Full-time employee by day, aspiring novelist by night? Then you’ve come to the right article, my friend! That’s how every author who ever nabbed themselves a publishing deal started out. So, let’s do what all dreamers do, and make a list:
1. Be Prepared.
Dib-dib-dib, as the Boy Scouts say. Be prepared to make your first priority a notepad and a pen. Don’t leave home, work, or bed, without them. Inspiration is all around. That punch-line you blurted out. The way someone pronounces, ‘Yugoslavia’. The colour of Boredom. Get as ephemeral or literal as you like, but write it down. Because you’re a writer, remember? It’s not 9-to-5. It’s stride-in-your-step, adrenelin-jolting devotion!
Between You and Me: Check that notepad is tantalizingly empty, and the pen actually works before you get too attached to a brainwave. Ahem.
2. Time on your Side.
Writers tend to fall into either early-morning or late-night camps. That’s because our brains rather wonderfully surrender all traces of reality when we’re pre- or post-dreaming. Marian Keyes set her alarm a couple hours ahead of the office to complete work on her first novel. Jay McInerney kept cosying up to the keyboard way past the midnight hour. No matter which option hits the mark, make it a date.
Friendly Advice: When circumstances don’t allow, don’t beat yourself up. Keep jotting down ideas as casually as you like, and know you’ll make it up to your manuscript with a ream of words waiting in the wings.
3. Plan, plan, plan!
I’d like to be one of those streamlined, linear-types, writing at stealth from beginning to end, but guess what? It doesn’t happen. I know where I’m going. I’ve a pretty good idea why we’re going there, but midway is about as far as I get, plot-wise. Then it’s time to iron-out the initial plan. If you’re armed with a water-tight synopsis, I look on in awe, but I need to submerge in the writing before emerging with a first draft.
Lesson Learned: If something isn’t working, it’s because it doesn’t work. Move on. Re-think. Re-write. No Re-grets.
As nice it would be to flounce off into the nearest vestibule and announce an early retirement from all daily responsibility, it’s first things first. Your mind can’t wander into fiction beneath a cloud of household chores or office deadlines. Pin them down. Get them done. Then consider yourself free to focus.
Working Lunch: Make the most of any break. Walk. Think. Be alone. Listen to your characters. Trust your instincts. Jot those thoughts down in that notepad you carry these days.
5. Bite into the Best Bits
There’s no point setting aside time, staring at a screen, wondering where to find a word count. Sometimes you have to take it by surprise. Don’t think of it as a book. Start with that ending you can’t wait to write, or the big reveal you know has to happen. Hit the highlights. Pick out the praline, and throw away the toffees! Why not? It’s your work. Kill off that character before they’re introduced in chapter eight, you absolute maverick! Look in the rearview, and you’ll find a picnic trail of plot development.
Novel Navigation: Make sure there’s batteries in the torch. In other words, map each scene in a working synopsis as you go along. See that shard of light up ahead? That’s the ending, compadre.