Though some of the Novelistas write full time, we all have first-hand experience of juggling writing with work, family and other commitments. At a time of year when things can get frenetic, we thought we'd share some of our tips to ensure writing doesn't get lost in the chaos. First up is Juliet:
1. Simplify and organise (I’m still working on this one!)
The essential ingredients for writing are time and headspace. I’ve found the trick is to organise before I start actually writing a book so that I have as little to think about as is possible with a day job and a busy life.
Organise your writing time. Find a time of day that suits you and set yourself an amount of time or a word count each day. Because writing is an ‘invisible’ activity it can easily be pushed aside. Some writers get up at 5am, some start at midnight. Find your slot and stick to it. (But don’t beat yourself up if you miss it now and again.)
Simplify housework. Preferably don’t do it at all. A writer’s house that is spotless is a writer who is not writing! But, being realistic, stick to the loo and bits that visitors will see. You can have a blast of cleaning and catch up between drafts. And anyone who objects can always do it themselves. Housework is not rocket science.
Organise meals. The last thing you want to do when you’ve left your heroine in a fight to the death with wolves, or tied to a railway track, is to start thinking about how to make a meal. I try to have a day when I plan the meals for the week. I cook batches of soups and stews (while plotting, see 2) that can have bits added to them, and freeze them. And anyone who objects can always be pointed in the direction of the kitchen or the local take-away.
2. You don’t have to be writing to be writing.
Like most writers, I feel guilty if I’m not actually bashing the keys, but in reality much of writing a novel is working it out in your head, and this can be done any time, any place. I tend to work out the details of the next chapter, or a knotty plot twist, while walking the dog, gardening, the commute to work, queuing in a supermarket, cooking, or watching TV.
3. Little and often is better than none at all
You don’t have to write 5000 words a day. 500 is fine. The main thing is to try and do a little each day. Don’t worry if it’s rubbish. Books go through so many drafts you’ll have time to sort it – and you might find when you read it back it’s really rather brilliant. The main point is to keep the book in your head. To stay in its world and in love with the characters. That’s the way to keep the faith through the long, hard process of writing and rewriting that goes into creating a novel.
4. Switch off.
Don’t burn yourself out. Take days off. Get out in the sun. Don't feel guilty watching ‘Strictly’. Besides, everything you do can be classed as research…