February Update: 5 year writing project

This month I’ve been focusing on my non-fiction book, preparing ‘Walking the English Coast’ for its first major external edit.

do you have goalsI’m taking part in Misha and Beth’s Five Year Project and my five-year goal is to write a novel and get it published.

Last month, I reported I was sending my finished novel, The Reluctant Scribe, out to agents. This month, however, I’ve been focusing on my non-fiction book, Walking the English Coast, and preparing the manuscript for its first major external edit.

Five things I’ve learnt about writing non-fiction

I wrote most of Walking the English Coast during NaNoWriMo 2014. Although I did plenty Ruth walking above the seaof research in advance, and followed a loose outline, anyone who’s done NaNo will know the frantic rush to get the required 50,000 words down.

Writing my book as a NaNo project played havoc with the structure and flow of the text.

  1. Reassembling text into a logical sequence has been a mammoth task. Non-fiction is different to fiction. Next time, I’ll spend longer on the first draft.
  2. I left numerous placeholders for facts I intended to check later. Now I’m spending ages trying to find the correct authentic references. Next time I’ll check the facts and collate references as I go along.
  3. I love research but, when I collect notes and quotes, I really must scribble down page numbers too. It makes adding references later so much easier!
  4. It’s difficult to get the balance right between personal anecdotes (which bring the writing to life) and useful information (which is why readers buy the book).
  5. And, finally, I know far more about long-distance walking than I ever knew I knew. 80,000 words is too long for a non-fiction book. I’m ruthlessly culling text.

Author: Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.

25 thoughts on “February Update: 5 year writing project”

  1. It sounds like you’re learning a lot and working hard towards your goals!
    I discovered when putting together a writing book for my classes that I needed more white space in a non-fiction book. If the text was too dense, my students had more trouble following it. That upped the page count and brought down the word count.
    Anyway . . not sure if that reminiscence helps, or not.
    Best wishes with your book!


  2. I know exactly what you mean about NaNo. I’ve completed it many times, but those novels have never come to anything. I write my first drafts much slower these days, and it works much better for me. Doing NaNo was very useful experience though.


  3. Ruth, lovely to meet you. I like the sound of your Walking the English Coast. I’m a NaNo addict but the last two years I’ve ignored the 50,000 rubbish words deal and slowed down and wrote 25,000 good words instead. Trying to go back and untangle 50,000 mangled words is why I have 4 unfinished novels under my belt. But all good practise!


  4. The non fiction book sound interesting. Cutting things down is always one of my major issues, even with blog posts. I usually write lots and then go back and chop stuff out. Later I go back again and chop even more.


  5. You learned a lot, and wrote 80K for wrimo. Congratulations, that’s awesome. Good luck with your goals, and here’s hoping The Reluctant Scribe catches an agent’s eye.


  6. I enjoyed NaNo on the two occasions I took part, however, I’ve struggled sorting out both novels, and I’m still unable to get to a point where either of them is in good enough shape to even consider sending out.

    Good to see your plans have moved forward.


  7. I have the same problem with researching! Love it, but I’m terrible at noting pages and paragraphs and…sigh, even books. I’ll forget titles and then the facts stick with me, but I can’t reference it so I feel like I’m making it all up!

    But I’m glad you’re pushing on, jotting down the ‘Do nots’ for next time and making progress with both the fiction and non-fiction front! And I’m pretty sure I haven’t told you, but I love your goal! It’s so simple and straight forward. I should consider editing mine…

    Best of luck, Ruth! Keep us posted ^^


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