and schedules have meant the plan has been abandoned 😦 I hope to get out that way some day…




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