Friday, 17 July 2015

How to save your writing sanity.

I was on a panel of SilverWood authors at the Penzance Literary Festival last week, answering questions on being an Indie Author. As part of the festival's Publishing Day, the event had been billed as a way to "pick up tips and avoid the pitfalls" in self-publishing.

The hour flew by and questions came thick and fast, leading from one subject to another until the audience must have reeled from so much information spinning around the room.  I can hardly remember now what questions were asked so I hope there was lots of note-taking!

This week, back at my desk and hard at it with writing the next novel, I thought of a great tip I could have passed on, relevant to all writers, whether indie or otherwise, and that's the keeping of a writing journal.

Now if that sounds like a lot of unnecessary writing when all you want to do is get on with the "real stuff", then stay with me for a moment, while I make the case for it being the way to save your sanity.

I first came across the idea of a writing journal when I read best selling author Elizabeth George's excellent how-to book Write Away not longer after I'd started writing. At the beginning of each novel, she starts a new journal in which she records her thoughts and feelings about the writing process. This is isn't a notebook of her ideas, plot, character etc., although that comes into it, but it's primarily about what's buzzing around in her head while she's actually in the throes of writing her latest work.

In Write Away, she quotes from her journals at the beginning of each chapter and for a novice writer, her words were of great comfort. She says things like: "What on earth am I doing pretending to be a writer?" and "Writing continues to be a scary proposition for me, as I don't see myself as particularly talented..."  To me, realising that even best selling authors have moments of doubt, gave me hope.

But she also shares the thrills as well as the angst: "Yesterday a most extraordinary thing happened... all of a sudden in the middle of a scene I had the most amazing moment of inspiration." Don't we just love it when that happens!

When I started to write The Indelible Stain, I decided I would also keep a journal. It wouldn't be something I'd slavishly write every day (I already write a daily diary, a sort of "ship's log", and have done for some 24 years) but if anything about writing was either bugging me or I had something to celebrate, I would write it down. Being able to have a good rant on the page can clear the air in my head and recording my buoyant mood after receiving a good review or a message from an enthusiastic reader helps puts things into perspective if I've had a tough writing spell, or I've felt overwhelmed by how much social media I have or haven't done that week!

As I grapple with my current novel and look back in awe at the research, the plotting and the note-making I did for The Indelible Stain and begin to doubt my ability to write another good book, I only have to dig out my writing journal and look back to the time I was in the middle of writing The Indelible Stain to remind me not to fret, that I experienced exactly the same wobbles last time around.

So, having reassured myself that, yes, I can do this all over again, I'd better get back to writing that novel before my confidence ebbs...

Do you have any clever tips to keep you from throwing in the towel in despair? I'm sure there are many writers out there who'd love to know what they are!