Black Chalk, In Numbers

Black-Chalk-numbers700 – the number of days it took to write a first draft of Black Chalk

10 – the number (for the sake of argument) of good ideas you need to hang a moderately complicated plot together

70 – based on the previous two numbers, this is the frequency in days with which you need to have a good idea. People have often said to me ‘oh you must be full of ideas’ or ‘how do you come up with the plot?’ and the secret is time. I am not full of ideas, in fact, most of the time, I feel I am seriously lacking in good ideas. But what I do have is some degree of patience. If it takes 70 days for a good idea to come around, then so be it. You use the intervening time to join the dots. If some part of your brain is spending 24 hours a day thinking through a story for 2 whole years you will have ideas. They will pop into your head randomly like gifts from the gods of writing, dropping down on you in the shower, assaulting you while walking down the street. Trust!

4 – the number of periods of serious* writer’s block I went through. (*Serious means weeks rather than days; the longest period was at least 6 weeks, maybe longer, I’ve writer’s-blocked it out)

520 – the number of days it took from hearing about my book deal to the publication of Black Chalk

714 – the number of days it would have taken from book deal to publication if the date hadn’t been moved forward

9 – the number of rejections you can face with a philosophical shrug before you start to lose your philosophical shrug

53 – the number of rejections I received (and these are just the ones I saw or know about)

141,883 – number of words in Black Chalk, fourth draft, the version my editor bought

110,675 – number of words in the final, edited, version of Black Chalk

0 – number of words my editor was wrong about removing

400 – the average number of UK sales of a hardback by a first-time novelist, according to this terrifying article from The Guardian

500 – number of words I try to write in a day

40 – number of weeks it should take to write a 100,000 word novel if you manage to write 500 perfect* words every weekday (ie, you never need to edit those words); 40 is also the age I set myself as a deadline to have a publishing deal

39.997 – age, in years, at which I heard I had an offer for a publishing deal. That’s one day before my 40th birthday; it was a publishing deal in Russia, which, very strangely, came before any English language deal

41,378 – number of words I’ve written of the next novel; I’m hoping I might keep a higher ratio of them this time round


  1. Your article has answered the question I was wondering about! I would like to write a thesis on this subject, but I would like you to give your opinion once 😀 totosite

  2. Black Chalk book is innovative, few people didn’t understand it because they didn’t read it, but I suggest to them, they must read this at once.

    Available here Evening Desert Safari

  3. I thought your article was interesting. I can’t wait for your post to come out soon. Have luck with the next update. This article is really good and interesting.

  4. Black Chalk, a riveting psychological thriller, is ideal for fans of the high tension and masterful pacing and was partially inspired by the author’s own time at Oxford University. Stephen J.
    Visit here Window Covering in USA

Leave a Reply