Last week, I told you I’d be starting a new regular feature on the blog called Friday Fiction Update (if you missed the post, here you go). I wasn’t totally sure what form it was going to take when I set off with it, only that it would cover a week in my writing life in some form.
Well, I have to say that logging my diaries for a full week was actually rather fun, and something I’m looking forward to doing more regularly in future.
Why am I doing this?
Because many people, whether readers or fellow writers, ask me what my process is. They wonder where I find the time, where I get my ideas, how I balance my writing and editing. Well, here you go. All of those questions, and more, answered starting below.
Plus, it’ll be a good chance to share a bit of my life with you. We’ll see how it goes, anyway!
I won’t ramble on too much to start off, but basically, every day, I jotted down everything (of note) I did into a little app. I’ve left out the boring bits that won’t be too relevant, but done my best to capture a week in writing for me. I’ve not edited these posts too much because it’ll be good to share the raw thoughts as they came out, but obviously I’ve tidied things up. Not quite as meticulously as I tidy up novels and stories, but tidied nonetheless.
Here we go…
Saturday 10th May:
Got up late, lazed around and read some of JA Konrath’s “Trapped” book. Watched Football Focus. Went to a friend’s to go to the football but he wasn’t ready so made a trip back. So what did me, the crazy “I don’t write at weekends!” writer go and do? I got 1,500 words done in the hour I had free before going to the footy, battling through a part of the story I thought I was stuck with.
Moral of the story? Carve out whatever writing time you can. Because of my words today, I got myself through something that could potentially be a “block” in my current novel-length project, and instead of what? Lazing around and waiting to be picked up? I didn’t miss out on anything. So, yes!
I didn’t make any more notes on Saturday so I’m just going to assume I was having too much fun hanging out with friends to pull my phone out of my pocket. Good day though, and a nice writing break. Which included 1,500 words. 🙂
Sunday 11th May:
No writing. Family day, always is. Although I woke early and read some more of Konrath’s “Trapped”. Really gripping book. I finished the book later, actually, powering to the end because I was so hooked.
A few people ask me how, as a writer, I learn from other writers. This is what I do: I read a book for pleasure. I don’t read it by deconstructing or anything like that, I just read and lose myself in the prose. If I put a book down and think, “wow, that was a really, really good read” (which Trapped was), I’ll ask myself why I enjoyed it. That’s when the critical, deconstructing side comes in.
Nothing good on telly so I jotted down a few notes on why Trapped worked for me as a reader. Great cliffhangers, gripping openings to each and every chapter, characters with problems from the off, and really well paced scenes. So I analyse a few of those examples, read over them a few times, and trust my subconscious to absorb the learning. I don’t go into writing trying to implement these tricks, I just trust that the book will have made enough of an impression on me to work itself into my writing. I don’t know whether it does–readers are the judges of that!
Oh, here’s a picture of my dad’s new puppy, Grace, playing with Milo. She’s the boss already!
And this is one of Grace taking a nap on Milo shortly after.
Monday 12th May:
Up a little late as I was tired. Got a scene done after breakfast. Planned on writing some more but went to try and set up an advertisement at a Kindle site in my writing break and had stupid iPad issues so took a break til lunch.
I had lunch, did another really fun scene and ramped up the pace of my book. At 35kish, I have my ending in sight, which I knew from the start but didn’t know the journey there. That’s just how I work — I have a rough outline, I’m not afraid to stray off the path, but I usually know my ending. It works for me, but it’s taken me time and work to find it out to be my preferred method.
Anyway, in this post-lunch session, I hit on two key story beats at once, which is also very fun and makes for good drama. Watched this week’s amazing Game of Thrones then did another 1k-ish scene. Story well on track now. I did have to go and research something though, but there’s a trick around research called character perspective. Would my character actually know this? If so, why would they know it? Remember this. Good way to avoid unnecessary detail dumps.
After I’d finished, I read my business blogs for the day over at Passive Voice and a few other sites. We’re writers so we should study our business and stay aware of what’s going on.
Good day. Lots of new words written. Mondays are usually a pretty average (but respectable) day for me, so I’m right on track here.
Tuesday 13th May:
Up at 9-ish. Feeling good to go. Wrote 2k from 10-12 with a short break and then another long scene from 12-1ish. Had an idea where to go towards the end… which worried me so I tossed that idea out, tossed the second idea out, and tossed the third idea out, following the fourth. It’s a good way to keep readers on their toes and a great example of deviating from an outline while charging towards the same end goal (I talked about this yesterday).
Took lunch at 1 with a brilliant morning of fiction behind me. It’s a beautiful day, too, so went for a long walk from 2-3. I love walking. It’s a great way for a writer to get creative rest and get out in the world. I love sunshine too so I just had to make the most of it. Anyway, beautiful walk around the countryside. Here’s a picture from the final stretch down my road.
I did my homework for a writing workshop I’m taking at the moment from about 4-5ish. Workshops from professional writers are a great learning tool. A writer never stops learning!
Wednesday 14th May:
Got up a bit later than usual. Nackered for some reason, probably my recent lack of exercise catching up with me.
Tried to get started on the writing for an hour but getting nowhere so decided to go for another walk in the sun to get myself in gear. Went a different route (you’ve probably guessed I don’t like repetition) and clocked 4000 steps exactly in 40 minutes. 100 steps a minute. Is that good? Bad? Nice walk anyway, so back about 12ish feeling energised and ready to go.
Oh, because I figured I’ll be having a late lunch, I had an egg. And because I’m a creative, I’m a sucker for presentation too. Tell me this isn’t the prettiest egg you’ve ever seen?!
Got a scene written between 12.30 and 1.30. Egg didn’t do much at curing my hunger so lunch time! Listened to the new Swans album over lunch. Long album so I’ll have a bigger listen later.
Now it’s 2.15 and I’m starting writing again. Another shorter scene in about 45 mins. Into the final quarter so the story is coming together fast. Written a couple of scenes that might need cutting later, but that’s fine. Sometimes you’ve got to write the rubbish to get to the good. Part of being a writer.
Messed around formatting the Dead Days Season Two paperback but the software I use started freezing on me so cba. Instead, I did some editing for a project from 4-5.30. I won’t go too much into my process–I’ve documented it in the past.
Went for a shorter walk later on in the day with the neighbour’s dog, Pebbles. Here she is…
Beautiful day. Not much writing done but plenty of time left in the day still. It’s only 7pm, after all.
I wanted to finish another scene today but I prefer to keep my evenings free for non-writing stuff. Here’s a plan: tea’s cooking, get some words down.
30 mins and half a scene later… wow. Funny what happens when you stop moaning about how little time you have to write and actually just write. 🙂
Had a great tea then went back to finish up the STILL unfinished scene that was nagging at me after finding Masterchef is only on at 9.
Speaking of Masterchef, it’s into finals week an I’m totally hooked. Loads of people giving up well paid jobs to pursue something creative. Why, I wonder? Well, because they lost touch with their passion (cooking) at some stage and are now rediscovering it.
There’s some great tips for becoming a pro in Masterchef, too–tips on being original, putting in the hard work to reap the rewards, learning from mistakes. Often the winners of this show aren’t the ones who come storming out of the gates with the fanciest food, but the ones who start okay, consistently take on board criticism and improve themselves to a level where they’re better than the initial ‘wow’ chefs. It’ll be interesting to see if this final goes that way–it usually does. One chef last series looked nailed-on favourite, but he stopped growing and developing as the show went on, not really learning from the criticism he was getting. Another contestant, who started off just a face in the crowd and with loads of errors, kept on steadily improving as the series progressed. Guess who won?
Anyway, after watching, I spoke to a few friends and caught up, did a bit of layout work, then set up a blog post for that 30% off Kobo promotion going live on Thursday (info here for those interested). Some great writers at discount prices, so check it out. Time for bed. Crazily productive day. Yet remember where it started? Me feeling groggy. Just goes to show…
Thursday 15th May:
Awake earlier than yesterday but up late again. Sorting out posts for this Kobo promotion and emailing cover designer about Sinkers, a new novel I’ll have out soon. Great cover designed, just both working on a few tweaks. Keep your eyes peeled for more on that one soon…
About 12ish, I walked to the bus stop and got ready to go into town to the library. I work there once or twice a week. Helps with the writing and avoiding cabin fever. Although bus prices have gone up 20p. Damn it. Writing this post while waiting in the rain. Gloomier day today, but warm and muggy. Well, 16 degrees. That’s warm for a Brit.
Anyway, got the bus, sat down in the library for 12.45 and ready to go!
Got a quick scene done in about an hour aided by a mocha. I sometimes spend two hours in here but kind of want lunch (food often gets in the way of writing like that…). So I’ll head back, have lunch then get more writing done.
Had lunch then just lazed around browsing social media til about half 2. Yet I’m going to have a good writing day today. You just watch!
After lazing and getting my arse in gear, I wrote a really suspense filled scene that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Damn, today seems to have flown, half three already. Warm but cloudy day, which is frustrating because I’m a sun worshiper.
Started to feel a bit groggy and realised exactly why — it’s 4pm and I haven’t had a single glass of water today. Bad Ryan! Water, good diet, good sleep and exercise are key to feeling good and being productive too. So off for a couple of pints of the alcohol-free delight I go…
Spent 15 mins trying to save a trapped wasp. I’m terrified of them, so it’s quite a task for me. Managed to lure the angry bugger into a glass with some raspberry jam and throw it out into the garden in the end. One life spared…
16:50: received some comments from a first reader on a work in progress so worked on the second draft of that for an hour or so. Rewriting and editing are too big a topic to go into in this blog, as I’ve mentioned before. I’ve posted enough about it in the past.
Didn’t do a whole lot later but this is because I’m backing away from writing the next scene. It’s a big turning point in the book, and my mind is trying to fool me by saying “start when you’re fresh tomorrow!” even though I’ll feel even more daunted by it the more time passes. So I’m going to have a shot at it soon and see where it goes. Yes, I realise that goes against what a lot of writing advice blogs might tell you. But check their credentials before following their counter-productive advice like that. How many books have they published? How many of those books are selling? Comments like “don’t write when you don’t feel up to it!” or “if you don’t feel fresh, you’ll write crappy fiction!” are usually a defensive reaction; a justification for not writing, the procrastination demon eating away inside that person giving the “advice”.
Or they’re just the words of someone who gets frustrated when they see somebody else producing more words than them.
Bear that in mind and read all information with your bullshit detector on. Even this.
If you’ve noticed these entries getting longer, I dunno if that’s a pattern. I’m enjoying them! Anyway, I enjoyed writing while waiting for tea last night so I’m going to tackle this tough scene. It’d be easy to say I don’t have time or I’m giving up, or I don’t feel fresh, eh?
Okay so I DID give up. My bad. That’s the brutal honesty of this blog — sometimes I procrastinate too. Yes, I’m human, believe it or not.
So instead of writing just now, I had tea, chilled and watched Masterchef. Such a great episode where the amateurs go to Spain to cook for Ferran Adrià and the former El Bulli pros. Constantly, these masters of cooking go on about how they were criticised for being original… yet now they’re going down in the history books. Remember that in fiction: if you’re plain and like everyone else, nobody will remember you. If you dare to follow your own creative impulses, the rewards will follow.
Oh, and one chef says his one goal in cooking is to “have fun”. A lesson we could all learn from.
And what a quote this is: “Technique is an instrument only. There is no end result without flavour.”
This so applies to fiction, just swap “flavour” with “story”. See, I’m not just salivating over food–I’m learning, too!
Anyway, excuse the extremely long entry. I did go upstairs at ten-ish and write a short scene, bringing my total around 3k for the day. Long day, not loads of words, but again, progress.
Friday 16th May:
Deserved lie-in. Always do get up later on a Friday.
Ate breakfast in the sun. What a nice week. Convened with my excellent designer some more. Sinkers is a tricky one because it’s a cross genre hybrid so we’re trying to get a good balance of sci fi with a subtle hint of horror. Yoly’s a great designer, though, so she’ll do it justice.
Anyway, spent a long time sitting in the sun and just soaking it up. We don’t get much sun in Britain so it’s a good idea to make the most. Here was my view at breakfast:
The room I work in is absolutely boiling as it’s the side the sun rises on. So I checked how the Kobo promotion was going — they sent out their email blast today so I’ve had a few sales since. And their Canada (main market) promo goes live Tuesday. Brilliant that they’re helping indies like this. Wonderful.
Anyway, got started and did a scene that was tricky in the heat. Not going to be a great day for words I don’t think, but we’ll see.
Right, got myself in gear. Aiming for 3k today so another session should do it. But I want to enjoy this sunshine! Wrote some more words but only short so decided to join scenes together.
Had a quick lunch then went for a walk at 3ish. Another 4k step walk, another route. Boiling day, bit muggy though. Don’t usually think about writing when out but approaching final act of book so ideas flying. Here’s a shot of the hills where Buried Slaughter’s main crime happened (in my imagination, of course):
And here’s a selfie after a very daunting walk down a no speed limit country lane:
Big spoonfuls of peanut butter upon return. I’m a skinny runt so I can’t afford the lost calories :P.
Did another scene til 5 then wrapped for the day. Now time to find out what’s happening this weekend and chill. Week 1 done!
Hope you enjoyed it. If not, here’s a picture of Grace to cheer you up.
Have a relaxing/exciting/drunk weekend!