Saturday, 26 April 2014

When not to write

There is a lot of guidance out there on when to write. Some say do 500 words a day, some say write when the inspiration comes. I tend to write when I have insomnia, because early in the morning (e.g. 4am) is a good time to write science fiction - or anything else for that matter - as there are usually no distractions.

But there are also times to stop writing. One of the most important ones is where I am now, in the gap between having finished the first full draft of a book, and starting the first complete edit. As a writer it's tempting to jump straight in, but you need some distance, to read the text as if reading someone else's, otherwise it can sound good when it isn't.

It isn't easy to stop writing. Some might say switch to blogging, or some other social media, or write something else. I have been working on another novel, a thriller rather than science fiction, but I decided to stop all writing for a few weeks (except a few blogs). I want to gather the energy to plough through the first draft and get it to a good second draft. It's like taking a deep breath.

So when I woke up this morning at 3:40, I had to resist powering up my Sony. I ended up reviewing a chapter from another writer for their book, doing some meditation, then some yoga while watching the sunrise over La Defense on the west side of Paris. Later I went into Paris to the Marais to sample the best falafel in France, and Place de Vosges - I've not been there for years. This afternoon I picked up my guitar and played a few songs. I'm watching Lord of the Rings, the director's cut of all three films, two other SF series (Continuum and Alphas), and reading Gary Gibson and Peter Hamilton in parallel. I'm contacting friends and family more, and doing more yoga/gym/pilates/tai chi. Life, right? And working hard on my day/evening job.

Truth is, though, I'm missing writing. It's not a vocation, it's an addiction. A mistress. But I know that if I can hold out for a few weeks, maybe a month, then the edit will be sharper.

It's not just the writing I miss. The voices of my characters, the ones I carry in my head, are silent. It's like they, too, are hanging around, waiting. I've also stopped making little mental notes to myself when I see something or hear something, and think I could work it into chapter twenty-three... Life's a lot more zen at the moment.

I know it works - it did for books 1-3, so it will work for book 4, too. I'll see my writer colleagues tomorrow night, and I'll feel like a bit of an interloper, but they all know what I'm doing and why.

2 more weeks. I think I can make it.

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