These days, I find it less easy to sleep through the night than I used to, so I can often be found up at the computer as early as five a.m. I’m definitely more of a lark than an owl! Whatever the hour, it takes my first cup of black tea to get the brain cells firing and I sip on that while checking news, emails or social media. I’m absolutely awful at eating a proper breakfast and end out grabbing some toast a couple of hours after being up.
I’m lucky with the flexibility that writing for a living gives me – being able to choose my hours and where and when I work. That said, a book only gets completed when I treat writing like a regular job which means turning up every day and putting the hours in.
If I’m writing a first draft, that version of the novel that no-one apart from trusted beta- readers see, where the ‘story’ has been purged onto the page, I’ll start early and write for as long as the words will come. Sometimes, that means going through until lunchtime and afterwards with a word-count in the thousands, and other times it means taking a break after five hundred reluctant words have been pulled kicking and screaming from me. If I’m in editing rather than drafting mode, I’m usually only able to work for shorter periods at a time – it seems to require different writerly muscles and more concentration!
Lunch is usually a sandwich or soup if the weather is cold. During the last year, it’s been impossible to see friends, so I use the break in the working day to Facetime them and family. A quick injection of my grandaughters’ smiling faces is always a tonic. And most days, for an hour or so, I take myself off to the archery range and kill a few zombies. Okay, not really the zombie part, but shooting arrows is something I love to do. I only discovered the joy of aiming for that gold centre earlier this year, when I was desperate to find something, other than going for a walk, to do outside. It’s pretty therapeutic and often solves whatever plot problem might be marinating in my head.
Back at the desk, I’m usually surrounded by a bevy of snacks and drinks to power me through the afternoon. I’ve become such a snack-artist during 2020. (My name’s Nell and I’m a ‘crispaholic’) By five, I’m usually out of words but I always re-read what I’ve written before I finish for the day.
If I can, this is when I’ll snatch a quick thirty-minutes reading time. Books and stories are what made me want to become a writer from the time I was a small girl and I still love to read every day.
By then it’s time to think of food and the evening meal and before I know it I’m trying to stay awake on the sofa in front of some telly. Over the last eighteen months, my evenings, like most people’s, have been repetitive, and I so look forward to when we can all look back at this wonky time. When evenings will again involve a regular catch up with friends over a meal and a drink or maybe a visit to the theatre or cinema. Whatever precedes bedtime though, nothing changes the fact that when my head hits the pillow, I do find myself re-immersed in the lives of my fictional characters. They often occupy my dreams, their chatter showing me the way or leading the story astray. Did I mention that sleep is more troubled than it used to be?!
And I wouldn’t have it any other way…