The most effective way not to write a novel is to do as I do – absolutely everything and anything to stop myself from getting the finger out and knuckling down to writing the damn thing.
However, that’s not to say I don’t clock up the hours getting match fit though. Quite the contrary in fact. Over the past couple of years, I’ve read at least a dozen books on writing, analysed various novels in various genres, and even gone so far as to absorb the contents of several motivational self-help books for good measure.
But all this is as nothing compared to the row of lever arch files lined up on my pristine desk, each one labelled and gagging to be pumped full of draft manuscripts and research. And the timetables! I almost forgot to mention the timetables! Colour coded and liberally sprinkled with red dots flagging allocated novel writing time. And that’s not all. I have the original pinned up over my computer, with duplicates strategically placed in the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.
So now that all the preparations are out of the way, here I am, up and doing with the 5am dawn chorus, fingers locked and loaded and itching to get crack on. After all, if I have learnt anything from all the books I’ve studied it is this: Writing is 90% sweat vs. 10% inspiration.
Hence, the plan for today’s Code Red allocated novel writing time is to compile story boards filled with cuttings from magazines. Images of my characters, and the world they live in, is one sure-fire way for keeping me focussed, on track, and fully charged with inspiration. Or so I'm told. Once done, I can take the rest of the day off secure in the knowledge that I #amwriting.
Of course, before I can do any of this, I must first source a suitable image to use with this long overdue blog update caused by distractions with novel writing. Oh, and there’s Twitter to sort out also. What writer can do anything these days without first tweeting about it?
However, before doing any of this, I must first – simply must – put the kettle on, light a fag, and tell you about this book ‘How Not To Write A Novel’ I found buried alive in Mrs Quinn’s charity shop where I spent half the day yesterday foraging for magazines. Do you know it? Mrs Quinn’s in Ringsend, I mean? It’s a veritable treasure trove for book lovers. Plus, all proceeds go to the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI). What better charity is there for writers who write non-stop all day, every day, withering their eyes to the bone to support than the NCBI, I wonder? There's AWARE of course … but I digress.
‘How Not To Write A Novel’ is a book on writing like no other I've ever come across. It's written by Guardian shortlisted novelist Sandra Newman and veteran editor Howard Mittelmark, who say in the introduction:
Hundreds of unpublished and unpublishable novels have passed across our desks, so we have been standing here by the side of the road for a very long time. Had you been standing here with us, you would have seen the same preventable tragedies occurring over and over, and you would have made the same observations.
Do not think of us as traffic cops, or even driving instructors. Think of us instead as your onboard navigation system, available day or night, a friendly voice to turn to whenever you look up, lost and afraid, and think “How the fuck did I end up here?"
I don’t know about you, but I find that last sentence immensely reassuring. It’s a shame they didn’t include a 24 hour contact telephone number though. Still, by the time I’ve finished reading it later on this morning, I’ll be up to speed on at least 200 clangers best avoided if one is to have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a novel written and published. Here’s one favourite passage so far:
Any undue interest in or physical contact with children will set off alarms. If you do not want your reader to think he is reading about a paedophile, dandling of children on knees should be kept to a minimum by fathers, and even more so by uncles. If your character is any way associated with organised religion, whether he is a bishop, a minister, or the kindly old church caretaker with a twinkle in his eye, he should not even pull a child from a burning building.
To find out more, visit: http://www.hownottowriteanovel.com/. Meantime, while you’re doing that, I’m hopping over here for a minute before getting on with the story boards.