Sunday, April 20, 2008


One of the reasons I started this blog was to hopefully dispel some of the myths that surround writing. When I started my novel many people I spoke to thought I would have a publishing deal before I started the novel and that I wouldn't need to rewrite or edit my work. I wasn't surprised - I don’t know the ins and outs of most jobs that I haven't done before.

Before I started writing my novel I had some work experience as a copy writer and editor. When I lived in London I wrote and edited an internal magazine for a large pharmaceutical company. Then I ran away to Australia and wrote a series of articles geared to fellow travellers on a career break. On my return to Ireland I found work as a training writer for web-based learning, which was my career until eighteen months ago.

Now I'm not going to pretend that these jobs were hotbeds of creativity and glamour. But they did hone my writing and editing skills and teach me to approach writing like any other job or project - instead of waiting for inspiration, you can kick start any writing assignment by just getting some words on the page, even if it’s just freewriting. Thanks to my days as a lowly foot soldier I rarely have days when I cannot write.

What I do suffer from is days when I am slower than others. Like any job, some days everything falls into place, your productivity is through the roof and you swan around the office like you own the place. But other times you’re swimming against the tide regardless how many hours you've put in, and only frequent ranty tea-breaks with co-workers will get you through the day. (In my case you're my co-workers and this blog is my rant!)

Less productive days can result from the task in hand - if I'm writing a scene with a lot of tension, dialogue and emotion it just takes longer, regardless of the amount of freewriting I do to warm up. But sometimes it's just one of those things.

Regardless of how I'm feeling though, I'll always be able to get started without much ado. I might not crack my top target for the day but I will have managed a minimum word count, even if I have to chain myself to the computer all day. If I really get stuck I'll go over my previous work and check for errors, or do some research.

But I can honestly say that getting stuck is very rare, and I can thank my training for providing that shortcut. When you work to tight deadlines you just cannot wait for inspiration. You just have to find a way to make it happen, regardless of your mood.


SpiralSkies said...

I think that's one of the most important things we can learn. If you wait for th muse to strike, you'll be waiting around forever.

Doing Creative Writing as a part of my degree taught me that you really can be creative to a deadline. You can even be creative when plastered!!!

JJ said...

I think that kind of training is really useful - same with journalism. Try telling an editor you missed your deadline because you weren't inspired!


Debs said...

Working to a deadline certainly helps me get a move on. I try and set deadlines for myself and it usually works.

That said, I think I really need to get a move on, I've done very little this weekend.

Alix said...

Deadlines are definitely a must, lists are good too. It is interesting to hear it works the same way with creative pursuits though. I do kind of imagine writers sitting in their garrets waiting for the muse!
I think we like to romanticise te arts.

Lane said...

Great post.

I think you're absolutely right and it sounds like you've had some very good grounding in writing.
Free writing is great way to loosen up and I'm convinced it keeps blocks at bay. I like deadlines. If only the wip had a deadline that wasn't self imposed:-)

Yvonne said...

Jen, that's a great tip for writers who might want to train themselves further - a creative writing course might be the thing for you!

JJ, apparently agents like journalists because they'll have that ability to work on demand.

Debs, I couldn't do a thing without a deadline. I have to remind myself of it every day.

Alix, I think the romanticisation of writing and other pursuits might put people off giving them a try - anyone who's had to work to a deadline will have picked up some useful tips already!

Lane, thanks! I'd love it if someone would give me a deadline too, I'm sure I'd get more done. Freewriting is great, gets the juices flowing, especially after a break from writing.

KAREN said...

I think that last paragraph is very good advice, actually.

I like a deadline and have found that writing a weekly book review for my local paper since last year, has tightened up my writing no end. I still find it hard to set deadlines for myself though. God knows why. It's not like I'm getting any younger !!

Yvonne said...

Karen, it's dead hard to keep to self-imposed deadlines. It's just too easy to cheat yourself!

Beccy said...

I find that I achieve the most when I'm working to a deadline but self imposed ones that don't mean much are easy to let slip by.

Sounds like the book is coming on well so I hope you had a good weekend.

Yvonne said...

Beccy, that's why I gave up work - it means that I have a limited amount of time and money to finish the book! Hope you had a great weekend too.

Bookhabit said...

The fact that most writers don't have a book deal signed before they begin is, unfortunately, a fact of life. However if new writers could test out their work on a live audience, wouldn't this provide some useful feedback for potential publishers?

With this in mind, is a writers and readers community that allows new authors to upload their work in the form of an e-book. Readers get the first chapter for free and can rate the book or download it for a small fee.

The great thing about the site is that the author retains full ownership of the work. We are also running a competition for new authors at present with a $5000 first prize.

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

Hi Yvonne,
Most people I knew laughed at me when I said I was going to write a book and get it published.

Hopefully I shall be having the last laugh very soon.

Good luck with your writing and keep believing in yourself.

Best wishes

Debi said...

Deadlines and word counts are great for the discipline but 'writing' consists of much more than just words on the page/screen.

At least that's what I tell myself while procrastinating ...

Yvonne said...

Annie thanks and welcome! Best of luck with your book.

Debi, that's what I tell myself too! But at the end of the day you can be the best writer in the world, but no-one will ever know unless you get it down on paper. Practice makes perfect after all.