Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Life Lessons from being an author

Recently I had a conversation with my eldest who is about to start writing his PhD thesis. He said -- people have said it is impossible to write 80k before Christmas.
I had to bite my tongue. Although I write in a different genre than he does, I know it if it is August, and you have done all your research, it is indeed possible to write 80k of a first draft. You have to be determined, disciplined and have the desire to get it done. You also have to persevere. You need to be focused.
But then I am a woman who once wrote 80k in 3 weeks because I had a deadline and had thrown out the previous storyline as being unworkable. Actually I have done it twice. Luckily once I got over a hurdle, the words did flow and it became oddly enjoyable (but not something I'd really care to repeat)
My job is writing. My current manuscript is 112k (give or take). Over the years, I have learnt that I can write 5k every so often but my brain implodes if I try to do it on a regular basis. I am far better somewhere between 1.5k -3k. It means when I go back and edit, I don't have to change as much.
It also means that I am less sympathetic when my children be moan writing several thousand words.
It is about the discipline of getting the words down.
I am confident that my eldest will achieve his goal. He has the skill to do it and really less than 1k a day when it is your main task should be achievable. But the ability to be ruthlessly focused has be maintained.

And there is my daughter who had a mini meltdown about her Masters dissertation. I know next to nothing about karst hydrology. But I was able to draw on my experiences of brain storming with various over the years and what worked for me. Generally making considering noises and allowing me to find the logical solution works. I found that if certain editors had too much input early on, I went into editor-pleasing mode and often the story didn't work as well as I'd hoped.
And I now understand why sometimes editors -- say oh just get me something, even if the author knows it will be rubbish. The act of getting the words on paper and sending things off (plus writing and rewriting a synopsis) can really help.
It was great to use a skill that I didn't know I have. And I am thankful for all the editors who talked me back from various ledges.

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