When I say I’ve got a little list, it’s growing longer by the day.
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 isn’t about remembering to pay bills, or what I need to ask Alexa to add to my shopping 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
I’ve tried plotting and honestly it doesn’t work for me. If I do plot out a story, I have usually gone off piste by chapter two. Or much worse, I’ve lost interest because I know what happens.
It’s following my characters, and seeing how they deal with the mess I throw at them, that keeps me writing.
I’ll have an idea, or a character. (I had the idea and character for my next book twenty odd years ago – some books take longer than others!) Then I set off with it at quite a lick.
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 give my flat a thorough spring clean. A moving-the-heavy-furniture clean. The outside of the windows as well as the inside. Washing down paintwork.
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!
Thank you, Liz! How well I recognise all of this… and I really think I ought to learn how to use Joanna’s spreadsheet…
Pleasure, Lesley. I spent Friday and Saturday reading an unpub’d ms that that I’m really excited about but Libby is next on my list. And the really exciting thing about Joanna’s spreadsheet is when it starts giving you minus numbers because you’re past the minimum wordcount and going way over!
This so resonates with me. As an aspiring writer, it is so reassuring to read your description of your writing process. Your to-do list sounds very familiar.
Glad to hear that Susan. Good luck with the writing -, and the jobs that pile up while you’re focused on the book.
Haha and so it starts again. I love reading your articles they give an insight to all the hard work that goes introducing a great book. I will now try to not to get impatient waiting for the next one to be on sale. Enjoy the Mousetrap.
Thank you, Yvonne. How kind of you very much looking forward to the London outing
should say in producing a great book.
Oh goodness yes. The TBR pile, the glory holes (make that glory volcanoes), the poor plants that need love and attention or at least a good watering…. I SO relate to this.
I MUST finish that damn book before most of my plants die and the survivors turn feral and eat the cat.
So far I’ve read two really good books, done some IT housekeeping and found a primrose flowering in the garden. Take care of the cat!
Oh Liz, I can empathise with everything there! I am not a plotter, either and keep a list on my wall of things to do AFTER I finish the book…there is also the problem of things that need doing BEFORE I finish it. Such as remembering to harvest the veg I planted so enthusiastically all those weeks ago, or to write a blog… Nice to know I am not alone! Thanks for sharing it all
Glad to help, Sarah. Good luck with the veg!
Curse you, Liz Fielding! You just had to alert me to the fact that there is a new Rivers of London book, didn’t you? Arrggghhh! Just what I need – another book on my reading pile. LOL! I have lists for when I’ve finished the book, too. Right now though I’m at the read-myself-back-into-the-book after a four week break due to getting a New Knee. All very well, but sitting up properly at a desk has been Less Than Comfortable up to now. Not painful precisely but definitely uncomfortable and distracting. So today is the day. I’m seated at my desk, reading The Book. Or perhaps The Fragment is slightly more accurate at this point…
Hugs on the knee replacement, Elizabeth. I had a new hip last year which slowed me down for a while, but I’m like a new woman now. I know a knee replacement is much tougher so I hope the discomfort is over soon – just keep doing the exercises! And good luck getting back into the book.
I had a look at the garden. Swept up a few leaves but it was damp out there. I am such a fair weather gardener! I have done some ironing, though. Today’s task – clear the desk so that I’m ready to start edits!