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Friday, 23 March 2012

My New Book Resolutions

I've just finished book number three, eighteen months of research, and 150,000 words later and it is finally done and off to my editor.  It always amazes me that what takes so long for me to write can be devoured so quickly by a reader. And isn't it sod's law that the moment the book has gone off, I suddenly remember lots of little errors I should have corrected.

And it hardly seems a minute since it was last September and I was on my research trip to Seville, to try to fill in the gaps in my research and geography  that could only be done actually in Spain. The tapas and warm breezes seem a long time ago now after months of writing at the computer.
Outside the Museum in Seville, bag contains camera and notebook!
The last few months I have thought of little else but the novel, and as soon as I had finished it I succumbed to the dreaded flu virus. So instead of all the enjoyable things I'd planned to do, like enjoy coffee with friends again and spend more time out side in the garden I've had six days in bed with the lemsip and too many hankies.

But it has allowed me to stop and think about the pressures on us as writers and to re-assess my priorities before I begin another novel. It also allowed me to read - and in doing that enjoy the creations of other writers. Somehow when I'm in the middle of a novel I don't make enough time for just reading.

The beautiful Alcazar, Seville
So here are my 'new book' resolutions, which will hopefully prevent me from taking to my bed when the next one is done.

i. Walk more. I live in a beautiful part of the world, but spend far too much time in front of a screen. To do this, I'll need to be organised, so that I waste less time on inessential computer tasks.

ii Rationalise my on-line social networking. When I first became a writer I joined every site that would have me, thinking that all publicity is good, right? But now I realise I can't possibly do it all if I want to have a life that isn't solely virtual. Although I have made some lovely contacts online, much social networking seems to be intensely competitive and motivated by the fear that if you don't do it your book will fail. But like most of us, I don't want to be under constant pressure, and from now on will only do social networking I think I can genuinely enjoy.And I hunger after the real - in life, in my fiction, and in my relationships with people.

iii. I miss my paintbrush now I'm no longer involved in scenography, so I thought I might join an art group. Getting out and about is essential if I'm not to turn into an unsociable hunched-over old lady who can only talk about her latest book.

iv. The writing is my greatest pleasure so I'm going to move my timetable to give me my optimum writing time (for me 9am - 1pm), and write my first draft quicker. I used to think eighteen months was a long time, but it goes so fast!  I've realised I need much longer for the editing than I do for the drafting, so I'll aim to get all the research and a first draft done in nine months which will give me much more editing time. I love the editing, a chance to make it shine whilst knowing you do actually have a book in front of you.

v.Try to make the next book shorter! This morning Past Times Books (see logo on the right) let me know that they are now going to stock novellas of over 17,500 words. If only! I think I'm probably onto a loser with this one. I could write two short novels instead of one long one, I muse. Trouble is, I rather like the feel of a good meaty historical novel. And I really enjoyed Labyrinth and Pillars of the Earth and Wolf Hall, and had no trouble making it to the end. If the story grips you, then it grips you and I for one am quite happy with a big thick brick of a book.

vi. Eat a proper meal at least once a day without trying to read research papers or books at the same time.
Below you can see some of the books I used for my research during the last year. Most of them have the odd toast crumb or biscuit crumb between the pages as well as my markers. Though I have to say, I do look after my books!

As for my resolutions, I seem to remember making the same ones after I'd finished The Gilded Lily about eighteen months ago, so I'll see if I do better this time round.

What are your resolutions when you start a new project? And do you stick to them?

Which reminds me, it looks like lunch time. Off to make a healthy meal of pea and courgette soup.


  1. And good luck with all your resolutions. I do believe balance is so important. I look forward to reading your novels very much so, yes, the long haul has to be worth it.

  2. Thanks Carol, nice of you to stop by and leave a comment. Next time I hope I won't be spending my hard-earned royalties on lemsip!

  3. It is so true that you can get sick when the stress you are under ends, whether you are writing, nursing a sick family member or whatever. The day after I met my final deadline on my first book, I wound up in the hospital with a fake heart attack! It was stress.

    Sitting too much also increases the risk of strokes and heart attack.

    I think the key is to somehow stick to resolutions for balance. It just seems like... how can I get this book out if I am not writing? But fewer books for a longer and more enjoyable life... it sounds worth it.

  4. Congrats on finishing No3, Dee!

    I agree with you that there's nothing wrong with a long book. Some are short and perfect, like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but some stories take their time to unfold.

    Ken Follett is a good example: Pillars of the Earth didn't feel a long book because it was so engrossing; but for me at least, World Without End was aptly titled because it was interminable....

  5. Oh Debra, that sounds awful. After the success of your first one though, you should be able to relax more with To The Skylark. I definitely don't want a stroke or a heart attack, so I'll try to stick to my walking resolution.

    Amd Tim, I haven't read Worlds Without End yet. It's on my list, but as I said, I have to carve time deliberately for reading now - and I think I might need to go on holiday , or wait until I retire to read it!

  6. Hi. I'm a new follower from She Writes. Congrats on all your success and sending your latest book off to your editor. I hope your plan keeps you from getting sick when you finish the next book.
    Please feel free to stop by my blog and consider following.

  7. Hello Kelly, thanks for following me and for commenting. I've just been to your blog. Your debut novel has a great cover, and your blog gets lots of hits so you must be doing something right despite your doubts!