Do some moves!
As my regular readers will know I am very interested in the process of writing. But instead of banging on about the importance of story structure, character motivation and pace, today I am more concerned with the actual physical process of sitting down for the length of time it takes to write a book.
As my regular readers will know I am currently in the process of writing my seventh novel. And I am not talking about short, little novels. My last novel came in at 200,000 words, which is (hopefully) a nice, fat, satisfying read. (Or, as I discovered at the weekend when the new unabridged audio version of LAVENDER ROAD popped through the letterbox, a fifteen and a half hour listen!)
So we are talking long hours at the computer. And that can bring its own problems. As well as grappling with which extraneous adverb to expunge, what to do with the dog unwisely introduced in Chapter Three, and how to surreptitiously layer in the clues for a dramatic denouement, novelists are also often grappling with painful backs, strained eyes, tired brains and numb bottoms.
So here are six tips to help keep you going without the necessity of a visit to the doctor/ chiropractor/ nearest cliff.
1. Take regular breaks. Walk about, look at distant things, and flex. I find dancing around the kitchen while making coffee (or raiding the biscuit tin) very therapeutic – this worked especially well during the Strictly season, although I carefully refrained from imitating any ‘Gleb specials’, that would certainly have necessitated a trip to Accident and Emergency.
2. Set a timer to ensure that those breaks happen. I find it’s all too easy to get involved, and the next thing I know, three hours have passed and I have barely moved.
3. Try to use a different part of your brain at some stage during the day. Sketching, gardening, cooking, walking or having a jigsaw on the go are all ways of giving the your brain a rest from words.
4. Give the eyes a break too. Closing them is a good idea, especially when combined with a little lie down. Although, in my case, once again, several hours may elapse without barely moving! On the other hand, good ideas often pop up when I am trying to relax away from the computer, so maybe it’s sometimes worth ‘wasting’ time on a little nap.
5. Use down time, chore time and journey times to think. Quite a bit of writing is thinking and that can be done away from the computer. In fact I believe it should be done away from the computer. I find it saves on a lot of bottom numbing if I arrive at my desk knowing more or less what I want to achieve that day.
6. Treat yourself to a laugh. If necessary watch a comedy show or Michael McIntyre DVD. There’s nothing more therapeutic than laughing!
*Helen Carey’s latest wartime novel, LONDON CALLING, will be published by Headline on 25th February 2016.*
Thank you for your excellent advice, Helen.
Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs: .
Excellent advice; I’ve found tip 5 to be invaluable.
Wonderful suggestions, all. I will play a hand of spider solitaire for a mental break and dance to songs on my iPod. I try to take a couple of hours for the gym several times a week. I’m constantly fighting “book spread.”
Totally agree! I’m good about taking some exercise every day (a walk and a lunchtime swim today) but outside of that it’s very easy to ‘get into the zone’ and spend hours hunched over the laptop – I worry that if I take a break for a cup of tea, sorting out laundry or whatever I’ll lose my thread and find it difficult to get started again. Frequent breaks are best though, so maybe I’ll print this thread out and pin it over my desk to remind myself!
I certainly had a good laugh reading your latest blog, As I shall be down your way in March I will check up on how you manage to stick to these very good ideas,!!
Do keep entertaining us with your comments,as I write this I am still smiling,thank you.M.J.
Thanks so much!! xx
Number five is so true! In fact, I find having a computer screen in front of me when I’m thinking about my writing is almost intimidating.
I’m employed part time and work involves a fair bit of walking with time to think. By the time I get home mid afternoon I’m ready to sit down for a bit and scribble down all my thoughts from earlier on!
That’s brilliant Helen………..In a few words what it takes a lifetime to learn.