Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Deadline Panic ... Ruth Symes / Megan Rix.

Picture by Marion Lindsay for Cat Magic
On Friday morning I realised that at my current rate of writing, about 1000 words a day, I wasn't going to make the 21st of January deadline for my next novel. I like having deadlines, either from a publisher or self-imposed, as they help me to focus on what I need to get done but realising I couldn't make it produced: A) Panic - the sort of trapped by headlights and get nothing done panic B) Action - I emailed my publisher to ask for a few weeks extension. C) More action - during the weekend that's just gone, from 5pm on Friday until 5pm on Sunday, I wrote l0,140 words. I'd already planned out the story and had the thumbs up from my publisher so knew where I was going (roughly) with it - all I had to do was get words on paper.
Were they the best, most considered words? Nope. Does that matter? Not a bit in a first, scribble, draft. Those 10,000 words can become polished and honed later - what I have got now is a much better knowledge of my characters (including one who had a minor part but is now a major player) and most of the crucial scenes written.

Here's how I did it:  
Friday 10 am - stared at my book writing schedule calendar and realised that writing I,000 words a day would not get my next book finished by mid-January.
10.30 am - went downstairs and told husband, Eric, my concern.
11 am – nearby Travelodge booked for the weekend.
12 pm – Eric buys food and drink that only needs a kettle (at the most) to make. I pack some clothes and my work and make sure the dogs will be OK.
            4pm – arrive at Travelodge and make ‘proper’ coffee using aeropress (more details of everything I used on my website.) Just make sure you screw the bottom on really well or you might end up with coffee everywhere like I did.
            5pm – start writing by longhand using my Echo pen that can convert handwriting to text.
            7.30pm – first 2000 words written.
            Saturday and Sunday… Write! Write! Written! 4,000 words done each day.

Tips to make your writing weekend go smoothly:
1. No TV –  I pulled the TV plug out and plugged my computer into the socket instead – the TV didn’t get turned on once (although I did watch a DVD on my computer about the subject I was writing on.)
2. Use the internet only to check emails and do absolutely necessary research. I was also in contact with my husband 3 or 4 times a day via  Face Time. The dogs were also very interested in me chatting to them via the screen at first but soon got used to it. Loved how one of them kept tilting her head from side to side as she looked at the screen. (I did worry it was cruel initially but they got used to it pretty quick and made me laugh when one went and got a toy and brought it back.)
3. Be in the mind zone to write and pumped up to get on – this is exciting! Having nothing else to concentrate on besides writing meant I could write like the wind and I did.What writing in this speedy fashion meant is that now I can dip in and out of the book, secure that I like how it’s working and growing. It's a good feeling. Prior to taking this action I usually manage to write about l,000 words a day - so 4,000 a day was a bit of a jump!

Three other new things I’ve tried recently:
1. Not listening to other people’s opinions unless I want to:

I used to get upset by the odd bad review but now find I’ve reached the stage where I can shrug them off. I even managed a smile at an email from an irate American reader recently who’d spotted a grammar mistake in my adult book, The Puppy that Came for Christmas' and wrote a back-handed compliment of:  'If a good writer like you can make a mistake like this what hope is there for the world.' Indeed.
On the reverse side I had an email from one of my editor’s this week saying she’d been so busy reading my manuscript on the bus she’d missed her stop – a very nice compliment from a person whose opinion I value highly.

2. Being Vegan:
When I said I was going to take part in November's World Vegan mouth some people reacted with horror. ‘What are you going to eat?’ ‘How will you survive?’ I was asked.
        The truth is being vegan wasn't any hardship at all and in fact it was a pleasure. I got to try lots of yummy foods and made friends with some lovely new people and blogged about it here: 

3. Re-visit from my first book:
I had my first book 'The Master of Secrets' published by Puffin in 1997 and a few years later I got a letter to say that it was going to be remaindered. It was a horrible sick feeling being told this - at first I couldn't believe it and bought up lots of copies. But the publisher did stop printing it and I went on to write other books and my first effort wasn't forgotten about (I often give a copy as a present to my
creative writing students saying I hope one day to read their first book) but I certainly didn't expect to hear much more about it. But in the past few weeks I've had first one email and then another and another from English language students in Argentina who are studying the book and it's been great. I'm so glad that there's life in the old book yet and it's being enjoyed again somewhere. One of the students even became my first newsletter subscriber.

Megan’s book 'The Great Escape' has recently been shortlisted for the East Sussex Children’s Book Award. She writes as Megan Rix and Ruth Symes and her websites are www.ruthsymes.com and www.meganrix.com


Sue Purkiss said...

What a heroic effort! Congratulations on achieving all those words!

Savita Kalhan said...

Wow! I am in awe. I aim for around 1,000-2,000 words a day. 4,000 is most definitely heroic. Well done.