Writing my first novel has been like journeying to destination unknown without a route map. I was crazy to set off in the first place then things became even crazier.
Downloading ideas is the easy bit, just letting them flow. I use good old-fashioned pencil and notebook. That’s how I learnt to write as a child. It’s how my head pours out its garbled contents onto paper. My scrawl is messy and no one would want to read my graphite-scribbled confusion, but my next step is to type up the sentences one by one, arranging them into some kind of order, assist the words in making their sense.
Then I edit. Then I edit. And then I edit some more.
When I’m shaping each subsequent draft I surround the creative process with various repetitive activities. I knit, ferociously. My family have accepted, without complaining, manifold garments from me over the last three years since I started writing fiction. It’s good to know how much they love me!
I also do Killer Sudokus. After making the transition from academic writing to creative writing these puzzles keep my left brain fed, watered and relatively contented. And I swim lots of laps in the local pool or walk miles on the coast path which helps clear my mind. This also has the welcome side effect of keeping me fit when my bum has to spend countless hours on the seat in front of my laptop, or when I have to stare out to sea for a long time, story-dreaming.
These activities help me into an uncontrollable ‘zone’ which is a state where I feel suspended between sheer panic I’ll fail to narrate the story as it should be told, and sheer excitement that something is emerging.
When the key to a scene or a character rises to the surface, when the story solidifies in my head like butter coming together in a churn, I know my supporting activities (aka my OCD behaviours) are working. It feels like magic is happening.
It’s possible to conclude from this description of my writing process that I am clinically insane. Who cares? I’m doing what I love, although the anxiety of whether my book will be published sends me reaching for my knitting needles…