Friday, 3 September 2010

Leave That Twitter Alone!

By Richard Jay Parker

I tweeted a comment yesterday about having to put a gun to my own head to get some writing done and it seemed to resonate with a lot of people. As a writer you have to be your own boss - a hard-nosed, humourless taskmaster that won't even give you the afternoon off when the sun's shining outside. One that most of us wouldn't like to have at our shoulder in an office environment. But at least you'll never have to worry about sexual harassment...unless you're really bored.

Nobody makes you write. Even if you have a deadline and bills to pay there's still nobody to watch over you when you're at the keyboard. There's a romantic image in movies I've seen with agent turning up at writer's home to massage shoulders and ego while they drag themselves to the desk but it doesn't have much to do with reality.

Fact is, unless you're an established best seller, you have to do a huge amount of solitary work to create an entity before it can involve others - readers, agent, publisher etc. Until then it's all down to your own faith and determination and nobody can crack the whip but you. It's all in your head for a large percentage of the time so you don't even have much to show yourself at the end of each day except for a few pages at a time.

Apparently a lot of people give up on writing their first novel around page 60. The initial enthusiasm has died, they're not even half way and all that stretches ahead is hard work. Who's there to make them finish?

With so many distractions, particularly for people who write at home, it's a small wonder any work gets finished.

Personally, I like to pinpoint a date on the calendar which I estimate to be the time I'll have a project finished. I'm always optimistic and have a secondary date which I know is probably more feasible but do everything I can to meet the first date. If I don't - it's always done by the second.

When you're tiring of trying to fill blank pages I also think it's a good idea to take a break and read a couple of chapters of a book that inspired you. It reminds you why the hell you're doing it in the first place. You can lose sight of that sometimes.

Any writers want to share how they stay on course? Or would that be another distraction?

Watch out - the boss is back from lunch the same time as me. He really doesn't trust me.


  1. Frankly, I'll always wonder if I could have finished writing Baby Grand on my own. I'd like to think I would have, but I'll never know. I started it in grad school, got about 60 or so pages in (the magic number you mention in your post), and then showed it to an agent and was lucky enough to get representation. I finished writing it knowing that there was an agent waiting on the other side to read it.

    However, for Novel #2, which I'll be starting in a few weeks, it's just me. Well, actually, that's not true either. I've partnered with a friend/writer and we'll be each other's Accountability Partners -- helping to keep each other on track so that we can finish our novels in the appointed time.

    Still, there is more time, less pressure, this time around. I'll keep you posted on my progress. Thanks for a thoughful post!

  2. Yes! This is good! Nobody's gonna hold a gun to your head. It's like your new motivational phrase. I like it, and I enjoyed your article!

  3. ...i awe at those, yea give kudos to brave souls who put keystroke to monitor and manage to compile 60 pages! Sifting and Sorting through ideas alone and getting one goooood idea AND to even THINK of time-investment AT THE START, is--to me--a scaling the size of Kilimanjaro!!! Seriously!!

  4. My first novel was published in 1980 (North Slope). I was 39 at the time. Thought I'd made it as a writer. Then four years later another book, but only after several rejections. Then, wait for it.... 23 years later my novel HELL'S GATE, which had been rejected in 1980, was finally accepted by John Hale of Robert Hale Ltd. In the meantime I had written and been rejected continuously. Now I have seven novels to my credit, five of them published within the last four years. The point about this is; perseverance and belief in yourself. Never give up. When you're sitting in front of a blank sheet, you're brain dead, and somebody wants your attention; never give up. It usually takes me about a year to write a novel, but the web has speeded that up somewhat. Research is more liesurely than having to go off to the local library and pour over the reference books. I have parted company with my publisher now, but amicably. I wanted to try a different route and am now looking to promote my novels in paperback. And yesterday, the proof copy of NORTH SLOPE arrived from America (paperback), printed by Createspace, an offshoot of Amazon. From different web sites I have visited recently, I am assured that I am mad and will never make a success of my own marketing/promotion strategy, and it will all end in tears. But if I take a leaf out of the perseverance book, I will get there. Never give up!

  5. I'm with Eugene Ionesco when he said, 'A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.' I can't spend a single day without writing, talking about writing or thinking about writing. My fans often ask me if I'm disciplined about my writing. The answer is No. Compulsive? Yes. Obsessed? Yes. But discipline doesn't come into it. I can't stop!

  6. I will never forget that first day! Your adrenaline is escaping through every pore. The coffee is beside you. Your home office is your sanctuary...And you begin. That is the feeling that keeps myself going. It sure as hell isn't the umpteen rejection letters!! I agree with Ms. Russell, it becomes an obsession..a wonderful obsession. Great blog my friend, as always. Susan

  7. I love to read and I highly appreciate authors who are writing them. I think it is hard to imagine what does it mean to write a book and finish in time.
    I think I get a glimpse every time when I write a review. Sometimes I'm sitting for hours to turn my thoughts into words.
    Discipline and imagination is a strange pair. And therefore I would agree with Leigh Russell that you definitely need to be obsessed.

    I wish you never to run out of words....

  8. I have been writing for eleven years and am still trying to get that elusive publsihing deal. I can't give up - writing is in me. It's tough at times when I see everyone around me getting book one, book two, book three published but hey, I will have my time :)

    Bum on seat, that's my motto. I, like you, set myself an end goal to finish by. I start by writing 1000 words a day and then watch it take over, 1500 a day, 2000 a day, until the momentum gets me. It's harder at the beginning, and I never ever stop to look back until I type The End.

    The second draft for me is the most fun, when it turns from a jumble of words and thoughts into what I actually wanted it to say. Well, at least I hope it does...

  9. Great post, as always. Two things really struck me. First, the romantic image of a writer. God if only!
    I'd love to be the type who writes late into the night with my only company a single light shining on a keyboard and a bottle of wine to the side, but for some unknown and slightly disappointing reason i can only write in the mornings between about 4 and 9. Early mornings do kind of blow all the romanticism away.
    The other thing is you nip off between writing to read, and that inspires you. I read, i read compulsively, but i don't get inspired, i just end up depressed thinking, oh, they're all so much better than me!
    I really admire writers who can sit down and analise the process. I fully admit i'm far too scared to do that, probably because I'm worried it would stop working.
    However, i do think sometimes it's the writer's partner who suffers even more than us. While i was writing my book, my wife actually turned around and asked if I thought there might be a support group for author's partners!

  10. Simon, a support group for author's partners is a fantastic idea. I have someone who'd wnat to join immediately :)

  11. Thanks for dropping in, Anonymous. Sounds like you've been there. Very best of luck with your second novel.

    Hey, Carrie. Take the safety off - you'll work even harder.

    Thanks, Mick. A very inspirational account. As usual, hard work pays off. Will now hunt down you books.

    Thanks for your contribution, Leigh. I would like to think that I could get a day off from thinking about writing but I enjoy the process too much to allow it to happen.

    Very much appreciate your comments, ediFanoB. If it wasn't for people like you there wouldn't be people like us.

    Thanks, Mel. Sounds like you're well and truly on your way. It's the point when you should logically give up that you shouldn't.

    Simon - I'm more of an early morning writer as well but sometimes you have to pull it out of the bag at all hours. Think there's great potential in your partners support group idea. Think you may have found my topic for this week's blog.