I was listening to the wonderful Michael Jecks the other day. His series of videos on being a writer are a needs must for anyone out there contemplating putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard. He is such a nice guy, very down to earth, with no ‘side’ to him at all. Not only that, but his books are pretty darn good too! But the reason I’m writing is not simply to praise Michael, but to think about some of his comments and try to add my own thoughts to the mix.
More than anything, Michael is a writer. He often talks about the work ethic, that aspect of being disciplined. He writes for about ten hours every day, with a break in between, as he sees this as his job. I absolutely echo this. To be a writer, you have to treat it as a job. It is not a hobby or a pastime. You must, if you want to achieve anything in this business, be prepared to make sacrifices. And, above all else, if you have a family, they have to understand this is just like going out every morning to the office. It’s work. End of. So treat it as such. Be disciplined. Make your timetable – especially if, like me, you have another job – in order to manage your time. Often I come home totally drained of energy and the last thing I want to do is write. Usually, especially in the late summer, I have masses of reports to write. Being a teacher everything accelerates as the end of term draws nearer. There is no getting away from it, but if you do not time-manage, your writing will suffer. And that, for me, is a total no-no.
So, get yourself sorted.
I write best at the weekend. I get up early, have some breakfast, then write. I have a break at around 11 for a coffee, then it is back to writing until around 2pm. Time for lunch, but I have what is termed a ‘working lunch’, as I’m going over what I’ve previously written, adding, editing, all the usual stuff. The afternoon is not so manic for me, but come the mid-part of the evening, I’m at it again. I edit each chapter as I finish it, looking for repeated words and phrases mainly, over-used and filler words. I do the best I can and, when I’m satisfied, I put it away until tomorrow. I never used to do this. I followed the Elmore Leonard approach of simply writing. But I then found going over an 80,000 word manuscript so incredibly time consuming and, I have to admit, boring, I have abandoned this approach for the one just described. And, you know what, it works. I can finish my novels so much more quickly now. I have written two full-blown novels in 4 months. That’s pretty good going I feel. From now on, this will be the approach I use.
Michael was also asked the inevitable ‘do you suffer from writer’s block?’ And his answer, thank fully, was the same as mine. No. Neither of us know what this is. We write. There is no secret, we have an idea and we develop it. Michael’s research and knowledge of the medieval period is exceptional. Me, I’m just a dabbler, but I do love researching. For my Viking novel ‘Varangian’ (and the second in the series, ‘To be King of the Norse’, to be published later this year by Rebel-E) I devoted a great deal of time and effort in researching, but I loved every minute.
My library is growing and I feel good about that. Yes, I do use Wikipedia, because it is quick and simple and can lead you to all sorts of wonderful places you may not have previously thought about, but my mainstay is well written books.
So, there we are. Just two subjects I’m sure will be of interest to many aspiring novelists. But always remember, writing fiction is not about writing a book – it’s all about writing books. When you’ve finished the first one, you get right down to the second and you continue doing so.
Keep reading, and thanks for dropping by.
Please, if you have a moment, drop by to visit my website: http://www.stuartgyates.com. Here you can find out more about my work, together with some excerpts from my books.