This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
But I have a good excuse. My debut novel, Mother of the Year, is going to be published in less than five hours. I’m rushing around like a crazy woman, and rather than spend an hour tidying the space, then strategically positioning candles, tulips, wall posters and the like, I thought I’d tell it like it really is. So…A stack of emails that are almost certainly not going to get answered today. Like many writers, I have a love-hate relationship with email. There are days when I wish it could be uninvented, because it’s such a tempting time-suck. At least I have learned how to turn off the dings, so I don’t sabotage my productivity every time a new message arrives. And when I’m writing, I use an ingenious piece of software called Freedom, which means I can’t get online to distract myself with all that the internet offers.
Those post-it notes? The most interesting one is on the right, reminding me to check out the books by Sinead Moriarty and Louise Doughty, because I keep hearing such good things about them.
To the left of the computer is where it gets interesting. Novelicious readers are the first people in the whole world to get a glimpse of my next novel. The bit of yellow legal pad under the press cuttings (always use a yellow legal pad, John Grisham says so) contains notes about the plot development. Then there are pictures of people who may or may not give me the inspiration for developing my characters (and also an excuse to spend my working day examining handsome men), press cuttings about my chosen subject and – behind the coffee mug – a print-out of the first few pages.
See underneath the mouse mat, that little strip of stars? That’s another of my Author Trade Secrets. Every time I write 1,000 words, I award myself a star! What am I? Five-years-old? Let’s just say it worked then, and it works now. The stars get stuck on a wall chart and it’s a little ritual that definitely helps me keep up the momentum.
On the floor, you’ll notice the striped carrier bag. This is my Big Bag of Plots. Every author should have one – if only to answer those questions about where we get our stories from. Whenever I read something that’s interesting, compelling or potentially useful, I rip it out and dump it in the bag. I’ve just finished a big sift-and-sort, and I have plenty of starting-points for future stories that I’d love to write.
Behind the bag there’s a how-to-use your iPhone magazine that I’m never going to get round to reading, and – oh yes – staring reproachfully into the camera is my dog, Scrabble. After almost ten years, he has trained me to read his mind, and right now he’s saying: ‘Just type faster, will you? Our two o’clock walk is already four hours behind schedule.’
One final thing. That book on the desk is my novel. And by the time you read this, it will actually be on sale! It’s a romp through the mother/daughter minefield, with a separate romantic thread, plus sub-plots that involve 336 bags of sand, an elephant that paints, a Kylie Minogue duvet, and a heroic Parson Jack Russell that looks remarkably like Scrabble, operating under the pseudonym of Asbo. All written in this room. At this desk. With 90 stars on a chart. And sometimes with candles and tulips.
Karen's debut novel, Mother of the Year, is out now.