Obviously, I always have lists of things I have to do – last month it included “Pay My Tax”, but also check my Public Lending Right statement, to see how much I’ve earned from the wonderful people who borrow my books from libraries.
Times are tough. Your library is a free resource and they’re under threat everywhere, so do make the most of them.
Public Lending Right for those who have never heard of it – and if you’re not a writer, why would you? – was spearheaded by the Society of Authors, an organisation that offers advice to, and lobbies for the interests of authors.
If you’re an author but not a member, Writer Beware gives information about scam merchants who try to rip off authors with fake competitions and dodgy publishers – the people who ask you to pay vast sums of money to publish your book and, having pocketed it, do nothing to sell it. Check them out before you sign a contract.
But back to my list
This one comes around about twice a year. It’s the “When I’ve Finished the Book” List.
The way writing works, at least for me, is that I set off full of excitement, with a wordcount spreadsheet which was designed by the very smart Joanna Maitland and generously shared with other Liberta hivies.
At this point I have total optimism that by sitting at my desk every day (possibly including weekends) I will get it done in the time allotted. Sometimes I actually manage it, although not without some hiccups on the way.
I’m not a plotter
It’s following my characters, and seeing how they deal with the mess I throw at them, that keeps me writing.
Sooner or later, however, after that first fine rapture, I falter. I have all these characters hovering on the edge of something and I haven’t a clue where to go.
At this point confidence takes a hit. I stare at the screen. I rewrite the first chapter. Several times. I revise everything I’ve written over and over. Deleting a sentence, putting it back, changing the order of a paragraph, anything to stay with my story.
If I’m lucky I’ll be able to add a few words to the word count spreadsheet. There are days when I positively hate the wordcount spreadsheet. Days when I’m convinced that I’ll never write another word.
(This was a very good week!)
Crime writer, Sue Grafton said that at this point you have to “trust the process” so I suspect that she wasn’t much of a plotter, either.
The backroom staff
While I sit at the keyboard and fiddle with what I’ve already written, the backroom staff, aka my subconscious, will be working on it. Eventually, usually when I’m at the point of despair, I’ll be thrown a lifeline, a chink of light to guide me into the next scene. I’ll write an entirely new sentence and I’ll be off.
I’ve got three months, it’ll be fine…
The wordcount is building nicely, I’m half way through when I get that cough that everyone seems to have had this winter. Sore throat, cough, crackling chest, antibiotics and a body and brain that refuse to do anything except the minimum. Make tea, eat a little…
And then it’s the holidays.
I’m now down to two months to my deadline, but the downtime has given the “staff” a lot of time to get their act together and sort out what happens next. The words flow and I’m off and running, only stopping to make a cup of tea before I’m at the keyboard — the tea will get cold — from the moment I fall out of bed.
Sometimes I’m still in my pjs at two in the afternoon but I try to remember to get dressed on the days when the supermarket man delivers.
I eat. A sandwich or a bowl of soup or something on toast and I write. At five I stop for a catch up on zoom with my cheer group – we’re all writers and we cheer each other on — and then, more words, because they always inspire me.
This is wonderful. Better than wonderful. I’m now at a point where I’m ahead of my deadline, which is when I start saying, “…when I’ve finished the book…”
The “When I’ve Finished the Book” list
When I’ve finished the book I’m going take time off to read the books that have been piling up on my Kindle all winter. The latest Rivers of London from Ben Aaronovitch, Murder by Mistake — the latest Libby Sargeant from Lesley Cookman, Sarah Callejo’s debut Dark Sanctuary and a load of others.
When I’ve finished the book, I’m going to get my office straight. Everything piles up when you’re in the final stages of a book. Just the notes scribbled during internet searches would make a mountain.
When I’ve finished the book, I’m going to get out into the garden and remove all the winter mess. I have a long raised bed which I’ve planted so that I can leave it to more-or-less do its own thing. But the hard frosts we’ve been having have hit the pots hard. And the paving needs a scrub.
When I’ve finished the book, my daughter and I are going to redeem our joint Christmas present to each other, go to London, have a great lunch and see The Mousetrap.
And then, when I’ve done all that, I’ll get back to work on the next book and it will start all over again. But no stress, my next deadline is months away!