SC Ransom’s with us this month, and today she shares with us her tips on fitting in the time to write…
Fitting it all in
I’ve blogged quite a lot about how I decided to write my first book, and how I found the time writing during my commute, so for this post I wanted to say a bit about the practicalities of it all.
Once I started thinking about writing a book I bought myself a little, handbag friendly notebook, spiral bound so that I could keep my pen in it. Then, as my ideas progressed and I moved from general plot points to characters I jotted everything down. I tried to write all the ideas, not just the ones which I knew were good, and I wrote them as soon as I thought of them because I have a hopeless memory. Looking back over the notebook is hilarious as I can see the plot thoughts I later discarded.
Before I started writing in earnest I described the whole plot to my husband and waited to see him fall about laughing. Amazingly he didn’t, and in fact was very encouraging. That gave me the courage to press on. I had a laptop but it was pretty chunky, so I decided to see if I could do the writing on my BlackBerry. I had just bought myself the new Storm, with a big (well, big-ish) touch screen, and after a bit of practice found that it worked really well. Editing was difficult though, so I concentrated on getting down as much as I could during each train journey. As we pulled into Waterloo I emailed it to my home account.
The story would keep whirling around my head as I walked over Waterloo Bridge, past the beaches on the South Bank which are exposed at low tide. Every day I could also see St Paul’s Cathedral further down the river. If I had any ideas I tried to remember to jot them down, often standing on the terrace of Somerset House. The notebook got quite soggy on occasions. Once I got to work I forgot about all of it, and as I opened the file on the train on the way home I was regularly surprised with what I had written in the morning – one definite advantage of having a terrible short-term memory! I knew I was doing OK if I read it and was disappointed when it suddenly stopped.
So most of the writing was done on the train, but I had to discipline myself to keep it going. Even on the days when the person next to me was reading the most delicious gossip in the free paper I had to keep writing. I knew what my deadline was – my daughter’s birthday – and I had to finish it. On the days when I got bored with what I was writing (or even worse, fell asleep reading it back!) I would have a quick look at the plan and pick a different scene to work on, ideally something with a bit of action. That accounted for about eighty percent of the time I needed to produce the book, but the rest of it I had to prise out of my schedule at home. I work five days a week, and I have to fit in all the household stuff around that. That didn’t leave a lot of time for writing. The only thing I could practically do was get up earlier at the weekends (I’ve forgotten what it’s like to not wake up to a blaring alarm), and stop watching the TV. This has been hard, and I’ve had to get the family to buy into the fact that my hobby means that I’m not always with them. To compensate, I tend to write in the kitchen so that I can interact easily if I’m needed.
Once I had written each chapter I printed it out and put it in a file and my husband would read it. He was a harsh but valuable critic, and helped with some fantastic plot ideas. I kept a spreadsheet with the word count for each chapter, and found that really motivational. I was doing about 300 words per journey, so they soon built up. Finally the first draft was done, and after a few rounds of edits I got it bound just in time for my daughter’s birthday. It took about seven months in total, using time which otherwise I would have improved my Soduko, read more books and watched more TV. True, my garden would have looked much better and my house would have been cleaner, but I gave myself different priorities.
For anyone reading who loves the idea of writing a novel but can’t see where you can fit it in, take a good look at your schedule. You really don’t need long every day, but you do need to be consistent and disciplined. Write things down as you think of them, because you can always change them later. Just start!
Thanks, Sue! Hopefully this has inspired some of you to go for it! You can follow Sue on Twitter here, and check out our ‘author in residence’ page for all of her posts so far this month.