I am a dreadful insomniac. I would love to find something that could make me drop off to sleep and stay that way until a decent hour of the morning, but until I do, I just consider the hours of 3 and 4 in the morning to be plotting time, when I run through what’s going to happen with my characters and resolve the holes in my stories.
Just recently, though, I’ve cracked down on my night-time screen time in a bid to sleep better. At 10:00 I turn off the TV, put away my PC and phone and the final half-hour before settling to sleep is for reading in ink and paper while my brainwaves settle to slumber (I think that’s what’s supposed to happen).
This week, I’ve been reading a book recommended by my mum. It’s another one that’s completely outside my usual genre (I think it would be classed either as “women’s fiction” or “general fiction”, tags which say next to nothing about what you’re getting. The New Mrs Clifton is set in post-war London and revolves around a German woman who marries an English soldier at the end of the war and comes to settle in Britain.
It’s a very good read, but it’s so entertaining to look at it beside my usual YA fare because almost nothing happens. I mean, that’s not true, there’s a pregnancy and a baby and someone winds up dead, but compared to the usual frantic pace of aliens or armies or assassins it was very subdued. I don’t mean that as a criticism, just a difference in how books approach that thorny matter of exploring something about what it means to be human.
Did I sleep better? Meh, not so I noticed – but planning for my next book is coming on a treat!!!
It’s a good metaphor: the writing life is full of ups and downs, as well as being occasionally terrifying, sometimes exhilarating, and feeling largely out of control much of the time.
This week, I’m delighted to say I’m on a breathless whoosh downhill as the words for my brand new WIP pile up.
For once, timings worked out perfectly. I got my ideas planned out in plenty of time. Then Offspring went away for a fortnight with Dad leaving me time to write. The first week I managed 20k words, and I’m on target to reach 40k before O gets back on bank holiday afternoon.
Now, that might not be remarkable for some of you, maybe you write indecently quickly all the time, but it’s absolutely astonishing for me and I’m delighted – particularly since the last book I wrote was like pulling teeth from start to finish.
There are three things I can credit with my sudden productivity (other than bloody-minded determination, which is always there).
I planned this one more carefully than I ever have before so I knew the complete shape of the narrative (rather than sketching out the first third and then hoping for the best).
I wrote brief notes for what was coming up before starting a writing session so I never had to stop and stare into space wondering what was going to happen next.
And I’ve been doing writing sprints. Ordinarily I would say if I have some time to dedicate to writing I can write 1k words in an hour – but getting that unbroken hour is pretty tricky. Instead, I’ve been setting a timer for 20 minutes and getting 500 words written in that time.
This morning, for example, I checked my overall plan on the whiteboard, sketched notes of what was going to happen in the next scene, got my tea (very important) and set the timer. Two 20 minute sessions (breakfast came in between) and I’m 1200 words up.
Like a rollercoaster, I know my mood and feelings about the book are going to go down as well as up, but for now … I’m just enjoying the ride!
It’s the first weekend of the school holidays, so naturally the weather is disgusting. All thoughts of walking along to the castle and enjoying an ice cream in the sun have been shelved.
It’s exactly the sort of day to stay in and read a book – or write one. Choosing the latter, Offspring and I are plotting. O has a story to write and so do I – and we’re having great fun bouncing ideas off each other.
I’m normally quite precious about sharing ideas because I think they’re delicate and easy to ruin – like trying to remember a dream, discussing a story out loud before it’s gained some strength might just make the bubble burst and it’ll be gone forever.
But the Post-Its and Sharpies are out, the white board is scribbled and stuck all over and my next book is actually in better shape than it’s ever been before (it’s a failing of mine that I’ll start writing – all enthusiasm – before I actually know fully what the story’s going to be, only to come to a screeching halt round about 20k words when I run out of ideas).
I’ve got another couple of weeks before I’ll let myself put finger to keyboard (another wip to revise, then a holiday away to recharge batteries), but I’m getting so excited it’s going to be hard to wait – which is just as it should be.
Can you beat that for a way to spend a wet weekend?