This week I shall mostly be inspired by the Guardians “My Writing Day” a weekly article that appears in the Saturday Review and is also available online. I read this avidly. Initially hoping to discover the secret of the right way to write a novel, however it soon became very obvious that there is no ideal way. It should come as no surprise that every author is different and the way they write differs wildly. From those like Sarah Perry who bottle it up until it explodes out of them. To the method men like Michael Bond who have a well honed technique/routine that seems to define their whole existence. From them I have learnt the following.
- With a few exceptions most authors write most days. As Barry Cryer once remarked when asked how he remained funny and relevant after so many years as a comedy writer. “Humour is like a muscle, the more you exercise it the better and stronger it becomes.” Writing regularly usually results in better writing.
- There is no such thing as the right way to write. You have to find a way that suits you. Some authors can write anywhere anytime the muse strikes them, others need to be seated in a particular time in a specific place to allow for concentration and focus.
- Word count varies wildly. Apparently Ernest Hemingway was satisfied if he wrote a hundred good words a day. Others can bash out several thousand. Some edit as they go and some plough on almost regardless of tone and continuity to create a first draft that they know with subsequent editing and re-writing will be wildly different in the finished work.
- Some like Emma Donoghue reassure me that my approach is not unique and my desire to have the context right even when my real-life characters are doing fictional things is not unusual. I quote.
“The main variation among my novels is not the writing but the research. Sometimes I stick closely to facts. Other times, as in my latest book The Wonder, I make up the story but the background is as historically accurate as possible, so I spend time checking whether a particular bird would have been in the Irish Midlands in 1859.”
So this is my writing day.
I get up at 08:00, and try to leave the house by 08:30. I cannot work from home. My last job was basically home based and I found that I was incapable of concentrating. My lack of discipline meant I inevitably started searching for shows I had not yet watched on Amazon Prime or whether King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard or Steven Wilson have any new videos up. I need a place of work free of distractions. There is a 20 min walk into town to the local library, luckily we haven’t lost ours yet, and I use the time to think about plot, research and what I plan to try to write today. Once there I find a spare table unpack my laptop, water and any books I have brought with me to help with background etc. Then it is a question of starting, sometimes the first word is difficult and I fear I will loose the tone or atmosphere of the scene I am halfway through, however even if the first words are rubbish the characters soon take over and sort me out. By 13:00 I am done, my typing is slow and rudimentary and I have a tendency to edit and re-read as I go, so anything over a thousand words I deem a successful and productive morning. I pack up and return stopping only at Nero’s for a regular mocha extra shot extra hot to drink on the way home. Lunch is followed by any number of permutations of the following, gym, blog, research, Amazon Prime, housework, email, You Tube, plot notes, new ideas, and Spider Solitaire. I’d be the first one to admit It’s not pretty or very inspiring, but it seems to work for me.