By Maggie James
Keeping my creative juices flowing...
'I'd love to write a novel,' many people have told me. 'How exactly do you go about it, though?' Good question! Through this blog, I'll attempt to provide an answer. I'll be covering in later posts the details of how I plot, write, edit and publish my books, but today I'll concentrate on how a typical day shapes up for me.
Despite the fact I'm a night owl, I write better in the mornings. I don't pretend to understand why, given that I'm far more energetic in the evenings, but hey ho! That's the way it is for me, and I've learned to adapt, forcing myself out of bed at what seems to me an unnaturally early hour. During the summer months, I'm up at six a.m., so I can be at my desk by 7.30 a.m., showered, dressed and ready for work, the same as if I were back in my former employment. Actually, that's an hour earlier than my old start time. The work is a lot more fun, too!
So how do I structure my time? Well, I split my day into two parts. I work until I'm ready for lunch, and then from three until five or six p.m. As I'm more creative in the mornings, that's when I focus on my writing. If I'm crafting a novel, I aim to do at least 2,000 words per session. Plotting stage? Then I'll I draft a pre-set number of scenes or a whole chapter. If I'm revising, I usually edit a chapter a day. I set targets and dates for almost all areas of my writing. I find this motivates me as well as keeping me accountable and on track. My targets and deadlines are never too rigid, though - I'd hate to shackle myself to a tightly defined schedule. Staying flexible is good and allows the creative juices to flow!
Tweet and pin, rinse and repeat...
So once I've had lunch, what then? Well, in the afternoons, I work on my marketing, as well as any sundry tasks I need to do. I'm active on social media such as Twitter and Google+, and to a smaller extent Facebook and Pinterest. I'm using Facebook less these days; in common with many people, I'm finding its algorithms increasingly user-unfriendly. Pinterest is fun, and I'll make greater use of it to showcase my novels' locations once I expand them outside Bristol. Number five will be set wholly or partly in Cambodia, so I'll be pinning lots of photos of that beautiful country in the future. It's somewhere I've already been, and the travelholic in me plans to return!
Marketing isn't restricted to using social media, of course. For example, if I'm planning a Kindle promotion for any of my novels, I need to spend time contacting the major free and discounted book websites and newsletters. And there are always things I need to do besides marketing, such as maintaining this blog. I aim to update it regularly, so I use my afternoon time to prepare my posts, as well as ensuring my website content is up to date.
How a glass of Merlot keeps me on track...
I'm very aware that, although writing novels is great fun, I'm also running a business. That's why I spend almost as much time marketing my books as I do writing them. I keep on track with what needs doing and when by using task management software (yes, I can be geeky, I admit it!). I also have bi-weekly review sessions, in which I check how my writing career is going. I'll look at my sales figures, blog statistics, my to-do list - anything that needs my attention.
Curiously enough, these sessions often take place in local cafes and bars on a Friday afternoon over a glass or two of red wine. Not a bad way to wind down the working week! Unless I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - a mad but fun competition in which entrants aim to write a 50,000 word novel during November), I usually give myself the weekend off.
Future blog posts about the writing process
Well, that's a typical writing day for me! As I mentioned, I'll post more about the writing process in the future, starting with how I plot a novel. I'm always being asked where I get my inspiration from! Subsequent posts will also examine the writing process itself, and how I go from zero to a hundred-thousand-plus word novel in about three months. In addition, I'll talk about what follows the first draft - the revision and editing process. I'm atypical amongst writers in enjoying that part! I love polishing my rough first draft, tweaking it until I'm satisfied it's as good as I can get it. I'll blog more in the future about how I do this, along with what's involved in publishing a novel in both Kindle and paperback formats.
There's no right or wrong way of working
Every novelist treats the process differently, of course, and the above is simply what works for me at present. There are many writers who are happy with Word or who write their novels longhand. Furthermore, not everyone likes to organise themselves to the extent I do; many people prefer a more relaxed approach. We novelists call it being a 'pantser' (someone who writes by the seat of their pants!) whereas I'm definitely a planner. Horses for courses, as they say. Either way, we achieve the same result - the delight of writing a novel!
I hope that this blog post has given you an insight into the daily life of a writer. If you're a novelist yourself, leave me a comment about how you do things. I'm always open to learning new tricks!
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