Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Time spent reading is never time wasted.
With each book you read, you learn something new.
Time spent writing is never time wasted.
With each line you write, you become a better writer.
Am I becoming philosophical in my old age?
I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m peri-menopausal, but I struggle to motivate myself these days. (Actually, that’s not strictly true. A lot of my motivation gets used up to get my sorry backside down to the gym or out running.) I think part of the problem is that now the children are older, I have vast swathes of time on my hands. Having never been a domestic goddess, I don’t whittle away the hours cleaning or doing household chores. What a waste of time that is. What I ‘should’ be doing is writing a lot more than I do. And why don’t I? Is it because there are so many writers out there doing a far better job than I ever could? Perhaps if I had less time, then I’d prioritise my writing more? Perhaps I read too much? 
I’ve probably mentioned many times before that I have hundreds of books sitting on the shelves that I haven’t read, and this makes me feel bad. All those lovingly written pages sitting there waiting to be discovered. How neglected they must feel!
I’ve set myself a bit of a task this year and that is to read as many of these books as I can. I’ve been going great guns, but the problem is that I rediscover favourite authors and start buying their new books, or start to read a book in a series and feel compelled to read the others in the series, which again involves book purchasing (oh dear, what a shame!). 
I am learning a lot about the writing process through my reading, and I think that for many years now I have read like a writer. I try not to feel too daunted by others’ wonderful prose. That’s difficult, though, when I’m also addicted to well known writers’ blogs, how-to books and reading tips on writing. How do they do it? If I do that, too, then surely I’ll have a novel worth publishing? But we writers know that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. We all have our own way of doing things. 
I have difficulty trusting my own voice when I write. My crime novel is very different from many of those that I’ve read, although there are many similarities, but is that a good or a bad thing? As usual, I am full of self-doubt, and this does block me on a regular basis. 
I realise the reason I haven’t moved forward with my novel lately is because I’ve planned myself into boredom. For me, writing has to be an organic process, otherwise I lose interest. I love the feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next and allowing the characters to take me wherever they will. This is the exciting part of writing, and planning, for me, simply doesn’t work. 
I know that I now have to allow my characters to speak for themselves. I have to ignore what’s gone before, to a certain degree, and forge ahead boldly, even if it makes no sense at first. It can all be scraped up, pulled apart and wrestled into shape in the edit. 
I’m going to buy myself an egg timer, set it for 15 minutes and just write till the time’s up. I shall do this at regular intervals throughout the day and hope to get the words down. It’s the only way I can get the ironing done.... in 15 minutes intervals. 15 minutes most days. The difference between writing and ironing being that I really enjoy writing once I get started. It’s the getting started that’s the difficult part.
Finally, apologies for the fact that The Yellow Room website has been down for almost a week now. I changed to a new web hosting service, and they appear to be dragging their heels. Do email me (yellowjo AT me DOT com), if you have any queries or would like details of the short story competition closing at the end of March.


Carole Anne Carr said...

Yes, I'm trying to do the same, reading many children's books by authors who write similar stuff to my own. It is very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Don't talk to me about series. They're so addictive, aren't they. I'm currently half way through Millennium II and those volumes are not small.

I used to agonise over the planning aspects of writing, but not any more. I've found the answer, you see. Plan first or write organically? Do both!
I plan carefully but with the knowledge that the plan won't be set in stone. Then I write organically and (this is the crucial part) adjust the plan as I go along. That way I can be totally creative but still have plans, outlines, time lines and stuff to check the integrity of the story.

Janice Horton said...

Jo - my thoughts are that if your crime novel is "very different - although there are many similarities" to others then it is a good thing. Originality has got to be good in my opinion. I like the egg timer idea - only I could use one to limit my time of Twitter and blogs! Best wishes with your writing.