How I keep writing my books
Sometimes, I wonder how I keep writing my books. It is hard, after all, at the end of the day to say, ‘darling, look what I did!’ and point to a keyboard, which looks the same as it always does. But to keep my motivation alive, I find certain recurring features help.
I don’t use plot outlines, because most of my characters tell me where they want to go, and insist I go there with them. It is thrilling, and gives my writing unexpected gifts of energy and added realism. Out of no-where, the most intriguing twists will surface, and it then becomes my job to decide which twists I will follow up, and which I had better prune back for the sake of the narrative flow – not every development can be followed up.
For example, my latest MC, Lisa Somerville, has a boss, Evelyn, whom Lisa finds difficult to work with. Circumstances throw them together, and Evelyn finds herself flirting gently with a hospital doctor. Evelyn might decide to take it further, but should I? Or would doing so detract from the main focus?
Unless I want Lessons in Matrimonial Law to be the length of ‘War and Peace’ regretfully, I’ll have to put that new wrinkle on the back burner for now. It will come in very useful when I write Evelyn’s own story, but for the moment I have put it to one side. As dishy Doctor Fields might say, ‘This is neither the time nor the place, darling…’
I once announced on FB that I had by then written something like 64,000 words, which felt fantastic. Editing reduced that figure significantly, but I really didn’t mind. (Between writing, then editing, then writing some more, I see-sawed for days around the 62,000 mark. It got quite comical. At one time my daily word count was 2.) I take the view now, that if a word can be pruned, that gives me space for a better word.
When I first edit, I am fairly ruthless, taking out anything that is woolly, overstated, or which sounds boring or unconvincing. I don’t mind slimming down a piece of work to about two thirds its original size, because I believe there is no shortage of better words and ideas to take its place.
If I find an intriguing new wrinkle, I might put it in, just to see what I think of it, and might do with it, when I come back to writing in the detail and attending to close editing. And, especially as I near the end, if I have an idea, I will sketch it out quickly, perhaps putting it into a separate chapter, so that I can come back to it. I leave mistakes and blanks on pages, unfinished sentences, knowing I can add in an idea, a quirk, a little piece of humour or bright repartee, and leave it, to reconsider when I come back for a re-write or edit.