As I chip away at Dark Child, scribble notes on other book ideas and tinker with book covers, I thought I’d take you all behind the scenes in my ‘day in the life of an author’ (I think it’s called procrastination!).
On a day when I’m writing (I also work as an editor so my routine changes from day to day), my alarm of choice is the sound of nature (birds, etc) as I ‘don’t do’ regular alarm clocks that buzz loudly in your ear, jarring you awake (can’t believe that’s good for anyone!). I’m up at this time for the school run, but also because our cat, Pumpkin, requires her breakfast and meows constantly to remind me. Unlike many people I know, who are grateful for the school holidays, I actually enjoy the school run – I enjoy the early morning walk, the freshness of the air that livens my creativity and gives me a great start to the day.
After grabbing a cup of tea I head for my desk and check my emails. I only deal with emails twice a week, though look at them regularly. I prefer to deal with things like this (post, too) in batches, as I find this easier than stopping every time something comes through (saves me a fair amount of time, too).
I don’t write every day (wish I could!) as I also work as an editor, so certain days a week are put aside for
that but when writing I switch off my wifi (so I don’t get email notifications, etc), grab all the paperwork for the book I’m working on (I keep each book in a folder as I work on it, with everything from chapter plans to plot lines, notes, etc), spread out the necessary paper on my desk and get to work.
Naturally, things change depending on what stage of writing I’m at, such as first draft, editing etc, but when writing a first draft, I just write, following my story plan (which is usually scribbled over with notes, highlights, and other things, making it look a complete mess – thankfully I understand it!). I don’t have a word target anymore. Apparently it’s the most offered piece of advice to new authors – pick a target and write to it each day/week etc. I had a work target once – a weekly one. But over time, I found myself concentrating more on that target than I was on the story itself. If I missed my weekly target I felt like I’d let myself down, and my productivity seriously started to suffer. So, the target plan got thrown in the bin and I wrote to just further the story – word count wasn’t important.
When writing my first draft, I just go with the flow. I write straight on the laptop in Arial 14pt. The draft is ugly and very, very rough. I used to write a first draft while trying to format it to look like a publish-ready book, which eventually sucked up all my time and led me to writing forced endings for chapters. Now, I simply get that story down on paper, which is what a first draft should be (it took me many years to hone my writing craft, as you can see!). I don’t add in chapter headings (though I have a plan where these will go). I write notes as I go along and highlight them. I put “blah blah blah” if I can’t think of anything to write and just move on to the next scene. I have my story plan, so I know what needs to go in there, but if I find I can’t create a conversation or can’t get characters from A to B with the right narrative, I just put ‘blah, blah’ rather than sit staring at the screen. If I need to check something – like the description of a building or a name – I’ll just make a note to check, highlight it, and move on. I can come back to that later.
I give myself a break to stretch my legs mid-morning, have a snack and grab another cuppa. I might put on some washing (the glamour!), make a couple of phone calls or plan out that evening’s dinner.
I then continue writing until lunchtime, although usually by this time my mind may have started to wander (not always though) and I might check social media, assess my notes for the book and check I’m on track before writing a little more. I love writing for the freedom of thought and expression it gives me, and for letting me lose myself in the building of characters and worlds. I find it amazing that a whole story can be created from a single spark of an idea.
If it’s summer and decent weather, I will relax in the garden at lunch and watch the cat attempt to catch the mice that live under the decking at the back of the garden! She’s not the most prolific of hunters and I often get the impression the mice find it more amusing than she does!
The afternoon and early evening are family time. I enjoy the afternoon school run just as much as the first of the day, as after a day of writing/working it’s nice to take a walk and relax, whatever the weather. A couple of bullies, called anxiety and self-doubt, often show up by this time – did I tackle that scene correctly? Was the dialogue believable? Why am I even bothering with this writing caper? I battle them for possibly the third time that day. Eventually they leave, but sometimes I’m aware of them still lingering somewhere nearby. I’ve battled with anxiety for several years now, and it’s not always pleasant but studying it has helped me understand it a little and helps me deal with it when it flares up. Pumpkin resumes her position by her empty bowl, meowing for her dinner that is arranged as ours makes it to the table.
Once my daughter is in bed, I’ll either keep writing or I’ll engage in other ‘writerly’ activities, like planning chapters/plots, updating my blog/Facebook or reviewing books on Goodreads. I’ll then maybe read a little (before my TBR pile falls on someone’s head!) before it’s time to snooze with a capital S!!
Phew, a busy old day. Naturally not every day is the same and when I’m working as an editor I may take more breaks for the sake of my sanity. Then there are days off etc, illness (which seem to have reduced immensely since I gave up refined sugar) and school holidays where the whole routine is turned on its head and most writing gets squeezed into a few hours in the evening.
Well, I think that’s enough procrastination for now! Back to the plot I go…
What’s your writing routines/habits/traditions that help get those words down on that page?