The Creative Process (First of an occasional series)

July 28, 2009

One of the things I’ve been wanting to write more about is the process by which my books emerge.  Now seems like the time to do it, since I am not writing at the moment.  I have various ideas in my head about the next book but they need to percolate a little more before I begin again.  Anyway, I’m not ready to start at the bottom of another big hill just yet.  The view from down there is daunting.  On which more at a later date.

Of course, every writer is different, as this fascinating site attests.  One of my best friends is a brilliant writer who seems to wait until every last deadline has expired and then sits down and churns out a book’s worth of scintillating prose in about a week.  It seems awfully unfair.  (I wouldn’t mind, but what comes out is so good.)  Most writers depend upon a little routine, though.  This great series in the Guardian shows how obsessive some authors are about having everything just so before they sit down to write.

So here’s my tuppence worth (or two cents, depending on where you’re reading this): I get up at 5 a.m. each day and sit at my computer for two hours.  I chose that last turn of phrase carefully – sometimes there won’t be a great deal of writing done.  But I need to sit there and stare at the screen and try.  If  I don’t, the book won’t get written.  Some mornings I’ll find myself going gangbusters and will be gnashing my teeth when it’s time to stop and wake up the children.  Other times (more frequently) I can’t wait for seven o’clock to roll around so I can switch back to my other life.

So if you’re contemplating writing anything, my advice would be to set aside some time every day to devote to the effort – preferably the same time each day, or else you will find ways of avoiding the commitment (people can be very creative about avoiding being creative.)  The reason I get up at 5 is that we’re busy people and it’s the only time that I know I won’t be distracted by anything else.  Thankfully, I don’t get client calls at 5 a.m. (I’m sure some attorneys do.)

With the exception of occasional weekends, I never write at any other time.  In the evenings I’m too tired and there is too much junk in my head from the rest of the day.  Lucky I’m a morning person, I guess.  Of course, I will find myself thinking about the book and my characters throughout the day, but there is rarely a temptation to sit down and write anything.

Although it can be frustrating, there’s actually something strangely liberating about knowing that I only have two hours a day to get this stuff done.  I wrote full-time for several years, and when one has the luxury of the whole day to write, one’s inclination is always to go and do something else instead.  When I sit down at 5, by contrast, I am (usually, anyway) focused and determined to give my all for those two hours – with a couple of much-needed breaks to make coffee, of course.  It takes a long time for a book to emerge, of course, but I don’t know that that’s a bad thing.  I finished my second novel in eleven months, and it shows.  I’ve been regretting it ever since.  What’s the big rush?

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Finally.

May 27, 2009
I finally got off the fence and sent the manuscript to Bruce the Agent. Rather unromantically, he asked me to send it to him via email as a single word document, single-line spacing. He didn’t want it wrapped up in ribbon and delivered by carrier pigeon.
In the event that we hoodwink some unsuspecting publishing house into buying the thing, any editor will want changes made anyway, so little point fretting over every tiny detail at this juncture. There’ll still be plenty of time for all that.
So I now I get to sit back and worry about what Bruce is going to say. I’m guessing he’ll send it on to my agent in NYC, too. Her reaction will be as telling as his.
Final stats:
3,064 Paragraphs
11,457 lines
141,025 words
662,459 characters (not including spaces)

OK, then.

December 11, 2008
Thanks, JB, for the tip.  Technical gremlins now removed, the opening salvo of “Paradise” will be on its way shortly.
Bet y’all can’t wait.

Grand Plan – Help Wanted

December 11, 2008
I had this grand idea to start posting bits of my new novel up on the blog as a way of hiding the fact that I wasn’t writing anything specific for the blog for long stretches of time.  And so I will… if someone can please tell me how to paste chunks of text into the little box which one writes in.  Every time I try the text ends up at the bottom of the screen, which doesn’t help.
Any and all suggestions gratefully received.