“Everyday I Write the Book”: Ten Things I’ve Learnt from Ten Days of Writing

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1. Writers who say they can write nine to five are telling fibs or taking some kind of performance enhancing drugs- three straight hours is about as much as I can possibly manage before losing the will to live.

2. Good reading leads to good writing- the more quality word I put in, the better the words coming out. Maybe this week I’ll actually dig into Faulkner.

3. Walk your characters out- every time I hit a wall, I go marching round East Belfast and for some strange reason this seems to untangle any knots my characters have managed to get themselves into.

4. Never underestimate the insidious powers of 60 Minute MakeoverNormally I have reasonably good taste in television. Now I watch home makeover programmes and Don’t Tell the Bride and I don’t even feel that guilty about it.

5. Beware the members at the Linenhall Library- I’ve learnt the hard way that there are places where fee payers can sit to write and somewhat less appealing places where everyone else can sit. Also the Births, Deaths and Marriages section attracts an inordinate amount of noisy Americans.

6. Back up, back up, back up- there is no pain, like the pain of accidentally deleting a good morning’s work. If you don’t have a pen drive, email it yourself. It will make you swear out loud in the Linenhall Library and this will not go down well with the fee paying members.

7. Distractions aren’t always distractions- after 48 hours of talking to no one except the fictional characters I’ve been carrying round my head for the last few weeks, I realised that a nice coffee and a good conversation can be just as productive as an another hour of writing, and may actually keep me from crawling up the walls of my own skull.

8. Aim, fire, leave- I’ve been shooting for 1,000 words a day. It’s manageable. It stops me from writing drivel just for the sake of boosting my word count and it’s meant that I’m still interested in a manuscript I’ve written 10,000 words of since the beginning of the month.

9. There’s no shame in talking to yourself in public- I have now perfected the patented one hand over my mouth, reading aloud to myself in coffee shops to get the edit right, technique. People may stare and apparently I look reasonably furious but it’s giving me a really good idea of how the book reads.

10. Fall asleep thinking about your story- Already this week I’ve had two, slightly mental, but really interesting dreams about my characters which have given me some brilliant ideas for where the plot is going. A nice glass of wine before bed can only aid this process.

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