Saturday 12 January 2019

What do writers DO?

Good question. And most “civilians” have some seriously strange ideas about us. Here are some truths.

Over 90% of writers earn less than £6,000 per annum and a high percentage of that a lot less, so, sorry, we are not all millionaires. Most of us have a day job to pay for luxuries like the mortgage and food, which, of course, makes writing something else to fit into a busy life. This writer has also found that most people who ask what you do and you tell them, tend to have a wide-eyed, almost panicked moment as if we stepped off the latest spaceship from Mars. Please let me reassure you. We are mortal, just like you. We also suffer from washing machines flooding the kitchen, mice learning to tap-dance in the attic and the power-steering failing as you go up a hill.

Now I have sorted out that misunderstanding, let me tell you what writers really do, or, what this one does. One of a writer’s secrets is routine. I cannot settle if I haven’t cleaned my teeth or walked the dog. And my day begins relatively early - around 6am in summer and 7am in winter. I am now a past master at walking the dog in semi-darkness. It is just as well I live near the east coast of Lincolnshire. 

My working day begins at 8.30, which usually means I have time between breakfast and getting to my desk to prepare dinner. This ensures that my nagging inner voice isn’t telling me to do something else when I am trying to work. And work it most certainly is. Very few writers write alone, so your family needs to know you are working and only to disturb you if there is a dire emergency or they haven’t seen you for hours and creep in proffering coffee.

Every writer works differently, so you develop systems and practises that work for you. The only act writers truly share is that of writing, but don’t ever stop experimenting with other writers’ methods for you may find one that suits you better than the one you currently use. Approach these with an open mind and try to put aside a few hours to see if they fit your mindset, your genre and the way you work. Some writers write all day with a long walk in the middle. Some begin to write after lunch and carry on until late evening or even into the small hours. I am an early bird. I can achieve far more between 6am and 2pm than at any other time of day, so that is when I write.

 Writing can be likened to a knitting pattern. There is the rib border at the bottom, which forms the solid base for the pattern to come. The pattern can be changed by the use of colours - stripes, fair-isle. Or the pattern itself can change to form a more complicated pattern, like an Aran, with its twists and cables.
This is my writing pattern. I have the initial idea, which can be sparked by anything I read or see. This is that first flush of anything being possible and I let my brain whirl around all the what-ifs? during the dog walk, when I am in the bath or travelling somewhere. For a crime writer, the bones of the plot are an early must-have. Perhaps it will be the method of murder that comes as that first spark or a twist on something ordinary to make it extra-ordinary. 

For the new series I have begun, set in the time of the Wars of the Roses, one of my first essentials was a research bibliography, which will appear at the end of the book. How people spoke, court etiquette, what people ate, how they dressed, travelled, what their houses were like and the rest of it. This information gives believable flesh to the bones of my plot. This series introduces Gideon Rooke, stable boy on the wrong side of the Yorkist/Lancastrian war who has to question whether blind loyalty is in England's best interests. Hopefully, Loyalty in Conflict will be available in the early part of 2019.

A plot is simply the sequence of events in your story and sometimes switching them around can give you a new perspective and a new plot. However, just writing a book on a sequence of events tacked onto a background of 15th century living would be boring in the extreme. For me while the bones of the plot are still in the melting pot, I need characters. For it is the characters who will drive your story. People are people whether they live in the 10th, 15th or 21st centuries. They have desires, needs, flaws, reverses, hopes and dreams. It is the use of these traits within the events of your story that will make your writing sing. They will experience triumphs and disasters that will affect their views and actions on both their lives and the lives of those surrounding them and those reverses or triumphs will affect the events in your story.

Once I have these loosely settled in my head, or more likely, as index cards — I use Scrivener, but plenty of people buy index cards and use those — the hard boring bit begins. Writing. There are many quotations about writing, my favourite is by Hemingway —  There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. And believe me, some days, it really is like that, days when finding every word is like wading through treacle. So this is when you have to employ two other weapons in the writer’s arsenal. Persistence and bum-glue. For without them, you will never finish your magnum opus.

And then comes the wondrous day, 70/80/100 thousand words later when you can type The End. Except that this is the time you discover it is not the end, it is only the beginning. The beginning of editing, proof-reading, beta-readers and either finding a publisher or going down the not always smooth route of self-publishing. And then, you hold your published book in your hand or see it on Amazon Kindle or whatever. But you are still not finished for now comes marketing. Every day or at least several times a week. Trying to raise your profile so that you might, just might, get a few extra readers. And please don’t kid yourself your publisher will do this, unless, of course, you are your own publisher. No, you have to do it. And you have to keep on doing it. 

Then, there is just the little matter of the next book… and the one after that. 

You can read more about April Taylor here:

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