Just like most authors around the globe, I have my own specially-crafted routine that I like to employ before I get down to the real nitty-gritty and graft: the task of actually putting meaningful words down on paper, or writing.
I began writing seriously with the intention of being published around 15 years ago now, and at that time I didn’t set out to invent a process or routine to assist me in learning my craft. I just blindly went at it with vigor and an intense passion to succeed; the routine, quirks, and specifics presented themselves like good friends along the way. It’s really all about the individual and what works for you. So, try not to pay too much attention to fellow writers who insist it must be done their way or that what you’re doing is “wrong”. There really is no right or wrong “way”. What might work for one author might be the absolute death knell of creativity to another.
Now, there is nothing I enjoy seeing more on my Instagram feed than the quintessential image of the earnest writer sitting in a quaint café somewhere utterly gorgeous with his/her trusty laptop and Burberry notebook perched next to a delightfully frothy latté served in a pristine white cup. Heavenly image, isn’t it? But sadly, that’s not the writers process for me.
I am more of the Roald Dahl (old) school of writing. The master Dahl used to lock himself away in his purpose built shed located at the bottom of his charming country garden, armed only with a thermos of hot tea, a holder full of pencils, a blanket, and his trusty notebooks (although I would have had to insist on a heater being installed inside that rickety, old shed; English winters are certainly not for the faint of heart).
When I am ready to sit down and write, the first thing that’s important for me is the time of day. I am a creature of habit, and I like to write either very early in the morning (#5amwritersclub member here) or early evening, around 7:30pm. I rarely ever write in the middle of the day. I prefer to set that time aside for reading (a pursuit that is absolutely essential for any writer, novice or otherwise).
The second thing that’s vitally important for me before I begin the writing process is absolute peace and quiet. Absolute. I simply cannot have any noise interference whatsoever, and I can’t listen to music of any kind when writing, either (you can see why that isolated shed idea is appealing now for me, eh?). Bose noise-reducing earbuds come in especially useful indeed in my house. And don’t underestimate the gentle hum of a fan to block out the sound of the T.V travelling up the hallway from the living room, or the cats howling like crazed banshees outside the bedroom door (for no good bloody reason other than to bother me, I might add).
So, now that I’m settled in my writing nook, it’s actually time to write something. And the utensils I use to write with again differ from many of today’s 21st century scribes. I find it absolutely impossible to write or create the story on my laptop. Simply cannot do it. I have to let the actual story itself flow through my sharpened pencil onto a real, tangible piece of paper in front of me. I use notebooks, and lots of them. Notebooks for the plotting and planning of my story (which is always completed in detail before I begin writing any novel – more on that in future posts) and notebooks for the story creation itself. Then, once the characters and their chapters are all safely transported inside my notebook, I transcribe them onto my computer. My trusty laptop is the tool I always use for the editing process (a process I thoroughly enjoy, btw – more on that later, too) and the actual publication of my novels.
Location? Well, my writing sessions usually always take place either in bed or snuggled up in the most comfortable spot on the sofa. Soft lighting is a must (think Himalayan salt lamps, fairy lights, and candles), and I use a small book light attached to my notebook to help guide the way. And then, with sharpened pencil in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, it begins.
And that’s my writing process in a nutshell. Not forgetting of course, the large pot of tea I always insist on brewing before any early morning or evening writing session. I usually only write for around 2 hours per session, and then it’s time to either crack on with my day and its many responsibilities or curl up with my current read and fall asleep.
I’m not one for page counts or setting deadlines for myself when I’m writing a book. I just try (and don’t always succeed) to write at least once a day. And by using this method I have managed to produce four middle-grade novels. I see a lot of folks out there in the writer’s community talking about the thousands of words they’ve written that day or forcing themselves to churn out work to meet a self-imposed deadline. That’s not for me, I’m afraid. I find it kills my creativity dead, and in a world where I experience enough stress as it is, I have absolutely no desire to inflict any more of the stuff on myself if it’s not necessary.
If, one day, I’m fortunate enough to be traditionally published and have deadlines imposed upon me by a large publishing house and/or agent, then word-count city it is. But until such time I’ll take quality over quantity any day of the week. This isn’t a race or a competition to see who can write the most or who can break their back writing for hours upon hours each day, neglecting their life and themselves along the way. Don’t compare yourself to others on this journey or try to match their sprint-like pace. If word counts and deadlines work for you, then more power to you. It’s just not the process for me. And that’s exactly what it’s all about. If we were all identical in our process and storytelling technique, what a tremendously vanilla literary landscape it would be for us all. So be you - wonderful, individual you - write your way, and above all strive for quality, originality, and your own clear voice in your storytelling.