After a long, steep hike which has been rocky in parts and downright slippery too, I’ve reached that strange and magical turning point in my new novel when the story is truly telling itself. I thought you might like to ‘see’ how this novel is being written.
At the moment, despite having a lovely office at home, I’m finding it difficult to focus there so I take myself off to a library with an expansive study area a 20 minute drive away. There I sit, every day, with my fingers skittering over the keyboard at 80+wpm. It’s funny how attached to one particular desk I have become – outraged if someone else is sitting there.
Speaking of sitting – I’m going to bang on about ergonomics now. I have become something of an evangelist since suffering with acute RSI a few years ago. It was a terrifying time for me – and consequently I sought out ways to ensure I do not harm myself when I write. I can sit in the same position for 4-5 hours straight – so it’s fundamentally important that I sit correctly. Here’s a picture of my work station today.
As you can see, my laptop is propped up (today’s volumes are Chambers Biographical Dictionary, the Biographical Encyclopedia Of The World and the Oxford Guide to Literary Britain & Ireland if you’re interested!) – and I use a separate keyboard. On my chair is my trusty ‘Back-Friend’ – yes, they are pricey but my goodness they are marvelous! The Back-Friend ensures support and good position wherever you sit (car, sofa, kitchen chair) and I wouldn’t consider writing without one. And the little pink purse? Bluetooth keyboards gobble up batteries so I use rechargeable ones – and keep spares with me. Yes, I could keep them in a plastic bag – but a Radley purse is much more cheerful! I’m not very good about taking regular breaks – hours can whizz by when I’m on a roll but I ensure I keep hydrated (hence the bottle of water). I also try to remember to keep my feet flat on the floor and not cross my ankles. Fourteen books on, and with lessons learnt the hard way, this is the advice I’m keen to impart.
Readers often ask me ‘what’s your daily word-count?’ Some days, the words can pour out at a rate of around 4,000 in 3-4 hours but other days, it’s just a trickle. I try not to fixate on how much I’ve written – if my time with the novel is spent ‘in the zone’ I know that’s an exhilarating and productive place to be. I continue to have only a vague idea of what’s going to happen in this 14th novel of mine – but I like it that way. I know it would be easier to plot and plan my books methodically, but I’d much rather the story unfolds for me as it will for my reader.
I think about the characters all the time now – Scott, Frankie and their families. Here in the heart of Herts, I’m actually either in British Columbia or North Norfolk – a parallel universe which can nourish or deplete my normal one depending on what sort of ‘day at the office’ I’ve had.