I consider myself to be something of an expert when it comes to procrastinating. There are times when I’ve put an unimaginable amount of energy in to doing something else just to avoid the much less complex task at hand. If you’ve been on Twitter recently, around the time that I’ve been trying to write, you will have been subjected to a commentary on my procrastination. Last week I spent a good half an hour on Spotify compiling a playlist of music that I can listen to while writing. Instrumental/orchestral music from movies and video games is currently my writing soundtrack of choice. I’m developing a soft spot for classical music where I would normally have turned my nose at it and dismissed it as boring…and dare I say it, for nerds!
Ironically, the easiest way to distract me from writing would in fact be to listen to music I love, because then I would have to keep stopping to chair dance and sing along to my favourite songs, or tell the air how brilliant a song is… maybe even go tell the internet what I’m listening to.
So that half an hour was time well spent if it provided me with hours worth of non-distracting music.
Since then, it’s become part of my routine: load up my account on the mac, open Pages, wait for iCloud to sync my novel from wherever I last wrote some of it, open Spotify, start playing the theme music from Lord of the Rings and churn out a few thousand words.
But the top way I procrastinate is by sleeping. Seriously! I get into bed, get all cosy and I think about what my next chapter will be, I picture the scene, I imagine the conversations and once I’m happy with it I can just get in front of a computer and write it. Except, just as I’m starting to picture the scene, the inevitable happens. I fall asleep. In fact, planning scenes for my novel has become the top of my list of ways to get to sleep. Maybe it’s something to do with concentrating the mind onto a single focus. Or maybe my novel is just really boring, I don’t know.
One of the reasons I think I procrastinate so much over my writing is that I don’t have a definitive plan. My plot and timeline is pretty vague. With Inspired I had a definite plan that I was working to, but a lot of the parts that tied the story together just happened, often catching my by surprise as I wrote them. With Molly Flockhart I have very vague plans that are starting to get a little more defined as I’m writing, but my characters seem to be telling me the story and some days they’re just not sharing their plans with me.
A friend of mine asked recently, how I went about writing. Did I know exactly what was going to happen before I started writing? The answer is no. I have a theme or a premise and I start writing and see where it takes me. Often I’ll try and plot out a vague timeline or I’ll make notes about characters, names, locations, particular plot twists and then sometimes I’ll skip to the end, work out what the conclusion will be and work backwards a little bit. But there’s always a gaping hole in the middle where I have no idea what is going on and just trust that my characters will tell me when they’re ready to.
I don’t know if that is the right way to do it, or if there even is a right way to write. But I like it because it means that even though I’m writing the story, I can still immerse myself in the world and be surprised along the way.
I’ve joined several online book groups recently, not that I have time to read much – and I don’t read at all while I’m writing because I find other authors start infiltrating my subconscious and it confuses my writing voice – and one thing readers often say, and I can completely relate, is that when a novel comes to an end they feel sad because they’ve been immersed in a new world and they find it hard to leave it. Perhaps this is why so many trilogies and series are being written, so readers can make return visits to that universe.
Avid readers that feel that way should definitely try writing. Creating that world lets you really immerse yourself into it. Creating characters, developing their personalities, their relationships, and the world they inhabit. And as the author you can pop back in at anytime.
Fellow authors: How do you write your novels?
Is there a right way to write?