This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I sometimes joke that my writing room is a seat on the Exeter to Waterloo line (preferably not at a table because there isn’t the privacy of a forward-facing two seater). Since moving to Devon nearly five years ago with my newish husband, I find myself returning to London at least twice a month for writing events. Early morning trains are the perfect place to write. I settle into the Quiet carriage, switch off my phone and get out my laptop. All around me are enough characters to fill a plot. There’s the man who is mopping his brow and constantly texting. The widow with her suitcase (I know her husband died last year because she’s already told me, poor soul.) And the young mum who is desperately trying to prevent her toddler from swinging down the aisles. (Been there.)
By the time I’ve got to Waterloo, I’ll have written about 2,500 – 3000 words. But if I’m not going into London, my routine is quite different. I’m a naturally early bird so I get up at about 6.30am and run our lab/springer along the beach. I get a lot of ideas that way: they fall into my head without me thinking. Then a shower; wash my hair (every other day); quick breakfast of yoghurt plus fruit and at my desk by 9.30am. I write in an airy study at the top of our three floor Regency semi which used to be a bed and breakfast before our time. When I married my husband, his taste revolved around cream bachelor sofas and mine around Victorian mahogany. This was the only house we could agree on.My study looks over the sea if you stand on tiptoes and gaze beyond the rows of roofs. On a good day, it’s a lovely wide band of blue which sparkles invitingly. I’ve got a lovely long window which goes right down to the carpet, but there’s a sofa in front and that is where my dog sleeps while I write. He’s learned to adapt his attention span to the length of my first writing stint: about two and half hours. Ideally, I won’t pick up the phone – either landline or mobile – but in practice I’m always worried it’s one of the children. So I do and then my train of thought is interrupted.
Around my desk on the other side of the window, are three walls of books. You can never have enough shelves. They’re all over the rest of the house too. I used to have my desk by the window but the light reflected on my screen.
I write on a keyboard: I was taught to use a typewriter when I was a journalist and now my handwriting is illegible. It’s also a mixture of T-line and ordinary words, which is quite handy if you don’t people to read your notes.
As a writer, I do get problems with my arm every now and then. The other day, I paid one of those companies about £70 to check I was sitting in the right way at the right height etc. A lovely girl came round to advise me and I thought I’d got it right. But now I’m aching again.
My most productive time is definitely first thing in the morning. At lunchtime, I’m ready to take the dog along the beach once more and in the afternoon, I check up on emails and re-read my copy. Emails are the bane of my life. It’s a never-ending stream and they affect my productivity. If I was queen, I’d ban them for a week and then we’d all feel so much better. You miss a lot when you don’t talk to people face to face. And you can misinterpret things online too.
Now the children are older, I spend far too much time working in the evening – usually on those wretched emails or else doing blogs (which I love). They remind me of the shorter articles I used to write as a journalist when I worked for Woman and Woman’s Own.
My husband still keeps bachelor hours so it’s a constant problem to get him to come to bed at the same time as me. Usually I’m there first so I read. (Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller is gripping me right now.) At about 5am, the ideas will start flowing into my head and I’ll wake up to write them down on the pad of paper by my bed. Then I’ll doze a bit and the seagulls will give me my alarm call. After that, my writing day starts all over again…
After the Honeymoon by Janey Fraser is out on Thursday 22 May.