I’ve found my magic number and it’s 45

By Jacqueline Burns, literary agent and co-founder of London Writers’ Club

 

How do you get your writing done?

 

I write every day but I don’t always find it easy.

 

I’ve had 3 books published and have co-written 3 e-books to be published soon.

Under my bed, I have a children’s book, a notebook full of partly-sketched out fiction ideas, 10,000 words of a Serious Novel, and two almost complete, non-fiction books.

 

As you can see there’s too much going on under the bed and more that should be published.  Writing never ends it seems.

 

I know I’m not the only one who has unfinished writing projects on the go. I have to commit time and end dates for my books or they just don’t happen.

 

Writers always want to know how others do it so here are my musings on the where, when and how of writing. 

 

 

When?

 

For me, it’s first thing in the morning before email is logged onto or last thing at night with a large glass of red wine. The risks of writing nonsense aside, I find the latter is more productive and less of an exercise in perfection.  I’m just easier on my self and my writing, when the day is nearly done.

 

Bookseller blogger Ben Johncock is working on his first novel and he writes at 5am. Respect Ben. I could never do that, unless I’ve been up all night and stay up to see the dawn, doing anything before 7am seems obscene.

 

 

How often do you write?

 

This is starting to sound like a Cosmo sex survey.

 

Answer: every day!

 

I used to wait until I could block off a whole day in my diary before I would write, now I know that nothing is more likely to stop me writing than the pressure of a whole day in which to write.

 

I’ve found my perfect number and it is 45. 

 

Just 45 minutes on the timer and I go for it, without fear or worry, I just get it done.  I find my 45 mins every day and my word count is building.  Sometimes I do more than one session, the point is, I don’t feel under pressure and the length of time suits me perfectly.

 

No cups of tea, no peeing, no human or techno contact of any sort until I’ve done my 45.  Try it. Find your magic number.

 

Or if you don’t have 45 minutes, try just 10 minutes a day.  Here’s an inspiring tale of success in just 10 minutes a day:

 

Singer Harriet Goodwin cut back on touring because she had small children and then stumbled on her second career, as a children’s writer: she woke up one morning, convinced that a dream she’d had was the plot for a novel. “I dreamed,” she says, “that a boy crashed through the surface of the earth into this ghostly underworld.”

 

She began writing for 10 minutes a day, when her children were napping or at school.

 

The resulting novel, The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43, became a book of the month in Borders last year, and was shortlisted for last year’s Blue Peter award; Goodwin is now working on a second book in a shed at the bottom of her garden. She still gives concerts, and finds that the writing complements her singing. “They fit beautifully,” she says. “I might be in my shed for four hours and then think, eurgh, my brain’s stiff. So I’ll go downstairs to the piano and sing some Schubert or Handel, and find it a fantastic release.”

 

Full article: The Guardian

 

 

 

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.  ~Agatha Christie

 

Planning

 

With a huge number of books to her name you’d have to agree with Agatha Christie.  Often the best ideas for your book will come when you’re not actually writing it. In bed, on the bus, talking about your book or doing housework, they’re all good times to have a think about your book.

 

With 10 minutes a day writing plus planning or thinking time when you’re busy doing something else you will get there.

 

Keep a synopsis handy – just a few pages describing what happens in your book and a chapter plan.  Make this your masterplan and keep it up-to-date whenver you have a new idea or make a change.

 

 

Editing

 

Some people swear by writing the first draft all the way through and then editing. I prefer to write and edit each chapter. Not heavily, not perfectly but just so that it feels ‘good enough for now’ before I move on to the next chapter.

 

My editing is done on screen and then every now and then I’ll print off a hard copy and schlep to a café to work on – with my phone turned off.

 

 

 

Excuses?

 

 I don’t believe in writer’s block.  It’s more like sometimes the fear or the sheer difficulty of writing gets in the way.  That’s not to say that those things don’t cause paralysis but I just have to look at it for it is and ignore those barriers at times. 

 

Whenever I’m really tired or think my book’s not working that’s when I push a bit harder and mostly I get back into flow before I know it.   If it really isn’t working that day after an extra push, I don’t worry about it and just leave it for the day.  It’s not worth giving too much attention to it or giving myself a hard time about it.

 

That’s not to say I’ve not abandoned projects or sought advice when I’m in trouble. I’m lucky to have many writing and publishing friends and colleagues.

 

I do share my experiences as a fellow writer, agent – and previously as a commissioning editor – as much as I’m able to.   London Writers Club Live events are intended to help writers’ with quick advice on the spot.

 

I’ve also just launched intensive writing sessions to give feedback, advice and goal setting to help writers push through problems and finish their writing.   

Supported Writing Sessions

 

Whatever suits you best, I hope you find your magic writing number and keep on writing.

 

Jacqueline Burns

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