One of the questions I’m most often asked is how I find the discipline to write. Well, the answer is simple. Writing is my job, and, like any job, I have to get up every day, sit down and get on with it. Sure, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I feel like doing just about anything if it means getting away from my desk. But if I worked in an office, say, I couldn’t just not turn up one morning because I’d decided I’d really rather stay in bed and watch re-runs of Frasier. I’m a firm believer that if you sit down with your book for long enough, the words will come. They might not be the right words first time, but they’ll move your story forward and keep your plot turning over.
When you’re on a roll, everything is brilliant. When you’re feeling creatively sapped, it’s an effort. And if you don’t have a book contract in place, that’s the hardest bit. Will it be worth it? Will anyone read it? Is it any good? These are questions the vast majority of unpublished writers, including me, have asked ourselves. Discipline, then, becomes something different. It comes from deep inside. You have to believe, in your core, that you’re going to finish this book. You’re not going to do it for anyone else except you – because you want a completed novel and you can’t let your characters float in uncertainty for the rest of time. The publishing contract is the golden prize but it’s not a given. Discipline stems from your own personal desire to write.
There are tricks you can use to keep focused. First, a change of scene, both physically – writing in the same room every day can becoming uninspiring, so try relocating to a café or a friend’s house: I find it helps simply being somewhere new – and on the page, keeping your settings refreshed and renewed. If you’ve been stuck in the same chapter or on the same dialogue for hours on end, close the door and open up further down the line. What part of the story are you most excited about writing? Which bit can you picture perfectly? There’s no harm in skipping forward, and by the time you return to the problem, you’ll see it with fresh eyes and might just spot a solution.
I find it useful to stick to a routine, as far as possible. This is, broadly, nine to five, Monday to Friday, and if I have to miss a day then I make up for it at the weekend. Not only does this help keep me in sync with the rest of the world (who wants to be working on a Saturday night when everyone else is in the pub?), but it also forces me to get to grips with the book, even when I don’t feel like it. Even if you feel what you’ve produced during that timeframe is bad, the important thing is that you’ve produced it. Routine and regulation are the first steps to a completed manuscript.
Avoid other stuff getting in the way – procrastination is the ultimate distraction, and working from home throws up a ton of temptations (for me, it’s having a bath: I’d always rather be having a bath). Wherever you assign to work must be your office, not your spa, or your home cinema, or your bedroom. Discipline has to be self-imposed, and if I know I’m not going to be disciplined at home then I force myself to get out. I’m sitting in a library right now, in fact, writing this, for the simple reason that I wasn’t getting enough done where I was. Discipline isn’t something you have or you don’t: you can learn it, and, when you do, you’ll be amazed at what you achieve.
Victoria Fox’s book include Temptation Island, Wicked Ambition and Power Games. To find out more about Victoria, visit her website, http://www.victoriafox.net/
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.