Friday, 29 August 2014

Week Eighteen: Writing Your Novel

Sometimes you need to put everything else aside ... and just write.

I have been busy writing my novel this week, in amongst the usual mad stuff that happens towards the end of the school holidays, and didn't get round to doing my weekly blog post until now, on a Friday!

So I thought, what can I blog about?

Then it struck me.

I've been so busy writing recently, I haven't had time to think about how-to-write or what to blog or any of that other background nonsense that goes on when you're a writer and a busy parent and a professional with obligations to fulfil. It can be hard to get a strong writing schedule going when you are being pulled in ten different directions at once. I've been saying no thanks, and not yet, and maybe another time, and sorry ... all so I can write. I'm between contracts, as they say, and have to finish this novel before I can get back into a healthy situation, writing-wise.

So this week's 'how-to-write' advice is very, very simple.

Just write your novel.

And here's how:

If possible find a private space where you can write undisturbed for a few hours. A place where everyone knows you are working and are under orders not to burst in, asking where their clean socks are kept or when dinner will be ready. Virginia Woolf knew all about this: unlike gentlemen, women of her era rarely had access to 'a room of one's own' where they could write. In an earlier age, Jane Austen had to write in a corner of a busy room with people coming and going around her. But anywhere will do, even the cupboard under the stairs or a shed: at one stage, the place we were living in was so small, I had to turn the tiny frosted glass porchway into my study. It was boiling hot on sunny days and freezing in winter, and the postman thought I was mad, but it was a private space away from the kids and it worked.

Block out extraneous noise with headphones or ear plugs, or listen to music.

Lock or block the door.

Hang a sign on the door that says Go Away or warn family not to approach. (Maybe set an alarm to go off elsewhere to let them know when it's safe to ask you if you want a cuppa. One hour minimum, better yet three.)

Know what you aim to write beforehand, so you don't waste the first 20 minutes fiddling about with a plot change or dithering over a character's name. Outline the scene or chapter you need to write, then execute that plan as closely as you can without becoming rigid about it.

Put fingers to keys, or pen to paper, and just write. Get into the 'zone' where words flow and you barely need to think what you're writing, it just happens naturally. If you're the sort who corrects as you go along - as I am - make sure you don't get bogged down in minutiae. If you get stuck on a problematic sentence or scene, just sweep past it and make a side note to return later. The important thing is to make the most of your writing time. To get the words down and build a respectable word count by the end of the session. You can always craft them later.

Set a goal that works for you: 3 pages by lunchtime, or 1000 words before midnight. It doesn't matter how much, only that you hit your goal more often than you miss it. Be realistic and don't push yourself if your life is currently insane. If you're unwell or working a full-time job, time slots will need to be shorter. And if you have a young baby in the house, you may have to write between feeds: 300 words here, 100 there. It all adds up.

At the end of each writing time, congratulate yourself, regardless of how much or how little you managed. It's not easy, writing a novel. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes stamina and determination. Maybe you've only written one page today, but it's still one page more than you had when you sat down to write. So treat yourself to a nice coffee or whatever makes you feel good. You've earned it!

QUESTION: Do you have a set routine when you write that helps you get 'into the zone', or is it different every time?

1 comment:

  1. Great tips. I finally got a little desk but it's in the living room. With 3 kids & a job it's hard, but we need to just write x


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