Monday, 8 March 2010


Reading Col Bury's post on writing time got me thinking about the extraordinary coalition of good circumstance one needs to write a novel. Seeing as nobody is ever going to come up to you randomly in the supermarket and go, "Hey, here's ten grand, why don't you take a year off to go and get that novel written", CURSE IT, you've gotta do the best you can in the circumstances you've got.

I've been writing my second novel since summer last year, and am now into my favourite part of the process, the rewriting and editing. Do not ask me why I like this part so much. I can only tell you that it somehow appeals to my inner pernickety.

Over the course of the past year, I've realised that being a hobbyist as regards writing is a hiding to nothing. You've got to be serious about it, and you've got to have an understanding and supportive partner (oh, such an understanding and supportive partner). So, with the knowledge gained from my extensive work on the Big Project over the last 9 months or so, here are my findings so far about what you need to write a book.

Time. It's going to weigh heavy on your hours, this writing a novel business. Bank on 1000 hours at least. WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO GET THEM? Maybe they could come out of your social life, or the time your employer is underpaying you to sell your soul to him, or the hours you'd normally spend sleeping. I can't decide this shit for you.

Discipline. To get in front of the laptop when you'd rather be watching Come Dine With Me.

Complete lack of interest in maintaining a social life. People will forget what you look like. People will begin to suspect that you hate them. Get used to it: you're a writer now.

Extremely nice, but long-suffering, boyfriend / girlfriend / wife / husband / partner. Get this: my LSB built me a desk (built me a desk) in the alcove of our living room, so that I'd have somewhere to work, and I spurned it in favour of sitting on the bed upstairs. I've now even spurned that in favour of the newly-spare room. My LSB is not allowed to listen to music, or talk to me, or approach me, while I am busy ignoring him in favour of a bunch of imaginary people. Readers, I do not know why he puts up with it. I can only say that I think he deserves to be canonised. Thanks, boyfriend.

A wordprocessor. Fairly self-explanatory, this.

Notebooks Regular readers of my blog will know that I am (a) a compulsive notebook hoarder and (b) that I'm not in favour of overly-prescriptive writing advice. But my opinion on (b), I think, is changing a bit. I'm coming to the opinion that authors skip researching, character work, and outlining, at their peril. If you don't have a good outline, or strong character sketches at the start of your book, you'll end up with a load of unreadable tosh that no amount of editing is going to put right. Just sayin'.

A kettle. Yeah, even if you don't drink tea or coffee.

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