I’m delighted to welcome the amazing Steph Broadribb, debut author of the fast-paced thriller, Deep Down Dead – book one in the Lori Anderson series. There’s more, though, she doubles as Crime Thriller Girl where she reviews crime fiction novels.
She’s no stranger to hard-work and she doesn’t seem to slow down either, but that hasn’t stopped her achieving great successes over a period of time. Enough of my waffle, though, over to the wonderful Steph!
Juggling writing around other commitments can be tough. When I wrote the first draft of Deep Down Dead I was working full-time in my day job, studying the City University London MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) in the evenings and blogging as Crime Thriller Girl around the edges. Although my natural style is to go with the flow, with the time pressures of job and writing deadlines I couldn’t just wait to for the ‘muse’ to strike – I had to schedule writing time into my week to make sure I kept moving forward with the draft. I soon found having a ‘writing schedule’ really helpful – it wasn’t too rigid, but it meant I kept my focus on the story and the characters (and hit my deadlines!).
Here are the top five things I learnt that work best for me:
1. Touch your story every day
This was something Jonathan Myerson, Director of Creative Writing (Novels) at City University London, said to us at the start of the MA. He stressed the importance of staying close to your novel and your characters, and ‘touching’ the story every day. To be honest it sounded a bit odd to me at the time – ‘touching’ a story? – but I took his advice and made sure that throughout the process I worked on my novel every day – during holidays, at the weekends, in the week, on my birthday, everything!
It’s now a habit that nears on compulsion – I get super twitchy if for some reason I’m not able to work on the current draft of my WIP. Sometimes it’s a case of grabbing a quick 30 minutes on it, other days it’s six hours, but I find that by spending at least a little bit of time in the world of Lori Anderson it helps me keep her story fresh in my mind, and my mind working on the story.
2. A few words are better than no words. Even one word is better than no words!
When I started out I thought I had to give myself a daily word count and do whatever it took to hit it, but I soon found that this just stressed the hell out of me. I’d spend my time worrying about not writing enough words rather than actually writing the words! Now I worry less about the number of words – having the motto that one word is better than none! I do keep a tally of my word count each day though, so I can see how I’m progressing. There’s something very satisfying in seeing each 10,000 milestone fly past!
3. Find a writing time that works for you
Some people are larks and some are owls. I can be either, but if I’m spending my day working in the day job then my brain is a whole lot fresher and creative if I write first thing in the morning than last thing at night. 5.30am is a good time to write – social media is quiet, the house and street are quiet, and I can concentrate totally on my writing. I find it easier to get absorbed in the story when there are no other distractions, although at that time in the morning strong coffee is essential!
4. Use non-writing time as thinking time
Not all plot and character development happens at the keyboard. I often find that ideas and character revelations come to me when I’m doing something else – walking, driving, sitting in a day job meeting (don’t tell my boss though!). Now I use non-writing time as thinking time – to work through scenes in my head, and puzzle out Lori’s next move. I just make sure I keep something to make notes on to hand – otherwise I’m likely to forget!
5. Learn what you write best on – notebook, laptop, phone, or something else
I know some people who write their first draft by hand, others who write straight onto a laptop and even one who wrote the entire first draft of their novel on their phone. For me it’s all of them – depending on the situation. I’m forever pulling over while I’m driving to tap a note into my phone. In fact, I often find myself scribbling lines of dialogue onto post-it notes, backs of envelopes and napkins! My entire desk is littered with scribblings that I refuse to throw away until the draft I’m working on is complete and everything I’ve jotted down is captured in the story. But when I’m writing a scene I usually draft straight onto my iMac or laptop. I can touch-type so I find my fingers can almost keep up with my brain – sometimes it’s a close call though!
You heard it here from Steph. It’s not easy but finding time to write can be done. Thanks, Steph!
Check out the other stops on the Deep Down Dead Blog tour
Buy the book