Sunday, 14 August 2011

Writing Schedules and the Writing Process

I'm often asked when I write, or in particular when I find the time to write, since I have a demanding full-time job. So, here goes:

1. I often get insomnia - and rather than lie in bed getting fed up with not being able to sleep, I wake up my Sony or my Mac (which is recovering in a Mac-hospital from an accidental beer-drinking episode) and write. The funny thing about 4am is that I find it pretty useful for generating new scifi ideas, maybe because I'm in a semi-dreaming state of wakefulness.

2. I write most at the weekends, usually eight hours spread over the weekend, or else flat out on Sunday, interspersed with yoga or the gym. Ideas need some concerted time to mature, otherwise they just hang around like flotsam, and they remain as flights of fancy that never end up in a story.

3. I also usually blog at the weekend. I find once a week is enough, since I do longish blogs and couldn't think what to write about every day - and in any case I prefer to be a writer than a blogger.

4. When I travel, which is often (so far this year, every week), I often do some writing on the way back. Usually on the way there (wherever there is) I'm preparing for work. I often get insomnia at hotels. Recently I wrote an entire short story in one four hour bout of insomnia at a hotel in Brussels.

5. During the week I try to do some editing, and also to read pieces from my writing colleagues, since they are also reading mine.

6. Every night before going to sleep I read, even if only a few pages. Recently it's all been scifi, since that's what I'm buried in writing at the moment. But I like other stuff, too. I usually catch up on that when I'm on holiday.

7. I always work on more than one project at a time. Right now, I've just had one story accepted, I have another submitted to an online journal, and another almost ready to go out. I have two more in early stages, about a third written, but I don't know the endings yet.

8. Sometimes (like now) I go away for a week to work on something major. This week, spent by the rainy coast of Normandy, I'm editing the sequel to my novel The Eden Paradox, which is called Eden's Trial, doing about 4-5 hours each day.

9. I don't force myself to write. If I'm not in the mood then I write rubbish, and life is too short. Some people say 'write 500 words a day, no matter what.' That doesn't work for me, and would kill my passion for writing. As a friend of mine used to joke, 'love comes in spurts', and that's how I write: driven.

10. I stopped with Facebook a while ago and haven't yet started with Twitter. I'll be honest, they don't fit my character very well, nor my job which tends to require 8-10 hours of focus every day, so I can't keep distracting myself with these things.

11. Every three weeks or so three or four of us get together in Paris and review each other's work. Reviews ranges from 'fantastic' (very rare) to 'what were you thinking?'. I sometimes re-edit and take it back a second time, depending on the damage the first time. But we know each other well and trust each other's judgement.

12. For major pieces (books) when I've done everything I can think of, I send them off for professional reviews, e.g. Cornerstones or Writers Workshop in the UK. They're not cheap, but then you get what you pay for.

I get feedback occasionally, and so far it tends to be good, sometimes exceptional. That makes it all worthwhile. But even if I didn't, I'd still write. These stories that unfold in my head have to come out...

See free stories here
The Eden Paradox can be bought here

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