It’s the Easter weekend, a chance for normal families to make some quality time together, and relax. I’m currently in the bedroom, hammering out a chapter breakdown and sample chapter for a novel proposal a publisher has asked for more detail on. I expect I’ll be here much of today, most of tomorrow, and at least a little bit of Monday (which is my deadline to have this baby in).
Welcome to my world. In it, everything gets put aside for the writing, and I would be surprised if this is not also the case for most serious writers. You can kid yourself otherwise, but when it comes to the crunch, and the writing beckons, you had better find a way to plant yourself in a chair and do it. It’s a fundamentally selfish way to live, but absolutely necessary. You should pray that your life partner of choice gets that.
Mine does, more so than anybody I’ve been with before. I’ve had partners in the past who thought they got it, or gave a nod to the theory, but when it came down to the wire the demands were waiting. After all, I’m not even doing this full time yet. Why can’t I just reschedule my writing time around life, and them, and what they want for the future?
Well, it just doesn’t work like that. The world of writing and publishing does not sit around, twiddling its thumbs, waiting for your efforts. It moves on, to the next writer, or the one after that. If you accept as a given that you have the ability to write good stories that people might want to read, you then have to look at the other factors that will make you successful or not. The single biggest of these is effort, time, and single-mindedness. You have to not only want to write good fiction, but be prepared to do so to the exclusion of almost everything else.
I don’t want to make a martyr of myself or any other writer. Fundamentally selfish, remember? The first reason to write is because you love doing it. My guilty secret is that, as much as I’d love not to have this deadline at this time, and spend a little more of this holiday with Kirsty and Eva, I’m also enjoying sitting here, knocking my face in to have something good to throw at the publisher come the deadline. I’d love the best of both worlds, but this time I have to make a choice. Guess what wins?
Kirsty gets that. She actually seems to know what she’s getting herself into, at least a little (which isn’t to say she doesn’t also feel occasionally frustrated or annoyed by it – I wouldn’t want to put words in her mouth). You can see why I love the woman.
Of course, I will spend some time with them this weekend. Not as much as I would if I had a different passion and ambition than writing, but I can’t pretend they’re not there. I wouldn’t want to. Welcome to the juggling act that is being a writer.
Oh, and lest you think it gets easier once you make writing a full time occupation, don’t kid yourself. If the self-applied pressure’s bad now, imagine what it will be like when my only income comes from the words I’m churning out, when the pressure is also coming from an agent, or publishers awaiting promised manuscripts.
There is a common assumption that writing full time gives you a lot of freedom. I suspect this is only partly correct. The freedom is quite restricted, I think. It’s the freedom to sit down in a chair, and write until your fingers go numb. Sounds splendid, in a masochistic sort of way.
I hope to be able to do a follow up entry to that theory, one day, and tell you whether experience demonstrates me right or wrong. Hope you’re still here to find out, come the day.
And Happy Easter to those it means something to. I hope you enjoy both the day, and the people you share it with.
Oh, and wish me luck. So far the chapter breakdown is going well, although there are some time and place issues to sort out (Keira, for example, can’t be in one place being hunted down, and then turn up on the other side of the city to issue a dire warning to Cameron five minutes later). Should the book be commissioned, the fact that it started with this chapter breakdown will make it the most heavily outlined piece of fiction I’ve ever written, which will be an interesting compare and contrast experiment. I’ll wait and see whether I actually sell it before I go any further with that line of thought though.
Over these three days of Easter Jesus supposedly died, was entombed, and rose from the grave again. All I want to do is plot one novel, and write an opening chapter. Sounds easy, when you put it like that.
I’d better stop procrastinating, and get down to it then, hadn’t I?