In 2014, I started my PhD studies at the University of Birmingham where, as part of those studies, I had to write a full-length novel. On January 30th, that novel was published by Bloodhound Books, and on February 8th (last night) I launched the book officially at my local library, surrounded by friends and family who I simply wouldn’t be without. I was terrified – as I often am before an event – but the entire evening was a beautiful experience and I’m grateful to the people who made it so.
As part of the evening, there was a question and answer session scheduled. I didn’t know how this would go – very few people who were there had actually read the book, on account of the event being its launch and all, so I was relying on people having questions from the extracts that I’d read, but it felt touch and go with a book like Intention whether people would really want to ask anything at all. That said, to my surprise and utter delight, people not only asked questions, but they asked perceptive and thought-provoking questions that led to a Q&A beyond my wildest hopes.
In the restless sleep that followed the launch – who can sleep when they’re so excited? – I wondered whether these questions were worth re-creating somewhere. I can’t remember them all, so I’m looking for some reader-participation (if you will) and I’m sorry for the eye roll that I imagine that caused. But I’d like to do a question and answer blog series – starting with a question that I’ll borrow from last night – and following this first post I’ll be opening the floor for people to send me any writerly questions that they care for my answer on (even if the question is “What the bloody hell do you know about writing?” which is also a fair point to raise). I’ll be sharing this post across social media channels so if you do have a question you can contact me there, or you can pop a comment at the end of the post.
So, to get the ball rolling…
Question (from friend and fellow author, Kieran Davis):
Do you have any kind of writing routine?
I wish I could tell people that I had a routine. I would love for something dramatic, like: Yes, I stand on my head for the first five hundred words and they have to be written before sunrise. Truthfully, I am better at setting routines than I am at sticking to them.
When I wrote Intention it was a compulsive process insofar as I would write literally whenever I had a second to. If I was having tea with my mum, I would write while she was ordering; if the taxi was five minutes late, then that was long enough to get down a chapter idea. I think that compulsive style is how I approach writing, perhaps in a bid to get the whole thing done before I lose interest / steam, it’s hard to say. Intention’s gestation period was longer than expected, not because of the writing itself but because of the editing – but that’s another question altogether – so it’s hard to pin down exactly how long that book took to write (although from PhD to published it has been a long five years).
The book that I’m currently working on – which is another novel – followed the same compulsive lines. It took me seven weeks to write the first draft – which, from memory, came in at around 64,000 words. It will lose some and gain some over the course of the editing. But again, the writing itself was something I crammed in whenever I could, rather than portioning off certain times of day to get it done. Whenever there was a spare moment – including that half an hour before bed that’s usually reserved for reading and tea-drinking – it was filled with writing.
It could be an urgency thing, or an excitement thing, I’m not sure. I suppose the real writerly lesson that I’d promote through this is two-fold though. Firstly, be fiercely protective about writing time – even if it involves sitting on the loo ‘with a stomach ache’ for five minutes longer than necessary, just to key in a quick idea on your phone. Secondly, if you have an idea that fills you with urgency, persist with it. Part of the reason that Intention exists is because I whole-heartedly believed that I had a story to tell through Gillian (my main character). You have to feel like that, I think, and you have to hold on to that feeling. It might not lead to a writing routine – but sometimes sheer persistence outweighs set working hours.
So there we have it, my first question and answer! I hope it proves useful / entertaining / maybe both, if I’m lucky, and I hope it encourages more questions because writing about writing is always a good way to avoid whatever I’m meant to be editing (so please send me your questions). But seriously, if you have a question or query or even just a comment that you’d like a response or opinion on, get in touch. I’ll be checking the comments section on here and Facebook, and you’re welcome to Tweet if that’s your preferred social media hang-out.
Happy writing, all. Let’s talk soon.