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Writing a first draft with a baby - inspiration and top tips please!
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Trickytroggle2 · 23/08/2020 11:21

I've got a 6 week old baby and managed to come up with an idea for a novel and write 6500 words of the opening plus a v broad plot outline in the spring/early summer before I got to the the heavily pregnant stage (and then slept a lot! Well, as much as occupying a 5 yo in lockdown would allow 🙂).

I'm hoping I'm not too crazy to think that I might be able to get a good chunk of the first draft written in the next year, once (if) the 5 yo is back at school in September.

Would love to hear some inspiration from anyone who has managed to write with a young baby/on maternity leave.

How much did you manage to write in the first year? What age was your baby when you started writing? When did you write? Did you do different tasks (e.g. planning, editing, writing) in different snippets of time? How did you fit in the other stuff (housework, cooking etc), or didn't you?! Did you find any particular methods, e.g. pomodoro, worked well? Did you finish a first draft within the first year?! Any other advice/thoughts?

I suppose a lot is baby dependent, and I need a lot of sleep🙈 but have a glimmer of hope that this baby takes a bottle at the moment, and so dh can do the late night feed which might leave me a little less spaced than last time and so (today) I'm feeling optimistic!!

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Daphnesmate01 · 23/08/2020 14:15

I wrote my novel whilst my then baby/toddler slept and other dc were at school. My dc was pretty predictable with sleep, so I knew how much time and when, I could dedicate to writing. But, it took me a long time to do (probably the best part of 3 years on this basis) because of all the editing I did, over and over again...until I paid someone for a final copy edit. Book now ready to go but it didn't happen very quickly and I had most of the story in my mind ready to write.

Good luck, it is a great thing to do for mental stimulation.

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Inching · 23/08/2020 22:53

I wrote my first novel on maternity leave. DS was a restless, high-needs baby, we had just moved country, and I had no help at all, but I just went to my desk every time he napped. I can’t claim it was structured, or that the draft I produced was anything other than VERY rough indeed, but some years later, redrafted and much pruned, it’s the novel that got me an agent.

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blackrabbitwhiterabbit · 24/08/2020 09:14

I just wrote my first novel over this summer of lockdown, during weekends and evenings and the odd baby nap. My novel is only 74k words though.

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Daphnesmate01 · 24/08/2020 13:33

Inching. Well done on getting an agent. blackrabbit - my novel is 75,000 words and I was relieved to reach this word count as I cut out a fair bit.
It seems my work is not commercial enough for an agent. Full steam ahead self publishing it in January. Have a second novel in mind but at the moment I have a plot hole to take me any further (current word count 29,000) and I reckon I have about another 5000 to add, so in need of some more inspiration.

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blackrabbitwhiterabbit · 24/08/2020 17:28

Yes Inching - well done!

I don't think mine is commercial enough either. Or the story has been covered too much lately, agents are telling me...

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Inching · 24/08/2020 17:44

Thank you! I should say it hasn't actually sold, though. Sad

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blackrabbitwhiterabbit · 24/08/2020 18:09

Inching - all in good time!

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SilverOtter · 24/08/2020 18:19

I have an idea for a book. It's been sort of itching my brain for quite some time, if you see what I mean. I'm feeling increasingly driven to write it as time goes by, but I've got no idea how to start!😭

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Trickytroggle2 · 25/08/2020 14:59

Thanks Daphnes, Inching, and Blackrabbit - good to hear that it is not unachievable! Very inspirational. Thinking about it, I suppose writing with a baby/small child is no different than fitting it round anything else, it's just the time slots might be slightly more unpredictable, so you need to be ready to go at any minute, and waste as little of that time as possible.

Daphnes Yes, I like the idea of some mental stimulation, and I think its also nice to have a project 'for me'. I'm trying to keep in mind the length of time it takes to also edit a manuscript...I think it's a difficult balance between feeling ok when it takes a long time, and not being put off at the outset that it will take that long!
Good luck for self-publishing in January!

Inching Great to know it is possible even with a poor napper, and I am not even moving country so now feel I have no excuse :-D Did you have plan before you started writing? I am thinking of how I can get the most out of very short bursts of writing. I don't have a very detailed outline at the moment, and I think I will struggle to know exactly what will happen next in the story if I just sit down. I have a couple of scenes from further on in mind though, so I'm thinking I can make a list of scenes like that, then just choose one of those when I get a writing opportunity and hope that provides more inspriation for other scenes to add to my list.
Congrats on the agent - fingers crossed for selling it. Have you written/are you working on a second?

Blackrabbit 74k sounds like a novel to me :-) (and a number beyond my wildest dreams at this point in time!). I hope you find an agent soon.

SilverOtter I'm no expert , as am floundering with where to go next with mine, but I think someone posted recenlty on here about this blog series
emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2020/03/always-meant-to-write-a-novel-this-series-is-one-way.html
I haven't finished reading it yet, but it seems to have lots of great ideas for getting started working on an idea in little bitesize chunks, so I think I will probably have those on my to do list too.

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Inching · 25/08/2020 15:15

Seconding Emma Darwin's blog as being generally extremely lucid and good, though I've never read that specific series of prompts. OP, if you think you will be helped by having a detailed plan, then go for it, work it out in detail -- the good thing about this is that you can plan character arcs etc in your head anywhere, including with a conscious baby! Have a look online for various accounts of writing a three-act or five-act structure?

Some people don't write chronologically at all, which works for them, but not me, as I get confused about how much one character knows about another etc and tie myself into knots.

Yes, am working on my second at the moment. I should clearly be feeling that I learned a lot from my first, but am not so sure! Good luck!

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Trickytroggle2 · 26/08/2020 07:40

Inching I think I would be helped by a detailed plan, I'm just not sure so have that much detail to put in it! I think you are right that it would be good to put down on paper what I have so far. I think I would rather work chronologically, and that's a good point you made about what characters know about each other, I hadn't thought of that. I have some turning points but am not really sure how the characters will get from one to the next. So I suppose I'm hoping if I plan plus do some short writing exercises initially it will kick some links off in my brain and hopefully get my subconscious to work things out and pop out some ideas - I think I need to plan in plenty of pram walks too to give my brain the chance!
Good luck for the second!

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Inching · 26/08/2020 12:22

Pram walks (or indeed any walks) are perfect for planning. I think I covered half of north London when DS was tiny! And even now, when the baby in question is a leggy eight year old, a walk on the beach is the best cure for a block, when you have characters and you just can't get them to walk through a bloody doorway!

Not sure whether Emma Darwin (whose blog in general I really rate -- especially her 'Tool Kit') talks anywhere about three-act or five-act structure, but slotting in what you have into one of those templates might help you think out your plotting, especially if you have turning points, but are not sure how characters get from one to another.

She's also good on characterisation, especially on character-in-action.

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Daphnesmate01 · 26/08/2020 21:26

Yes Inching. I agree re. the walking thing. I often go on a walk muttering about some character or other in my novel!

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Fishypants · 07/09/2020 13:53

I wrote my first novel when my DD was 9 months. She was a good sleeper, so when she was in bed 8pm to 11pm I wrote for 3 days a week. I did a chapter an evening which was about 2000 words.

Literally after 3 months I had a novel!
I planned my novel by dividing into 40 chapters each with a line summary of the action eg Chapt 7 Louise meets Matt. So each evening I'd know what bit of the story I was writing.

Read it in the end and added any bridging bits. I have found the editing tough but glad that at least I have a full draft!

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Trickytroggle2 · 07/09/2020 20:22

Inching Thanks for the pointer to the rest of Emma Darwin's blog and the Toolkit - you're right, it looks really good. There's definitely lots of useful stuff I'll refer back to. I think it will be good for editing.

Fishypants That's amazing getting all that done in 3 months. 2000 words a day is very impressive. First day back at school last Thursday for DD, and DS decided it was a no nap kind of day, and I managed a whole 48 words (which were really terrible too!). But your post is a great reminder that things will change and there should be more opportunity in the months to come and so just small amounts now is fine.

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Fishypants · 07/09/2020 21:48

Each word is a word closer to your target! It's difficult with kids but as they get into a routine, you will find little pockets of time.
And when I first started I wrote 100 words in 2 hours!
Good luck!

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Trickytroggle2 · 08/09/2020 06:16

Thanks Fishypants - it's so good to know your writing speed started off much slower - I won't get dejected (yet!) about how slow I am Smile

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