In so many ways, being a writer gives me a sense of freedom. I can work when I want to, can write about whatever appeals to me (and, hopefully, my readers) and take a break whenever it suits me. That sounds so perfect, doesn’t it?
The reality is a little different. Writing provides the income that I live on, so if I don’t write how do we eat? I don’t get holiday pay or sick pay, and if I’m not at my desk the emails and the wonderful feedback from readers will just stack up.
This month, I had two major distractions. I had a cold – which was hardly life-threatening, but as we all know can make anything other than sitting in front of the fire with a hot drink seem too much like hard work – and we were in the process of buying a new home. The latter took up a huge amount of not only time, but brain space! It was hard to think about the relationships between my characters as I waited to see whether the contract would be signed.
Despite all of that, I managed to keep to my daily word count and this is how I do it.
I use a piece of software called Scrivener to manage my writing. It means I can write individual scenes or parts of chapters in any order, as the mood takes me. They can all be rearranged later into something that (hopefully) makes sense. It also allows me to enter a deadline for completion of the current novel and it calculates the number of words I have to write each and every day.
I try to stick to this word count, or exceed it, religiously – even on those days when there is something else in my head, whether that be a cold or a house purchase. The words that make their way from my fuddled brain to the screen may not turn out to be good enough, but they move the story forward and help me to find a way through a complex plot. It’s so much easier to rewrite something when you know what happens!
Like every writer I know, however much we love to write it’s true that some days are better than others. But the trick is to just keep on going. Once the daily word count becomes unachievable, it takes away some of the sheer joy of writing and it can feel like a chore. I never want that to happen, so whether a beautiful sunny day is beckoning me to the beach or a head full of cotton wool makes me want to curl up under a duvet, I will be at my desk quite alone but happy to keep company with just my characters! After all, if I don’t give them a voice, who will?