The turning point in Agatha Christie’s career was the moment she stopped writing for pleasure and started looking at it as a job, writing even when she didn’t want to.
Like most aspiring authors I have to fit writing into my normal day, which is already pretty full. There are days, though few and far between, when I don’t want to write. When I’ve been up since 5am with my early-rising children, I’m exhausted and want to go to bed, yet I must write because I can’t just let this be a hobby. So, how do you write when you don’t want to write?
- Caffeinate. It may not be the healthiest of recommendations, but on the days when I can barely keep my eyes open and my bed is calling to me like a mermaid to a sailor, I take as much caffeine on board as my stomach can handle and wait for it too kick in. God bless that black and glass cafetiere.
- Meditate. Acknowledge the fatigue, the heavy lids, gritty eyeballs, that strange burning pressure when the eyes close for a few seconds beyond a mere blink. Three minutes of meditation on a bad day, twenty minutes on a great day, and I find myself in a better frame of mind.
- Turn on the damn PC. Like most things we dread, the anticipation is far worse than the event itself. Once the laptop’s fired up and my fingers are moving I’m happy again, thrilled to be writing and very relieved that I didn’t give in to that devil procrastination.
- Keep the end goal in sight. I once read an interview with P D James where she advised aspiring authors not to daydream about publication as it’s time better spent writing. This is absolutely true, for the most part. But on days where it’s not so easy to get those fingertips typing, I think the odd daydream is very helpful. Why not imagine the spine of your book peeking out from a shelf in Waterstones? It might be just the reminder you need that, to get it into Waterstones at all, it has to be written in the first place (and rewritten and edited and rewritten and…)
- See it as Agatha Christie saw it; as a job or, better yet, a responsibility. Write everyday, because you have to, not just because you want to.
Writing a book is a wonderful experience and, I’ve been assured by many who hold it, a wonderful profession. Make the time, keep the time, and you will never regret it.
I’ve finished it I’ve finished it I’ve finished it I’ve finished it.
There is little else for me to say this week, other than:
I’ve finished it!
It’s still too long, and there is the odd tweak here and there that I will, erm, tweak in the coming week, but apart from that it is done, the book is ready to be read and, perhaps the most amazing part of all; I am happy!
I whooped, I fist pummelled the air, I ran down to the beach and basked in the warmth of both the sun and the glorious knowledge that all the hard work has been worth it.
After two years, nine rewrites, countless drafts, numerous rejections, half a dozen beta readers and the BEST mentor a writer could ask for, it is READY!
These feelings will most likely change (queue onset of panic, self doubt, self loathing and the rest) but for the next day or so I am going to hold on to this happiness and enjoy it.
There is still a long road ahead of me; submissions, edits, rejections. But I’m not going to worry about any of those yet. I’m going to take a pit stop, a couple of days to sit back and exhale because I feel as if I have been either holding my breath or taking in as much air as possible for two years and I need to let it all out. I need to face the next stage with a clear head.
The next stage is submissions.
And I need to be on my A game.
Today marks two years to the day that I first sat down and began writing this novel. Today is also, coincidentally, Mothers’ Day (in the UK) and, this week, I have celebrated my son’s third birthday. All these birthdays and reminders of motherhood have got me thinking; writing a novel is a lot like parenting.
Take the characters for example. Like my children, I know them inside out. Their favourite foods, what they like to wear/read/sing, what they really hate. I can predict (horribly, I admit) their bowel movements. However, there is also the moments when they surprise me, when I sit down to write a scene and the dialogue comes from nowhere, full of unexpected, wonderful quips or insights and I become oddly proud of these fictional souls. Despite the fact I have invented them, they sometimes seem to be growing outside of my influence.
The parental worry and near constant guilt is another factor. I can’t count how many times I have worried for my characters, felt genuinely guilty for the awful things I do to these lovely creatures. Much in the same way that I felt guilty leaving my daughter at school when she didn’t want to go. I have lain awake at night concerned about how to deal with a particular character’s behaviour, have worried at how one character will react to another’s death.
And then there is the very scary parental worry about letting your beloved fly off into the big, bad world without you. Will they be understood? Will people like them? Will they change under the influence of their peers (or, in this case, editors.) Thankfully I have a few years before I have to worry about this in earnest for my real life children. But, as for my baby of a novel, hopefully it won’t be quit