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Finishing The First Draft Of A Novel, by Clint Greagen

From February to June 2012, to ensure I finished the first draft of my novel Waxy Flexy, I made a commitment to write 5000 words per week.

To give myself a real shot at achieving the word count I pencilled in five writing nights per week – Sunday through Thursday.

To make sure I wasn’t tempted to ignore my four real children for this new (not quite real) child, I made a commitment to only write once they were all asleep, which for the majority of the time was around 8:30pm.

I’d start working as soon as I could after that – my ritual involved setting up on whatever computer was available with a coffee made of hot water, full fat cream, and two heaped teaspoons of International Roast.

I’d read over the last two nights of writing, making small changes as I waited for the caffeine to lift me a smidgen above chronic tiredness and then I’d sit there until the 1000 words were down.

I was getting up at 5:30am most mornings and getting to bed at midnight at the earliest. I was living with my in-laws and suffering through setback after setback on the building of our new house. I had given up a five day a week gym habit and was only eating dinner if there happened to be time between the kids falling asleep and my 8.30pm start writing time. I lost a lot weight. My jeans only stayed up if I folded the waist over a little and I had bags under my eyes.

One of the characters in my novel appeared to me randomly, usually daily. Once, when I’d found the rare opportunity for a daytime nap, Charles Livings – the catatonic schizophrenic and antagonist in Waxy Flexy – was sitting on the end of my bed.

‘You should be writing,’ he said. ‘Be careful…’

‘I’m still deciding of you live into another book, or die in this one,’ I said. ‘You be careful.’

Another time I was writing in the front seat of my Tarago because my two younger boys had fallen asleep in the back. Sacha – my main character – was sitting in the passenger seat beside me. She asked me if I was going insane. I told her she’d have to wait and see, then shovelled two teaspoons of pure Gaurana into my mouth and washed it down with a Coke Zero (I was trialling a new stimulant for that night’s writing).

She watched me spill some of the brown Gaurana powder onto my jumper and after I’d finished dry-retching at the thick curry-like paste, said. ‘If you’re insane what chance have I got?’

‘I’m not writing you, Sach,’ I said. ‘I’m just writing parts of myself.’

‘You’re a nut,’ she said.

‘Hey, I’d straighten up if I were you,’ I told her. ‘At least until the books written. There’s a lot of bad gathering around you at the moment.’

‘Yeah,’ she said, as we looked up to see a dark figure standing across the park, the face in shadow but the intent clear.

‘Are you going to kill me?’ she asked.

‘I like you Sach,’ I shrugged. ‘But the story will answer that one for the both of us.’

My baby woke with a cry behind me and by the time I’d shuffled through the baby bag for his milk, Sacha had gone.

I didn’t fret though. I knew I’d see her again that night once the kids were asleep, feeling a bit of a buzz from the Gaurana and the caffeine and floating on the edge of sleep-deprivation crazy, tapping into the glare of the computer screen, waiting for another part of the world to be unveiled.


Clint Greagen’s bio page


Black MountainScared Yet?State of EmergencyIt (Signet)RedEdgar Allen Poe's: Tales of Mystery and MadnessStolen Children

Writing Novels in Australia

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. LOL, what a wonderfully refreshing read. I think you must be onto something with those stimulants!!!!!!! I have to admire you for your dedication. I admire any writer who is juggling kids and trying to find time.

    January 28, 2013
  2. Joan #

    I admire you for your dedication to writing, especially in the midst of everything that is going on in your life. Good luck to you.

    January 31, 2013
  3. Oh RD, you never fail to put a smile on my face….
    you also make me feel so normal in comparison! Thank you for that! bahaha!
    P.s. Looking forwarcd to reading Waxy Flexy ne day 🙂

    January 31, 2013
  4. Love your work, Clint. I admire anyone who can write fiction, with characters, dialogue and everything. You are clearly a superstar 🙂

    January 31, 2013
  5. You’re definitely a talented writer – maybe even better than you are at dancing 🙂
    Kudos to kicking butt every day and making it happen.

    January 31, 2013
  6. I know my story; its the characters which are eluding me. Which of course makes me wonder if there’s any story at all.

    January 31, 2013
  7. Caroline #

    I think it is wonderful amongst all the chaos that is your everyday life that you still make time for your writing. My husband has begun to hound me more frequently of late … “When are you going to start writing …” My long standing dream of writing a book/novel keeps being put on the back burner. Always some reason not to. Way too many children (number 4 due in May … 5 including my step son) and way too much else on my plate. But maybe they are just crappy excuses. Good on you for making the effort and finding the time.

    January 31, 2013
  8. Oh my Lord…. I aim for 3000 words a week, and I have at least 2 or 3 days a week where I am child and work-free between 9am and 3pm. You are an inpiration! And a lunatic, but that’s beside the point. Go get ’em. You deserve every success!

    January 31, 2013
  9. well its sounds really witty RD. would be interested in reading it on a CD.

    January 31, 2013
  10. That’s nothing. I can bash out 8,000 words in a weekend. A WEEKEND! Granted I was ensconced in 4.5 star luxury in a swish country resort busily being waited on and fetched and carried for and not so much as a whiff of a child for a 500km radius. I’ll be doing it again shortly – I should write about the experience of writing whilst holidaying at fancy country retreats as well perhaps. Mind you, I now have 24,000 words and no day job. Good for you though – I have my fingers crossed for your agent to be getting you a publishing contract so that I can read your book. I love your blog and look forward to reading the stuff you plonk on the book of the faces.

    January 31, 2013
  11. Vik #

    Very enticing reading RD!! Most people sneak in a nap or a coffee when the kids are asleep in the car – very impressed that you managed to write your novel!! Talk about skillful juggling! Can’t wait to read Waxy Flexy when it’s published!!

    January 31, 2013

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