My writing routine – Sue Bentley
I write something every day. When I’m hard at work on a novel, I aim for around 1,000 words, at a stretch. If things are going well, I sometimes do more – but I find it works for me to stop in the middle of a scene or even a sentence. That way, when I return to the narrative the following morning, I’m not faced with a blank page. Carrying on from where I left off, tricks me into believing that I’m straight into ‘proper’ writing – even if I might have to go back and forth through the text to pick up the thread.
I do my best work in the mornings and try to stay off social media or dealing with emails until the afternoon. Not always successfully, I admit. If I’ve been invited as a guest by a book blogger or someone’s been kind enough to post a review, I’ll be tempted to re-tweet it and say how delighted I am. Reviews in particular are so important for an author, because they really help with book sales and to get the title onto best-selling book lists. After you get a certain number, Amazon with promote the book. That’s how you get to see books images as ‘you might also enjoy’ titles, when browsing or buying books online. I used to think this happened by magic.
So I attempt to tear myself away from any such bookish business, and discipline myself to do some proper work. I remind myself it’s better to write rubbish (it’s usually better than I think when I re-read it the following day) than to write nothing and then feel annoyed for having made no progress.
Even though I’ve been published for over twenty years and have written a lot of books for children, YA and adults, I still struggle to be disciplined and find the impetus to keep on and finish a book. Every book throws up its own challenge. I find it easier to apply myself when I have a deadline, but it’s been a while now since I’ve been commissioned to write a novel. So when writing ‘on spec’ I have to keep faith with my WIP and just write the best novel I can. I’m a perfectionist, so a first draft will have had many re-writes and edits before I submit it to my agent. Some parts of my WIP will have been seen by members of a monthly writers group. It’s so helpful to have Beta readers to give constructive criticism and toss ideas around.
I don’t have a particular reader in mind while writing. I write the sort of books I enjoy reading. I like to read about strong characters who are often troubled or fighting their own demons. I like rich, complex settings. These can be contemporary, historical or fantasy, but there has to be an element of suspense or danger, and a definite broad brush-stroke of darkness and hint of the extraordinary.
If I reach a sticking point in my WIP, I might write a new chapter to slot in at a later date. Or work on a short story or a feature, or the content for an author event. I might research something for a later scene or work on the outline of my next book. I find that exercising the ‘writing muscle’ in any way staves off the dreaded writer’s block. If I really can’t move the narrative forward, I’ll go for a walk. Which I find clears my head – something about the movement and fresh air allows ideas to rise and take shape. If all else fails, reading a good book always work for me. Something I read might inspire a chapter or relate to one of my characters. Just a word or phrase might provide the basis for a fresh scene.
I need my own writing space, where everything’s to hand. My spacious workroom looks out onto the front garden. A wildlife hedge has grown into tall tree cover, so I’m semi-secluded, but can see people walking past. I like the feeling of being in the world, but not off the world.
I type straight onto my desktop PC with its lovely big monitor at eye level, to reduce neck and eye strain. On my desk it’s organised chaos, with stacks of research books, containers of pens and pencils and piles of scribbled notes on scraps of paper. There’s a print-out of my WIP, once I’m reasonably happy with them. Like many authors, I hold a lot of the book in my head and I like to see the pile growing. It makes the book seem more real.
I have far too many books. My bookcases and full and there are stacks of books on the floor. I cannot resist buying books or rather I choose not to. It means that inspiration is all around me. And the crammed shelves of my own novels and many foreign editions remind me on bad days that I’ve done this before and can do so again.
Thank you so much for hosting me on the We Other blog tour.