It’s fascinating to read what writers do when they’re writing. Some write an outline, get up early and stick to a daily word count quota. Others turn off their cell phones and hide away until they finish. Maya Angelou rented a hotel room, by the month, where she kept a dictionary, a thesaurus and a bible as well as a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles. One of my favourite writers, Khaled Housseni doesn’t outline, hates first drafts and believes real writing occurs in the rewrite. Jodi Picoult doesn’t believe in writer’s block but says the time we spend writing must be treated as precious since ‘you can always edit a bad page but you can’t edit a blank page.’
Three months ago I responded to a Wednesday writing challenge with what became the first of a ten part science fiction series I called Starman : Life on TrappistOne. Having always been a science fiction fan since as long as I can remember, I found it oddly liberating and stimulating to write science fiction. It never occurred to me before. Apart from anything else, you can free yourself from the encroaching tentacles of ‘cultural appropriation’ from the start.
Since then, I’ve continued to blog but restricting my blogging to flash fiction and 50 word responses to the Daily Post Prompt. It’s like a stretching exercise for the writing muscles every day. The rest of my blogging has involved choosing tasty web articles, on subjects dear to my heart and intellect, to reblog.
There’s been the occasional short story too, to keep things interesting and varied. One of those articles I reblogged, for example, about how Charles Dickens chose names for his characters, prompted me to write a Dickensian style trilogy that ran to more than 7,000 words, called The Rise & Fall of Donald Trumpet Esq.
But what has really kept my oven hot and the dough rising in these past three months is that science fiction story that began as a response to a weekly writer’s challenge and then became a 10 part, episodic science fiction series, because now it has become a novel, or at least, a novel in the making.
So far, I’ve written more than 25,000 words and, in the nature of these novels on the web, I could end there and then began writing part 2 until I’ve a series that can be sold as a box set or a Netflix drama.
But I’m getting carried away. This began as an article about what writers do when they’re writing and all I can say is, keep busy. Unfortunately, I’m not a routine person and I hate making lists. Some days I start as soon as I wake up and the earlier, the better. Hemingway made a habit of getting up at dawn when it’s quiet and you’re undisturbed but particularly, when it’s cold. He got warm by writing.
Some people don’t like music or reading. I find myself listening to music all the time. I make country music playlists, wear earphones and play it loud. Last week I got ‘You Want It Darker?, Leonard Cohen‘s new album and I can’t stop listening to it. Reading? I’ve just finished a 1,000 page epic by Spanish writer, Ildefonso Falcones, ‘The Hand of Fatima’. I’ve also read three books by fellow bloggers, Tanya Cliff’s Tales from the Valdaren, Caillen James’ Forgotten: Andones, Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling by P.S. Bartlett and Ronovan Hester, The House Across the Street by Celerina Avellano and Lucy Brazier’s PorterGirl : First Lady of the Keys.
And those are the books I’ve read. Lined up in my inbox are Paul Beatty’s Man Booker Prize winning, The Sellout, Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings and the latest in Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series, Rather Be the Devil.
In the past week I’ve seen two plays, ‘Donegal‘, a new musical by acclaimed Irish playwright, Frank McGuinness and The Kings of Kilburn High Road by Irish playwright, Jimmy Murphy. I can’t stop watching films and am currently switching between two Netflix series that could not be further apart, The Crown and The Expanse.
So, let me offer this in mitigation for my tenuous presence in the blogosphere, a presence I cannot forego and indeed, find I need but must struggle to find the time. Because I’m busy. That’s why I’m writing.