Why I need more writing time

Everyone starts out writing while doing something else with at least some of their time – we have to eat even before we’re published. I have never been especially strong on what I wanted to do for a living, but I was always certain I wanted it to meet certain conditions.

The first of these is that I would work from home. I get the odd opportunity to do that now, but it’s frustratingly slow trying to access systems via VPN which weren’t exactly speedy in the office. I dream of a day when I can have an office space at home, and work to my heart’s content without interruptions from people demanding my time – or information I’ve already given them twice. It’s not about workwear, I can deal with that, it’s about freedom.

Which leads me to the second thing. I want to work for myself. My sister already does that, moving between freelancing her horsecare skills and subcontracting as an HGV driver. It makes her more money than my 8-30-to-5-30 office hell, with a lot more flexibility. I’m still unsure of whether I would want to run a company or just work for myself, but I have a feeling I’ll be trying both before I choose a side of that fence.

The third thing is that I want to feel excited about my work. I’ve never wanted to be so into my job I have no room for hobbies, but I would love to be in the kind of thing that kept me interested rather than searching for ways around my workload. Admittedly, if I’d pursued accountancy qualification I might have that by now, but the fact of the matter is that I fell into that as a way to earn better money in a better job than I had after going back to work following maternity.

You look at the snippets about ‘mumpreneurs’, and I have to say I’m envious. I’m not crafty or professionally qualified, so I’ve no idea what I would have done, but the prospect of working around childcare is a very inviting one. When I started work after having my son, I made about £10 a month after paying for nursery – and he was only there three days a week. I was so frustrated with looking after a baby all day with no adult conversation, that I leapt into work without thinking it through. My next job, which was considerably nicer, made me much happier – but then I moved. I moved from the Isle of Man to Derby, following my other half (I really wish there was a better way to refer to him, but ‘boyfriend’ sounds like we’ve just got together and ‘partner’ sounds like a business agreement). The resulting job change was again the first job I could get after three months of solid childcare. While it was interesting at points, I found it highly frustrating most of the time. When that job changed when the company split into two, I found my role much the same. And I’m still waiting for something to really get my teeth into.

Which brings me back to writing. I want to write when I’m best at it. I know I’m a grown-up, at least in part, but the prospect of writing rather than relaxing after a day of battling idiots and mind-numbing meetings is just beyond me. I get my very best work done during working hours, as you’d expect, and writing is therefore off the menu except at weekends. The issue with this is that the weekend is the only real time I get to spend with my son. I’m lucky in that my mother heroically takes him for the summer holidays – I get a weekly phone call and lots of photos – but the impetus to use my weekends to write isn’t there, especially when we want to do child-free things.

So what can I do? Short of making a drastic change like going part-time (if only I’d be allowed to do it) or changing jobs altogether, I’m stuck for now. I will continue to write in the bursts of time between work and home life, using my lunch breaks and the odd day off. Fingers crossed I can make enough progress in that time to justify the effort. My big goal is to earn a living from writing, enough to give up the stress of an office and do what I’m good at. For that, I will need to practise my writing (the million-word rule proving more than a little intimidating for someone who favours brevity over description) and suffer the indignities of being a regular human being trying to get by.

Working On It

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I realised that being a popstar was an unlikely career path. I’ve always lived in my head, spending large amounts of time in worlds of my own making. Should be a natural progression, right? Yes and no.

To start, I have yet to truly learn the craft. I know it’s going to take time, and I’m going to be dissatisfied with what I get out of my efforts even when I’ve mastered the art of writing (aim high).

The good part of this is that I *am* actively working on it, even if that means slow progress for now since I’m employed full-time. I work towards the day when I can earn a living from writing – that’s the endgame. I don’t have a preconceived idea of what that’s going to look like, I only know that the point at which I can give my notice and cease to work for someone else will be the point at which I achieve success.

In the meantime, I have to pretend that I want a career in an office. I suppose it’s good practise for when I write characters engaging in deception.

Drat, I now need to go off and write a bunch of stuff about one my characters. Ciao!

Too Many Stories

I am overflowing with ideas. It has got to the point where every time I flesh out a story I’ve already plotted, two things happen: I link it to another story by virtue of a detail which is minor in one and major in the other; and I get a brand new idea for another story.

My current list of stories I’ve plotted and haven’t written (sadly all of the plotted ones are in this category, though I’m working on it) is now over a hundred strong. Seriously.

I’ve got absolutely zero idea of how to make it stop, short of forcing myself (somehow) to only write one thing at a time… but I get bored. I get bored very easily. One might say I’ve the attention span of a gnat. It irritates my other half no end, especially when we’re watching TV.

Back to topic, I have even found a way around worldbuilding each one: they’re all set in the same place. The world of Far, dreamt up long ago in the dark ages when I was a teenager and the dinosaurs were alive (my son has genuinely asked if I had a pet dinosaur), is now richly furnished with a full history, spanning some three ages (that I’ve bothered to plot) and a few massive events.

Without the need to build the history for each story, I tend to find that plotting is quick and easy, which is a bad thing in this case because I need a motivation NOT to do this and focus on getting something written instead. I can’t even try for a word count, because despite being immensely good with words, I both write sparsely and never linearly. How am I supposed to work out when I’m getting near to finishing?

Option 1 is to plot down to the scene level; once I have a list of scenes which need to be written, I can check off against the master list (something yWriter is especially good at) and see what there is left to do.

Option 2 is to write in order, from start to finish, no matter how horrible it is, and see if I can’t make it better with practice. I’m primarily against this approach because it might just spawn too many more ideas, which is obviously a big problem for me. The other issue is that I tend to both create new characters (who then have their own plots and backstories) and change the focus of the story. This renders all my nice plotting irrelevant.

I have a strong feeling I’ll be focusing on option 1. Keep checking in to watch me bash my head against a wall.

Toddlers in Fantasy

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s not a lot of new parenthood in epic fantasy. It could be that I’m reading the wrong stuff (possible but unlikely), or that the genre as a whole has a problem with the idea. Plenty of characters seem to have children, but you never see the formative years or the whole my-ambitions-are-inconvenienced-by-a-walking-shitstorm stage. Why not?

In honesty, only one of my stories features a new parent with prominence, and I don’t really understand why. Having a five-year-old myself, I am well-placed to be writing about it, so why haven’t I?

Perhaps it’s the traditional view we take of pseudomedieval stories – small children were generally considered to be a hindrance, if a necessity for shoring up a dynasty. Perhaps it’s the broadly male-dominated pool of protagonists. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that having grand adventures is much more difficult when toting a child around. It’s kind of hard to battle dragons and use magic when a little person is tugging your hand because they need to go to the toilet.

Whatever the reason, I think it should change. Parenthood is something most of us eventually take on, and as a natural and essential part of society, shouldn’t we take a look at it? Too often, we focus on our own upbringings, our own parents’ failings, when the way we choose to raise our children, while less lofty than most ambitions, makes a large difference to those children.

Why not write the story that spans raising a baby to a child? Why not factor in toilet training and table manners while plotting coups and crushing rebellions? Why does parenthood tend to be brushed aside? Any life choice which results in the ability to face the disgusting without balking, which uncovers a massive capacity for endurance (especially without sleep), which illustrates just how much conditioning we do ourselves, should surely be examined in greater depth.

Charging Forward

Today I wrote… probably 1500 words. That’s pretty good for me, but unfortunately it was across three different stories, which gets me hardly anywhere on the way towards my targets. Finishing a story – writing it rather than plotting it – is my big weakness. I already know how it ends, so I don’t stress too much about how I get there.

Big mistake, I know.

In an attempt to get myself on track, I logged a target word count of 200,000 words for one of my stories in yWriter (the software I use) by the end of August. Given it was late June and I’d had two whole days (gasp) of productivity, I was feeling pretty good about it. Then life did its thing and got in the way. Now, I’ll be lucky to manage 50k by the end of August, let alone four times that.

It has to be said that writing time should come more easily from the end of this month, when I hand over my parenting duties to my fantastic mother for the summer holidays. We shall have to see if I can:

a) write regularly

b) write one story consistently

c) finish a story. any story.

Stay tuned for progress updates.