When asked how I structure my day as a writer, I always have to say it depends at what point I am in with the latest book.
Starting a new book is a mixture of Heaven and Hell. Heaven because I’ve tucked the last book away and my brain is ready to receive new ideas. But the hell of it comes in actually sitting there and attempting to start! Suddenly all those good ideas I once had, have vanished. I feel an urgent need to sort out old clothes/change linen on bed/ clean cutlery drawers, anything rather than sit there waiting for inspiration. So at these times I get dressed up, go out to lunch with friends, go shopping or encourage someone to have a Spa day with me. I tell myself it’s a well-earned rest, but it is just putting off the evil moment for a bit longer.
But after a month or so of procrastination, I try to take myself in hand. I call Stan my King Charles Cavalier, tell him my problem and he looks at me as if to say, ‘A good long walk will sort that’.
Sometimes it does, just walking brings on ideas like A Hanging, a body in the bath, a horse bolting and my new heroine plucking a small child in the nick of time from beneath its hooves. So I rush home and write the first chapter full of fire and enthusiasm.
Mostly once the first chapter is in the bag I become more disciplined. I get up at six, take Stan out, then back to the desk, head down and stick at it, all day. It’s hard though, my attention wanders, and an inner voice tells me everything I’ve written is rubbish. I even begin to think stacking shelves in a supermarket would be preferable to this torture and anxiety.
I drink a great many cups of tea, I raid the biscuit jar. I have to break off and go out into the garden to potter a bit. On hot days in summer I lie on a sun lounger with a book and convince myself its important research for the book. Sometimes it is! On those days I work in the evening to make up for it, first reading and editing whatever I wrote the previous day, in the hopes that will give me the impetus to carry on with the story.
Then suddenly one day I turn an invisible corner. Overnight my characters have become real to me, they even hint at what they’d like to do next. This is the point when the magic begins. I don’t feel hungry anymore, I don’t want to go shopping, ring people or watch television. I become immersed in the story and my characters. I become a hermit, I don’t want to go anywhere, don’t want visitors; the day is never long enough.
Disappointingly this magical part is usually brief. Suddenly the book is finished, and off it goes to my editor. I do have bits to work on after that, but that’s always a pleasure. But when the day dawns when everything is done, including reading the proof pages, I feel I’ve lost my best friend.
Then I have to start the whole rigmarole all over again!
Dead to Me by Lesley Pearse is published by Penguin Books on the 4th May, price £7.99 in paperback. Lesley’s new hardback, The Woman in the Wood is published on the 29th June.