No two books happen in quite the same way. However, people who don’t write, and people who are trying to can have a lot of unhelpful misconceptions about what they, and others, should be doing and how it *should* work. This is true for any creative form, and also for spiritual paths. What we get, is our own journey.
Last summer I started thinking about a book. I had a working title (Her Other Life) since abandoned. It was going to be a Steampunk Time Travel novel. (It isn’t.) I had a few thoughts about characters. Then I moved house, so no actual writing happened.
In the autumn I read Molly Scott Cato’s fascinating book ‘The Bioregional Economy’ and that got me round to thinking more about dystopian futures. A prompt from Theo had me thinking about technology, and some actual technology developments confirmed this for me. Not a word had been written.
I handwrite all of my first drafts for books. However, I’m fussy about my notebooks, because a poor paper quality or a bad cover can be off-putting. I therefore can’t start a project until the right notebook turns up. In October, I found the perfect notebook for a non-fiction project I had also been pondering, so I started work on that one.
About half way through November, with others stacking up their NaNoWriMo counts, I found a nice purple notepad and realised I could start. As I was handwriting, I can’t say anything about word counts. I brought the non-fic book to a point of needing to do something different, so I had space and wrote intensely on the novel. Early December was productive, then the festive period knocked me out.
Around then, I was asked to write twelve short stories for an audio project. I switched over to doing those. No sane author passes up an opportunity to get work out in favour of the unplaced work in progress. Along the way, I also had to spend time touting the new books (Hopeless Maine vol2, and Spirituality without Structure) I had books to review and blogs to write and some business possibilities to chase. I also, outrageously, had some time off.
We’re past the middle of January now, and since Christmas, I have added a single paragraph to the novel. I am entirely untroubled about this. I’ve gone back to the non-fic project, which is more on the boil now, and nearly finished the audio. I’ve just promised to get my attention back on a co-written project. The novel will happen, as and when bits occur to me, fitting in around the rest of life and the more immediately paying gigs. Write one in a month? I don’t think so. Having this drawn out, shambolic approach gives me time to mull and ferment. New influences come in, my ideas grow and develop, and I enjoy the process more. I hate writing books under pressure. Other people thrive on deadlines and writing things to order, but not me. I can write short things to order, but that’s a very different process.
Professional creative people have to be business people. That means balancing the paying gigs against whatever it takes to sustain you creatively. There’s no point writing five novels a year for peanuts if after two years you’ll be so burned out you can’t function. There’s also no point writing epic, self-indulgent books that no one will ever buy. If you’re doing it professionally, you mostly end up cobbling together a strategy based on what’s available and what suits you. No two of us end up with the same way of working, and that’s fine. If you’re doing it as a hobby, it’s a case of balancing it against the rest of your life, in whatever way turns out to make sense.