How To Write A Damn Good Novel

Each week, the latest episode appears here, while earlier pieces can be found in the Back Issues pages – so you need never miss a thing.

Plunge Straight In, or Gaze at the Pool?  (continued . . . )

So far we’ve heard from a number of early risers, diligent souls who leap out of bed and get down to work.  But – hadn’t you realised? –not all writers are like that.  (Leslie Glaister, remember, solved the problem by writing her books in bed.)  Andrew Taylor does at least get from between the sheets.  ‘I could time-waste for England. Emails are particularly good for this, and ‘research’ of all types.  But making coffee is always good.  And jobs like doing the accounts which feel vaguely like work but aren’t.’  Peter Lovesey confesses: ‘There are other temptations. I don’t like drinking my own coffee, so I go out to one of  the local coffee shops – there are about ten in Chichester – and they have newspapers, so the writing gets delayed. My first task when I get to the desk is to make space for the mouse. The entire work surface is heaped with books, pens and letters. – There may be a real mouse lurking there as well.’

But Mike Jecks, on whom adjectives like ‘diligent’, ‘serious’ and ‘industrious’ don’t appear to fit, declares: ‘I tend to get on with it when I have a book to write. It’s more difficult now we have children because there are too many break points in the day when I have to perform fatherly duties, but generally I can sit down and work in forty-five minute blocks.  When I know where the story’s going, then so long as I take ten to fifteen minutes’ break, I can put down a thousand words in that time.  So I can be very focussed and productive. I’ll do this for the morning or afternoon, and then keep working from half past seven through to midnight or beyond.  Allowing for editing and rewriting, when I’m writing a first draft I can usually manage four to five thousand words a day like this.’  Mike’s schedule shows that a writer, like many an artist, works in bursts, not a continuous stream.  If Mike can produce a thousand words in three quarters of an hour, then surely in Gradgrind’s eight hour day he can produce ten to eleven thousand words without stretching himself?  Of course he can’t – even when he works evenings as well.  Real life interrupts – and in real life, as Andrew Taylor reminded us, a writer is a self-employed trader who has office admin to fit in too.  Not to mention the kids.

In the next blog we’ll see how real writers actually write, once they’ve got themselves started on The Writer’s Working Day.

2 Responses to How To Write A Damn Good Novel

  1. My ficton lives in my head and when the characters are ready they come out and, mostly, do what I expect, then I can bevery productive. I am an apprentice fiction writerwhich makes a change from political speeches and edducational papers. Christine Richard

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