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On finishing a Masters

13/10/2011

It’s done, WOOHOOOOOO!

That was my first, ecstatic, sleep-deprived thought on the 5th September when, together with my fellow Royal Holloway creative writing students, I handed in a 12,000-word dissertation and 15,000 words of a novel-in-progress. It had been a pretty intensive summer, culminating in a ridiculously intensive final fortnight. Despite my best intentions, I made about half of my word-count in that sprint finish.

(This is nothing new. I did the same thing as an undergrad, spending too long being too meticulous in the early stages and then, as crunch-time approached, losing out on sun, sleep, and social life. Apparently I NEVER LEARN.)

In any case, it was over. I emerged, blinking, from my little cave, celebrated with my course mates (cupcakes + cava + cigars = classy)

then my boyfriend, then my non-course mates, then my family, and then anyone else I could rope in. After that, I needed a bit of time to recover. And after that, I needed time to sort out a job. Then just a bit more time to settle in… Suddenly a month’s gone by and I haven’t touched my novel.

It’s easy to give yourself a nice ‘well-deserved holiday’ after a year of hard work. But it was in those last, frantic few days of writing before the deadline I made one of the most interesting discoveries about my writing practice.

I can churn out words when I need to.

Not just when there’s an essay crisis, or work deadline. Fiction! Shit fiction, but still, fiction! All year I felt I’d made relatively slow progress on my novel, slaving for ages over the minimum number of pages for each handout, whilst some of my friends seemed to have no trouble dashing off page after page for the group to critique. I know writing’s not about speed or quantity in the long run, but if I want to finish a first draft I have to get better at switching off my internal editor. I feel I need to dig out the clay of the novel before I can start sculpting it into something worth reading. So this discovery was a happy one (even if handing in a first draft as my final MA submission was less than ideal). If I could just find a way to harness that momentum, when I was writing 1000 words a day, by somehow tricking myself into thinking I need to, in theory I could finish a first draft by Christmas!

I managed to wangle a part-time role, so there’s no excuse why I shouldn’t be ripping along. I hereby resolve to get back on it. Wish me luck.

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