I treat writing Everborne as a job. If I didn’t, then I will never be more than an amateur writer. As you may expect, writing takes up the bulk of my day. Though there are two other essential ingredients that complete my every working day. They are reading and exercise. (Though not at the same time—if only!)
When you’re working on something creative, it’s hard to be exact, but on average I spend seven to eight hours writing each day, putting in thirty-five to forty hours a week. That’s around the average working hours of a paid job. (Hopefully, one day, I will be paid to write Everborne and other novels… One day.)
I break my writing time into two blocks, the first is of roughly three hours and the second is of roughly four-and-a-bit hours. I start the first block each morning by reading what I’ve written the day before and editing it. Once I’ve done this (it can take anywhere between thirty minutes to the whole three hours), I then continue where I left off.
This is really helpful in avoiding sitting down each morning and staring at a blank laptop screen and wondering how to fill it up with words. Instead, I’m able to ease myself into the day’s writing.
It always feels nice to end a day by finishing a chapter or a scene, but it’s easier to start a day mid-scene, as you can quickly get back into it. However I’m starting each day, on my morning walk or run with Cass, I think about what I’m to write that morning. (I don’t think about anything else, not even the afternoon: that’s far off.) Sometimes that includes thinking of a good first line to begin the scene, if I’m not continuing one.
This is how an average day looks:
6:30AM—Wake up, run with/walk Cass, breakfast, shower, reading.
9AM—Writing block 1.
Midday—Weights, lunch, reading.
2PM—Writing block 2 (split by an afternoon dog walk).
6:45PM—end of day.
You could look at this and argue that I could squeeze in another hour or two of writing, either by sacrificing time spent on reading or exercising, or even by working until a bit later. I disagree. (Obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it! I’ve so far spent eight weeks following this routine.)
I consider reading and exercise just as important as writing. Without them, I don’t think the time spent writing would be as productive, in both terms of quality and output.
Exercise not only stimulates my muscles but my mind too. It gives me time to think about what I’m working on that day, or to reflect on what I’ve recently written. It allows me to process anything I’m stuck on or currently working out, and it helps me to avoid writer’s block as well. That’s why, in writing block 2, I just write when I feel a natural break occurs. Then I can resume, refreshed.
Not only that, exercise keeps me positive and focused. Writing doesn’t begin at the laptop. When I first sit down at my laptop each day, I’ve already been thinking about writing for two hours. Exercise also prevents me from sitting down all day and means I can sit more comfortably and for longer when I do.
I’ve been asked how I find it working on my own day-in day-out, and I have to say, at the moment, it hasn’t really bothered me. No doubt, this is due to exercise as well. It’s always satisfying when I check the time in the bottom corner of my screen to see two hours have been vaporised.
I never work after dinner, either. (Except to write my blog; that’s outside of writing hours—they’re for Everborne only.) It’s important to distinguish when I’m supposed to be writing and when I’m not. Even if I’m eager to continue with what I’m currently writing, I make myself stop. This may seem counter productive but I think it not only helps with resuming the following day it also prevents me from burning myself out.
During my MA, I made the mistake of turning myself into a hermit for three weeks over the Christmas break, by focusing on writing and only writing. I worked for ten-twelve hour shifts, writing soon after waking and shortly before sleeping, without taking the time to break, relax and switch-off. By the end of those three weeks, I hated writing, and I was pretty much spent.
Now, in the evenings, I make sure I take the time to relax: it is reserved for just that.
Not only is it important to distinguish when to write but where to write as well. I take my laptop downstairs into the front room, as it’s light, quiet and relatively unused. I see it as a place for work, while anywhere else in the house (my room especially) is reserved as a place to relax.
As for reading, it was the ever-inspirational Stephen King who said:
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
And it really is that simple. Although I completed a BA and an MA in Creative Writing, I believe I’ve learnt just as much from the two years since of reading books that I’ve wanted to read; books I’ve considered to be good, not ones I’ve been told are good.
I can enjoy a book for multiple reasons, whether it’s the story, style, characters, structure, themes, ideas, whatever. As long as I can take at least one of these things from a book, I’ve learnt something. Obviously, the more I read, the more I learn. It’s infinitely easier to complete and absorb (and learn from) a book you want to read, as opposed to one you have to.
It’s also important to read regularly and widely: I try to keep each book different (usually by genre; always by author) so I’m constantly immersed in a variety of literature. Everborne isn’t a strict genre-bound novel; it instead borrows features from various ones. I don’t have to think hard to understand why that may be.
I can never find myself able to agree with anyone who says I don’t have the time to read (or to do something else). Yes, you can. It’s about making the time for it. That’s why I make time. (That’s why I quit my job: to make time to write a novel. In life in general, the one life we know we’re given, you need to make time for the things you love the most.) There are so many books—a daunting amount—out there. If I want Everborne to end up among them, then I have to start by learning how they got there.