When I tell people that I’m an author and that I write YA fiction, I am often met with looks of wonder and awe. Most people seem to think that writing a book is an amazing feat, something that ordinary people just cannot do. It is flattering to say the least, and as much as it does take a certain type of person with a good imagination and determination, a lot of it actually just comes down to hard work and perseverance. These looks of wonder and awe are often followed by questions about my work and life. Questions which I struggle to answer adequately on the spot, so here is a picture instead.
This is a conservative picture of what my work and life looks like when I’m working on a novel. I say conservative because this picture is minus the caffeine, sleepless hours, hundreds of binned crumpled notes, dozens of typed draft versions, culling of characters, the rewrites, and the final edit. This picture is just part of what it takes for me to write a story, a story I’m not sure anyone is going to read or like at the end of the day, and as for sales, well, I hope so!
People often ask me how do I write a book and what is it like? The closest idea (though this is in no way completely accurate) I can give to you of what it feels like to write a novel is this; for anyone at university, writing a novel is like writing your final year dissertation several times over but within the same timeframe. If you’re at college or secondary school then it’s like revising for and completing your exams a dozen times over but again, within the same timeframe. If you left school early and joined the workforce then it is like working on a major six month assignment but completing it in two weeks. And if you’re younger and have your whole life ahead of you, then all I can liken it to is sitting inside the house for months with no internet connection whilst a monsoon is going on outside.
I’m probably not selling the idea of starting a writing career but writing is hard, and there is a huge amount of effort involved in creating a good story. I know I’ve said this before, but you may spend a day or two sitting in cafes ordering coffee and writing notes, but the real writing usually takes place in one room, with just you and your computer and long hours of concentration. If you’re fortunate, that one room will have an amazing view and plenty of light, you need to look after those eyes after all.
I went through my notes for my first novel ‘Anomaly’ and my second novel, my current work-in-progress, both of which I now keep in a folder because otherwise I would have too many notebooks (I already have too many notebooks). At best my writing style and planning process can only be described as utterly chaotic. I would imagine that other writers and authors out there have a slightly less chaotic style than mine, but this is my process and what works best for me at the moment. Perhaps I’ll become more organised and neater with my note taking and plans as I gain more experience and publish more books, but that is yet to be seen and remains highly doubtful.
Another insight into what it is like for me to write a book is this; I’ve just spent the last three days planning out part of my third novel, I left my flat once to walk up the road about 200 yards to get chocolate. I’ve spent the majority of my time in pyjamas, sitting at a laptop with plenty of cups of tea and writing in a notepad. The rest of the time was dedicated to sleep and making food so my stomach wouldn’t bug me. So far I’ve only started and made notable progress on the world building. I have barely started on the characters, although I do have names, and I’ve been constructing a new language for my new characters to speak, some of which will probably never make it to the final draft. I estimate that I will need at least another two days before I have finished world building, names and language. The actual storyline and plot are loose thoughts that have yet to be written down properly. This is the reality folks, in all it’s not-so-glamorous glory. If I didn’t need to eat and wasn’t required to be sociable, then I would probably never leave my home or work. Fortunately I have had a couple of phone calls during the last three days, and an empty fridge calls for some shopping, but otherwise I live life as a semi-antisocial, part-time hermit.
‘A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.’ – Richard Bach