Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Woman at Work

Folk I run into are often curious to know how a writer goes about their working routine. For myself, I always wondered whether I would find it a challenge to stick to my seat for several hours each day and write a certain number of words (I'm a bit of a fidget, a procrastinator and can get distracted quite easily by cake)-- Would I be able to turn a hobby into a job and do this for a living or would I run out of stories and find my imagination too stretched once I HAD to write every day?

I needn't have worried. I probably have too many ideas -- in fact there are always several brewing while I'm still at work on the current project. And they can come from anywhere and anything, at any time, so I never know when another character will pop into the waiting room that is my head and sit there with a flask of tea and a marmalade sandwich waiting for the next bus.

Once I made the decision to write full-time in 2015, I very quickly fell into a routine out of necessity. I realized that turning oneself into a "serious" (ha ha) writer is a bit like training a new puppy. Routine and reward. So every morning I'm up early and those first hours of a new day are my best, most productive hours. The house is quiet (apart from snores) and my mind has a limited number of potential distractions to worry about. I sit at my kitchen island and type away for about five hours, although not all those words will survive twenty four hours and many will be changed or cut the next day. Then I reward myself with lunch -- a tomato sandwich with toast, black pepper and mayonnaise. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Evenings are for research and forward planning. I sit in bed and think about where my characters are going next and what information they'll need to get there. I fill in the details of the world around them so that it's believable for the time period. I take extensive notes so that I have them ready by the laptop in the morning.

I never listen to music when I'm writing. For me it's too distracting. But I do like to put on earphones when I'm at the editing stage, or when I'm researching and plotting. I've tried typing at a window to look out on a pleasant view, but that's too dangerous for me too. Birds? Trees? Clouds? All very nice, but it's a fine line between inspiring and distracting for somebody with my daft, wandering brain.

So I sit at my boring kitchen island, by the knife block (maybe that's significant) and limit my distractions. There are only three things I must have before I start to write -- clean teeth, quiet house, good coffee. Then I'm off. Head down, specs on. Occasionally my poor husband gets up before I think he ought, and then he gets yelled at for rustling the cereal box. Really, does he need to make that much noise?

Today he has cruelly left a pan of fresh-baked brownies on the island, within my line of sight above the laptop screen. Sometimes I suspect him of deliberate  sabotage.

On a side note: I've always been amazed to hear about authors who use those voice command thingys (or talk of trying them out, at least). I cannot imagine how that works with the number of edits a writer makes in their manuscript as they work. And I love the commercial for one of those products, where the "writer" sits on a couch with her feet up and talks into the device- - big smile on her face-- no paper, pens, research books of any description nearby in her spotless living room. I'm afraid the scene is very different in my house, and no single sentence written ever survives without being changed a hundred times. In my last book I rewrote the first sentence so many times I lost count. I even went to sleep mulling over the order of those few words!

I wish I was that tidy blonde person sitting there in crisp khakis, unflustered and beaming benignly into the distance as I recite my book steadily and confidently into a microphone. I do aspire to be organized, but truthfully I'm all over the place. I have piles of books lurking in every corner of the house and frequently have to go searching for the one I need. Notebooks crammed full of timelines and character profiles spill across the floor by my bed and occasionally get chewed on by a dog, or commissioned as "scrap" paper by those who cannot understand the importance of my scrawl. I'm hopeless. Perhaps that's why it always feels like such an amazing accomplishment to get another book completed and safely off to the publisher. By now I should be used to it, perhaps, but that thrill never goes away -- and it's the sense of excitement that comes with each new release that keeps me pushing ahead to the next and the next. And the next. It's definitely addictive, this writing lark.

Thank you for reading!

(Images here: My own photos of 1.) a distraction sent to challenge the author daily and 2.) the scene of the crime.

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