The following contains real, but edited, extracts from my writer’s journal over the years.
A writer needs:
1. A well-developed imagination
Had a great idea for a book! Now all I need is a hero with The Rock’s body, Einstein's mind, Robin William's sense of humor, George Clooney's charisma and the sexual skill of… Can’t think of anyone who’s famous for their skill in bed. And I’m definitely not going to use any of those guys who “accidentally” lose their “private” sex tapes. Will just have to go with my imagination. Might have to read the Kama Sutra first.
2. A disciplined work ethic
Three a.m. December 02. I stayed up reading until late into the night, slept most of today and remembered three hours ago that I have a 5th of December deadline for a novella I’m writing. Three bottles of Pepsi Max later and I’m working on the book. I’m also chittering like a hamster, my left eye twitches, my fingers are numb from typing and I can’t feel my legs. Why, oh why didn’t I start this book six months ago when the idea first hit????
3. Superior concentration
I was trying to work out a scene in my book while I drove home. It was just coming together as I pulled up into my driveway, so I stayed in the car to think about it. I got a fright when my concentration was broken by a knock at my window. Turns out I wasn’t in my driveway—I was in the drive of the house we sold three years ago!
4. The ability to cope with rejection
May 13th: I drove to the supermarket with my latest rejection letter in hand, bought a family sized chocolate cake and a plastic fork. I’m now sitting at the beach eating the cake out of the box. For some reason, I thought the cake would cure my self-doubt and disappointment. Instead I’m about two forkfuls away from being rushed to hospital to have my stomach pumped. And I still feel like the worst writer in the world. May have to re-evaluate my coping mechanisms.
May 14th: I have a chocolate hangover. I am never eating a whole cake ever again. Never. I’ve decided to be proactive instead of wallowing in self-pity. I’ve pinned all of my rejection letters to the wall and I’m going to cover them with sticky notes detailing my WIP. How many times was J.K. Rowling rejected? Or Steven King? They didn’t give up and look what happened. So I can’t write like either of them, that’s not the point. The point is, to stick with it. As they say in Galaxy Quest: “Never give up. Never surrender.”
6. Some technical knowledge
For some reason I thought using voice recognition software would speed up my writing. I had visions of me talking out all of the stories in my head, then sorting them later. Easy, right? NO! The damn program isn’t geared to a Scottish accent. I’ve spent most of my day yelling at my computer. It doesn’t understand me, but it can pick up my kids talking in the other room!!! Half my chapter is about their discussion on what type of Lego is better, Barbie or Friends. This is not going to work.
7. Research skills
I’m in a book coma. My eyeballs ache and my brain has slowed to a crawl. I’ve read seventeen romance novels this week. When hubby saw our credit card bill, full of one-click buys from Amazon, he asked how this helped me to write the next book. I told him it was research. Really hoping he won’t look at my kindle. It’s kind of hard to explain how an intergalactic, shape-shifter ménage romance has anything to do with a romantic comedy set in Scotland.
8. The ability to work well alone
People are driving me insane. Why do they insist on talking to me? Don’t these people know I’m writing! Okay, mainly I’m surfing the web and “liking” cat videos on facebook, but it’s all part of the writer’s process. How do I know what thoughts I have if my head is constantly stuffed full of other people’s thoughts? I need noise cancelling headphones to tune everyone out. No, I need a week on a deserted island—one with internet access and a five star hotel.
9. Some knowledge in the area of psychology
If I don’t get the voices out of my head I’m going to snap and go on a rampage. All night long my hero and heroine have been fighting about something stupid. Sure the dialogue is funny, but that’s not the point. They aren’t even in the book I’m writing. They’re like five books into the series. Now I just need to find a way to get them to shut up until it’s time for their book. Is this what schizophrenia feels like? Crap, what do I do if one of the voices in my head answers that? I need more caffeine.
10. The ability to distance herself from her work in order to view it critically
This is rubbish. I’m writing rubbish. Why am I even bothering to write? There are millions of writers out there and they’re all better than I am. I just reread the last chapter I wrote. I used the word “just” seventeen times in one paragraph! My hero is chauvinistic, my heroine is insipid and my plot was written by Monty Python. There is no hope for any of this. I may as well go back to teaching. That way I can warp young minds with my positive attitude instead of writing rubbish.
11. The ability to bounce back
Today: Had a great idea for a book! Now all I need is a hero who…